2 December 2013: This is the concluding part of the series, “The party begins...,” and focuses on the Bharatiya Janata Party, the favourite to win next year’s general election and the in-progress assembly polls.

Although it is an established mainstream entity, the Bharatiya Janata Party does not understand power in the venal manner that the Congress does. The Congress seeks power for itself. Any and all means are fair towards its possession and preservation. Such obsessive foundations for power were laid for the party by Jawaharlal Nehru and carried forward by Indira Gandhi.

On the other hand, the forerunner of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Jana Sangha, had shaky beginnings, half-heartedly brought to existence by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangha chief, Guru Golwalkar, to pacify the two Deoras brothers, Balasaheb and Bhaurao. Golwalkar hoped the party to be wound up in his lifetime and enable the Sangha to concentrate on its core work of organizing Hindu society. Until some years ago, at least in moments of dissatisfaction with the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangha leaders reiterated Golwalkar’s fond hope of the political organization’s eventual demise.

With Deendayal Upadhyay’s untimely death, the party came under Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tutelage, who being a Nehruvian could not mould the organization to have a distinct ideology, remaining a poor copy of the Congress. His number 2, Lal Krishna Advani, while a robust leader of movements, could not fix the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological weaknesses. It has devolved on Narendra Modi to give the party a political and ideological grid, and he has turned to Sardar Patel. The move is certainly brilliant, but Patel studies must go to great depth for the Bharatiya Janata Party to draw the fullest inspiration from India’s true Iron Man.

But learning is only a part of the process of rebuilding a party, and much has gone wrong with the Bharatiya Janata Party apparatus. There is disconnect between the leadership and the cadres which for a cadre-based party such as the Bharatiya Janata Party spells disaster. The disconnect may not be so evident in the states where the party is in power, but it is markedly so in Delhi, where the Bharatiya Janata Party’s central leadership is based. If this situation had continued unremedied, the Delhi assembly polls and the national elections would have been lost cases for the party.

It is to cease the drift that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangha drafted Modi as the party’s prime minister candidate. After long years, the cadres were enthused about one leader, and the Sangha could not pass up the opportunity. The large crowds that attend Modi’s rallies all over the country are self-actuated, but the cadres are also enthused to spread the word about him. It is the cadres who will work the last mile to coax the voters to the booths, and the Modi magic has trickled right down here as well.

Essentially, therefore, apart from whatever else he is doing, Modi is also saving the Bharatiya Janata Party from becoming moribund. Under the collective leadership established by Advani, the party was functioning as a B-team of the Congress. This was basically a continuation of the Vajpayee formula for the National Democratic Alliance. The Bharatiya Janata Party would constitute the diffident core while the allies would arrive after handsome bargains. There was no boldness with this scheme, and the aim was for the soft jettisoning of the Congress, if at all. Narendra Modi has completely rebuffed the project.

The Gujarat chief minister has led the party into the centre of battle. He aims for the party to capture the most number of Lok Sabha seats and reduce the dependence on allies. There would have been no place in the new setup for Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal - United so he walked out. But others are knocking the door for admittance, including Nara Chandrababu Nadu. With the Bharatiya Janata Party resurgent, the suitors have increased.

In the highly competitive world of politics, this is bound to happen. Modi is seen as an agent of change. But it remains to be seen how much he can transform the party. Others have to pitch in, notably the party president, Rajnath Singh. The focus is on the elections, as it needs to be. But the party also requires long-term reconstruction. Direct election for the party president’s post would considerably improve the party’s standing. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangha is currently opposed to this, but it will become inevitable in times to come. In the meantime, urgency must be shown to build a second- and third-line party leadership.

Much has to be done. But things have fallen in place with Modi’s elevation. The Bharatiya Janata Party will never become dubiously power-centric like the Congress, but under Narendra Modi, it will shed Vajpayee’s diffidence and Nehruvianism. Rating: 6 out of 10.


Also read “The party begins...1,” “The party begins...2,” “The party begins...3,” “The party begins...4” “The party begins...5.” “The party begins...6.” and “The party begins...7.”