Joshi vs Modi: no clear winner in tangled BJP web (Comment)

June 9th, 2012 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Seven years after Sanjay Joshi had to distance himself from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) following the surfacing of a sleazy CD involving him, this low-key apparatchik of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has had to leave the party again.

It was said during the CD episode in 2005 that Joshi had been “fixed” by his opponents in the party. The same charge may be voiced again. Only this time, the person who will be identified in this context as his main adversary is none other than Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The two pracharaks - or preachers of the Hindu nationalist RSS’ worldview - have never been the best of friends. However, if Modi has had the last laugh - as of now - in this mutual game of oneupmanship, it is obviously because the chief minister’s career has blossomed compared to that of his one-time rival in Gujarat.

It is, however, difficult to say whether there has been a clear winner and loser this time. The fact that Joshi was able to claw his way back to the BJP’s national executive despite the earlier scandal underlined his staying power which could only have been due to support from the RSS. There is nothing to indicate that he still does not enjoy the support.

After all, it took Modi all of seven months - from September 2011 to May 2012 - to oust Joshi from the BJP’s highest policy-making body although he remained in the party at the time. Not only that, Modi had to boycott one national executive meeting and threaten to stay away from another before he could have his way. Modi also refrained from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and elsewhere to give vent to his displeasure about Joshi’s rehabilitation in the party.

Arguably, Joshi might still have survived but for a few gaffes of Nitin Gadkari’s own. These included backing a controversial London-based businessman for a Rajya Sabha seat from Jharkhand and asking the tainted B.S. Kushwaha to join the party on the eve of the Uttar Pradesh elections. Having been weakened by these missteps, the BJP president presumably came to the conclusion that removing Joshi from the national executive was a small price to pay for placating Modi.

However, even at the time of parting, Gadkari complimented Joshi’s large-heartedness for stepping down for the sake of a sulking chief minister. But what he may not have anticipated was the anti-Modi campaign which the supporters of the “large-hearted” Joshi would launch by pasting posters in Delhi, Ahmedabad and elsewhere, saying that “chhote man se koi bada nai hota (the small-minded cannot become big)”.

It is unlikely that Modi has faced such a direct attack from his own party men before. But, if Joshi’s supporters dared to carry it out, the reason is apparently the belief that the RSS is not quite pleased with the chief minister’s antics. Moreover, the latter has been facing an offensive in recent months from the influential Patel lobby in Gujarat led by former chief minister Keshubhai Patel.

Besides, the latest Modi-Gadkari-Arun Jaitley line-up has predictably alerted L.K. Advani to the possibility of being sidelined. Hence his indirect criticism of Gadkari on the grounds that the BJP is unable to fill the vacuum created by the growing popular dissatisfaction with the Congress.

Modi, therefore, is not on as much of a strong wicket as he supposed when Joshi was shown the door. As much was clear when Sushil Modi, Bihar’s deputy chief minister, pointed out that the manner in which Joshi was made to leave was not correct since no one had the right to “hijack” the party and dictate terms.

Now, the scene has become more complicated with Joshi’s resignation from the party. It is not impossible that the latter is playing for high stakes where he believes that Modi will be at a disadvantage. Since the background to the events of the last few months is the prime ministerial ambitions of Modi and others, Joshi is probably trying to highlight through his resignation how disruptive for the party can be Modi’s coercive style of operation.

Joshi’s proximity to the RSS must have made him aware that this is exactly the kind of functioning which the Nagpur patriarchs dislike. In fact, they have been urging Modi to be more accommodative. Since resignations are rather unusual in the BJP, Joshi cannot but create a ruckus inside the saffron brotherhood at a time when the leadership tussles in the top echelons of the BJP remain unresolved.

Till now, Modi has had a roller-coaster ride, winning two successive elections and presenting himself as an able administrator focussed on development. It was natural for him to think, therefore, that his next goal of moving to the national stage would be easy. But the trouble he is having with a former fellow pracharak must warn him about the tangled web that is politics.

(09.06.2012 - Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)

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