Rebellion in BJP units may cost dear in general elections

June 11th, 2008 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) It is the enemy within that may be more worrisome for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its march to victory in the next Lok Sabha poll, with several state units of the party openly declaring rebellion. Bihar is the latest case where the BJP MLAs and MLCs voiced their dissent against the party’s state leadership. Deputy Chief Minister and legislature party chief Sushil Modi had angered BJP MLAs when he failed to strike a good bargain with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the last cabinet reshuffle a month ago. Nitish, who belongs to the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), gave plum portfolios to his men.

The simmering rebellion reached a crescendo and forced the BJP to appoint two senior leaders, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj, to handle the crisis. For the first time in the party’s history a secret ballot was held to test whether Modi had support of the MLAs.

“He is too close to Nitish and so fails to pursue the BJP’s cause. Nitish is taking undue advantage of this,” a BJP MLA from Bihar told IANS.

Declaring Modi a winner in the poll, the party announced status quo. But party insiders confirmed that Modi had lost badly - he reportedly got only 29 of the 69 votes - and the matter was hushed up for the time being.

“The matter is clear and there is nothing left to clarify. The party workers’ grievances will be redressed,” said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

Bihar is not the first case. The rebellion in the Gujarat unit of the BJP during the assembly elections is still fresh in public memory. On Dec 22, just two days before the poll results were to be declared, the BJP took action against four Lok Sabha MPs. While Keshubhai Patel and Kashiram Rana were issued show-cause notices, Vallabhai Kathiria and Somabhai Patel were suspended from the primary membership of the party.

While in Bihar Sushil Modi failed to assert himself, in Gujarat the party’s other Modi (Chief Minister Narendra Modi) was responsible.

“Modi is special for us,” confessed party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad about Modi’s increasing indispensability.

Though Narendra Modi’s resounding victory buried the issue, BJP leaders say the party may have forever lost support of a section of the Patel community.

However, it is Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which go to the polls in November, that have the party fretting.

In Rajasthan, BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s dictatorial (some say monarchical) ways have antagonised the party leaders. Raje, who belongs to the Scindia royal family, has hardly minced words telling she is the boss.

To placate the other faction - which has the open support of Jaswant Singh, former external affairs minister and senior BJP leader - the central leadership appointed Om Prakash Mathur as Rajasthan unit head early this year.

Even in the recent Gujjars’ agitation in the state demanding Scheduled Tribe status, the BJP unit was divided. The party entrusted Mathur with the responsibility of negotiating with Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsala to end the crisis.

Raje even spoke against party leaders - without naming them - at the national council and national executive meetings in January. She went a step further during the national executive this month by staying away from it.

In Madhya Pradesh the BJP is in the same predicament. Ever since Uma Bharati left the BJP to form her own Bharatiya Janshakti Party in 2005, it has lacked a fiery leader. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan is not seen as a strong-enough leader to fight anti-incumbency in the state.

“Chauhan became chief minister without any ministerial experience. He is like a player who was inducted into the Test cricket team without playing a Ranji Trophy (state level) match,” conceded a senior leader, preferring anonymity.

With such rebellions the BJP’s victory juggernaut may run aground at the most crucial juncture - the Lok Sabha elections of May 2009.

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