BJP President Mr. Nitin Gadkari has painted himself into a corner. His refusal to resign from his post provoked mounting criticism against him from interested elements within BJP. Mr. Ram Jethmalani was the most vocal and persistent. He even dared the party to act against him. At the moment of writing he is suspended from the primary membership of his party.
Clearly Mr. Jethmalani wants more. He wants to be expelled.
Under the provisions of the anti-defection law his expulsion would enable him to continue in parliament as an independent MP leaving options for future alignment with any other party open to him. His suspension would compel him to vote with the party on every issue in parliament but leave him free to continue publicly rubbishing the party at will. If Mr. Jethmalani resigns from the party he relinquishes his membership of parliament. This is of course unthinkable. Who wants to quit parliament? Either way Mr. Gadkari emerges the loser.
Whatever action is taken against Mr. Jethmalani, expulsion or prolonged suspension, it will be a precedent for others. And others there are in plenty. Mr. Yashwant Sinha, Mr. Shatrgugan Sinha, Mr. Jaswant Singh, Mr. Shettigar, and most recently even Mr. Shanta Kumar have voiced criticism of Mr. Gadkari. As the queue of critics lengthens every day, how will Mr. Gadkari and his mentors in Nagpur cope?
Eventually the revolt can assume the dimensions of a party split. The anti-defection law was amended to prevent a party split. However a party can split if the defecting section merges with another existing or even a new party. The rump that avoids merger may continue in the parent party. However such a merger might occur only if not less than two-thirds of the members of the legislative party concerned have agreed to such merger.
In other words if Mr. Gadkari’s critics inside the BJP want to being matters to a head they would have to muster at least 77 of the total 115 BJP Lok Sabha MPs. That is inconceivable unless Mr. LK Advani and his supporters throw in their lot with the critics. If the present trend continues would that be impossible?
I had earlier written in these columns that a party split presupposes a major polarizing issue. I also pointed out that such an issue did indeed exist within the BJP. The extra-constitutional authority exercised by the RSS over the BJP has seriously impaired the party’s performance. An increasing number of BJP leaders will start acknowledging this truth as long as Mr. Gadkari persists in occupying his post.
Had Mr. Gadkari resigned initially he would in no way have harmed his image. His belated resignation will undoubtedly embarrass him. But Mr. Mohan Bhagwat in Nagpur and Mr. Gadkari himself will have to swallow pride if they are determined to avoid a potential crisis within the BJP that could prove fatal.