Mature politicians anticipate the possible need to take the last extreme step before taking a drastic first step. One presumes that Mr. LK Advani did that before skipping the Goa conclave of BJP. The final logical step for him is to split the BJP. One hopes he stays the course to do it. A split in the party will be good for national politics and good for all members of the BJP from both major factions.
For too long we have had a non-performing government and a spurious opposition that functioned like the B-team of the Congress. A split in the BJP was long overdue. It has arisen not from merely the clash of personal ambitions but from a basic contradiction in the party organization.
The BJP continues to be influenced through remote control by the RSS which orders the party’s cadres. This arrangement is as flawed as is one of two power centres that run the Congress. When Mr. Narendra Modi gave an ultimatum to the party to remove Sanjay Joshi before the Mumbai BJP conclave, the RSS surrendered and he had his way. Subsequently he went to Nagpur and made up with the RSS after he realized the danger of alienating its cadres. Presently RSS and Mr. Modi are together.
Mr. Advani tried to play the same game by absenting himself from Goa. It did not work. Mr. Advani for most of his political career was a huge beneficiary of RSS support. Now he is its victim. It is tempting for critics to rubbish him for that and gloat for receiving his just desserts. On the contrary, Mr. Advani should be encouraged to play the catalyst for introducing polarization, realignment and rejuvenation of Indian politics. He might well do that if he has learnt any lesson.
As recently as January 2006 Mr. Advani was singing a very different tune. He made observations in his speech delivered at the BJP’s silver jubilee national convention in Mumbai that were grievously flawed. Commenting on that speech I wrote on January 4, 2006 that —
“Mr. Advani wrongly asserted that, BJP was born because its leaders chose to break away from the Janata Party in order to retain links with RSS. The truth was opposite. It was the others who broke away from the Janata Party because they found links with RSS unacceptable. It was dual membership of the Janata Party and RSS that led to the party’s split. Jan Sangh faction leaders and RSS always maintained the fiction that RSS was a cultural body with no political role to play. But it was painfully apparent that Jan Sangh faction leaders within Janata Party continued to take orders from the RSS. The RSS claim of being a non-political organization was blown to bits by media exposure. A weekly paper quoted a sworn affidavit by the RSS stating it was a political organization for which reason it should be exempt from paying tax. The crisis snowballed and the party split with factions loyal to Charan Singh and Raj Narain breaking away. After the drubbing received by the divided opposition in the general election, the non-Jan Sangh factions led by Chandrashekhar reappraised the situation. They objected to continued links with RSS. It was then that the Janata Party further split and the BJP was born.”
There is enormous ignorance among media commentators about how the Janata government performed and why it split. The government performed much better than both its preceding and successive governments. It split because the party organization failed to unite. The immediate provocation of the problem was incompatibility between an abrasive Raj Narain and the RSS appointed functionary overseeing the Jan Sangh faction in Janata Party, Nanaji Deshmukh. The mindset of the government’s top leaders brought up under a Congress culture failed to empathize with the federal impulse which had inspired the birth of the Janata Party. Dual membership was added reason to sharpen the split. Therefore if now at the fag end of his career Mr. Advani has learnt the cost of allowing RSS to remote-control the BJP it would be good if an attempt were made to end this unhealthy arrangement. Does Mr. Advani have any possibility to achieve that? The potential certainly exists. Only time will tell if he can summon leadership qualities to exploit it
Already Miss Mamata Banerjee has spoken in favour of creating a new Federal Front that might ignore the Congress and BJP. Already interaction has occurred among Miss Jayalalithaa, Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Miss Mamata Banerjee and Mr. Nitish Kumar. The prospects of a coalition are very bright. Together these leaders represent substantial strength on the ground. They account for 227 parliamentary constituencies. If the bandwagon starts to roll others could join. Mr. Sharad Pawar and Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy offer distinct possibilities. Mr. Pawar has the skill and financial clout to pull others in Maharashtra with him. Andhra and Maharashtra account for an additional 100 seats making a total of 327. So how can Mr. Advani exploit this situation to his advantage?
Within the BJP Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, Mr. Jaswant Singh, Mr. Yashwant Sinha, Miss Uma Bharati, and Mr. Shatrugan Sinha are known sympathizers of Mr. Advani. They may not count for much on the ground but no federal front would spurn the input of their talent. Madhya Pradesh CM Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan who was soundly backed by Mr. Advani might also consider new options. All these leaders would know that despite assurances to the contrary their future within the BJP will now most likely always be suspect and diminished. If Mr. Advani can succeed in convincing his followers he could present an attractive addition to the emerging Federal Front. He could act as a catalyst to persuade the proposed Front to function as a proper Federation contesting poll under one election symbol for parliament to offer the nation a genuine and stable new national alternative. The appropriate party constitution of such a Federation that could immensely benefit the regional parties without in any way diluting their respective identities can be produced in a day.
Were Mr. Advani to seriously attempt this it would immensely benefit national politics. Both factions of the BJP would gain. Unfettered by dissidence Mr. Modi could exploit his enormous popularity at the polls which his followers believe he possesses. Mr. Advani would have the opportunity to test his belief that only inclusive politics can succeed in India by strengthening a Federal Front. Both Mr. Advani and Mr. Modi can test their beliefs. The public could judge. The nation would gain.