Among BJP leaders Mr. LK Advani has always been perceived by the Congress as being most conciliatory. Mr. Advani’s aborted protest over Mr. Narendra Modi’s elevation as head of his party’s campaign committee doubtless gladdened Congress leaders expecting dissidence to weaken the opposition. Their joy could be misplaced. If Mr. Advani and his dozen loyalists in the central leadership were to carry their discomfiture to its logical end and split from the BJP the common perception would be that it would weaken the opposition. Actually a split in the BJP could conceivably destroy the Congress by making it irrelevant.
Readers might recall what was pointed out in these columns on June 11, 2013. It was opined:
India desperately needs radical change. That will come not from mere realignment of political structures. It can come only through genuine polarization based upon policies.
“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… Together these leaders… account for 227 parliamentary constituencies… others could join. Mr. Sharad Pawar and Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy offer distinct possibilities… Andhra and Maharashtra account for an additional 100 seats making a total of 327…
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…. 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… 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… Both factions of the BJP would gain… 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.”
After this appeared what has happened?
The head of the BJP minority cell in Delhi has resigned stating that he preferred Mr. Advani to Mr. Modi for leading the party. Over half a dozen BJP MLAs in Bihar are poised to defect to Mr. Nitish Kumar’s party. More are reportedly waiting in the wings. The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has launched his poll campaign for the assembly elections by publicly stating that Mr. Advani was the supreme leader of the BJP. Giant posters were put up across the state capital displaying all prominent central leaders of the party with the glaring omission of Mr. Modi. Mr. Shatrugan Sinha echoed Mr. Chouhan to laud Mr. Advani as the tallest BJP leader and successor to Mr. Vajpayee deserving to be the supreme leader of the party.
Is this happening by design as a prelude to a split? Or is this nature at work providing straws in wind of what might happen in the future?
Regardless, it would be the greatest betrayal of their own conviction and the national good if Mr. Advani’s loyalists do not follow the dictates of their conscience and split. The proposed Federal Front would be waiting for them. An honourable split is better than dissidence and sabotage.
Why could a split in the BJP conceivably harm the Congress?
If the split leads to a contest between the forces of centralization personified by Mr. Modi and the BJP and the forces of decentralization represented by the Federal Front, it could create nationwide political polarization rendering all other forces irrelevant. This is the natural political polarization in multilingual, multi-religious and sub-continental India. Both impulses for centralization and decentralization are healthy and necessary for India. Their ebb and flow depends upon the given time and situation. If the political agendas and vision documents of the protagonists are imaginative enough, the poll outcome could be a game changer for Indian politics. A contest on this issue could polarize the entire nation through a healthy debate based upon policies and not on a harmful communal divide. If the polarization is deep enough the Congress too could split into factions supporting one side or other. A nationwide realignment of political forces could establish a genuine two party democracy.
Quite possibly Mr. Advani and his supporters would be inhibited from challenging the RSS. They would be in error. On special occasions the RSS has supported the Congress in the past. Why would it oppose its own former stalwarts? With the emergence of such polarization there would be RSS presence in both camps. In fact the RSS might welcome a split based upon policy.
India desperately needs radical change. That will come not from mere realignment of political structures. It can come only through genuine polarization based upon policies. Recent stirrings within the BJP indicate the potential of a split based upon a genuine policy debate. Mr. Advani and friends should seize the opportunity. Question is can they muster the necessary courage? Much can be accomplished in eight months before the elections.
There is much that needs to be accomplished if India is ever to play its rightful role in global affairs. There is dire need for systemic reform. The national obsession during past several months with the impractical and irrelevant Lok Pal Bill as the means to introduce accountability in our governance provides clear indication of the inadequacy of our present political system. Clearly a serious review of the Constitution and its working is urgently required. There is also need to seriously reappraise India’s relations with its immediate South Asian neigbours in order to reclaim the nation’s cultural identity that was destroyed by the Partition in 1947. To accomplish these goals there is need for serious and searching debate to determine the roadmap for future political reform. That in turn requires serious reflection and not cheap jibes exchanged over TV channels. That is what the new realigned and polarized polity into two stable formations with alternate agendas for reform should attempt to deliver before the next general election.