The BJP-RSS equations are complex indeed. The BJP’s internal dynamics will continue to remain messy until there’s clarity over the issue of control, more specifically on the question of who runs the party. Senior party leader Yashwant Sinha’s call for party chief Nitin Gadkari’s resignation today could be seen as a desperate effort from the BJP’s old guard to fight off the overwhelming influence of the RSS on the party.
Yashwant’s call comes despite a gag order from the BJP on the allegation of financial irregularities involving Gadkari’s business dealings. Coming from him, it is significant. Ram Jethmalani raised the same issue earlier but for all practical purposes, he is a fringe player in the party; Yashwant, on the other hand, is part of its core. His remark today means a group of senior leaders are ready to dare the RSS.
Gadkari was handpicked by the RSS for the top job despite being a political lightweight compared to other leaders in the party and it has stood solidly behind him over the last three years. It put up a stout defence for him in the wake of the recent controversy, ignoring the strong undercurrent of protest among many of the party’s top leaders. That ideologue S Gurumurthy intervened at the Sangh’s behest to give him a clean chit underlines the importance RSS’s attaches to him. The move was designed to silence the dissenting voices against him in the BJP.
However, as things appear now, the voices are too strong to be silenced for long. Yashwant Sinha is obviously not trying to be a lone loose mouth to gain some instant publicity; he is far too experienced a politician to be that foolish. He is venting the displeasure of many senior leaders in the BJP, which might include the likes of LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj who seen the perils for the party in Gadkari’s continuance. One can expect more leaders to come out in the open to express their frustration in public in the near future.
Why? At one level, these leaders find the party’s plans to corner the government on corruption - its biggest weapon in the parliamentary elections whenever it is due - and the presence of a party chief who is accused of serious financial lapses incompatible. Gadkari leading them blunts their attack to a great extent. With so much focus on corruption in recent times, they cannot just ignore their own uncomfortable reality. The party would have captured the moral high ground had he resigned immediately after the controversy broke out.
At another level, they feel their equations, by extension, the BJP’s, with the RSS need be corrected. Some of these leaders don’t have a Sangh background and thus see no reason in kowtowing to its diktats. Some have been treated shabbily by the RSS and they want to get back at it. Many of them don’t subscribe to the Sangh ideology and are still looking for an Atal Behari Vajpayee model of leadership in the BJP which was centrist in character and was strong enough to rebuff the Sangh’s interference in party matters.
Of course, there’s a genuine feeling that the BJP won’t grow nationally unless it escapes from the ideological limitations set by the RSS. It needs more elbow space for political maneuvering and more freedom to set its own agenda than the Sangh would allow it. The RSS has been maintaining that Gadkari is the internal affair of the BJP and it’s no way involved with the party’s decision making. However, it does not wash, particularly in the light of the recent developments.
Gadkari could merely be a pawn in the bigger battle raging between the RSS and a section of the BJP genuinely worried about the future of the party and their own. His resignation, if it happens, would be a setback for the former but by no means the end of the war for control. Both sides are making their moves carefully. Expect the tug-of-war to get more intense.