Amit Shah shunts Advani out: With RSS nod, Modi in full control of BJP, govt

Though Advani had lost his pre-eminent position after Jinnah episode but was still relevant, though with reduced clout, till mid-2013.

Sanjay Singh August 27, 2014 11:10:08 IST
Amit Shah shunts Advani out: With RSS nod, Modi in full control of BJP, govt

Lal Krishna Advani has been eased out of all party positions that he has held since the birth of the BJP. His name does not figure in the two highest decision making bodies - the parliamentary board and central election committee - both of which were reconstituted today by new party president Amit Shah.

Advani is not the only one to face this ignominy. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi’s names have also been dropped from the two top bodies of the party. But the difference is that Vajpayee has been physically incapacitated for almost a decade and his name was kept there out of reverence, till recently touted to be the tallest leader of the BJP. In stark contrast, Advani (87) has been physically fit and fine.

The man or the men credited to have built the party have virtually been shown the door, that too when the party is at the pinnacle of its glory. The move must have hurt them hard.

Incidentally, the move also came on a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi rewarded another set of party seniors for being in the goods books, his as well as the RSS -- Kalyan Singh, Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, C Vidyasagar Rao and Mridula Sinha -- with the plum gubernatorial posts of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa, respectively. Six party elders had earlier been rewarded the same way - Ram Naik (Uttar Pradesh), Keshari Nath Tripathi (West Bengal), Om Prakash Kohli (Gujarat), Balram Ji Das Tandan (Chhattisgarh), Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya (Nagaland) and Kaptan Singh Solanki (Haryana).

Amit Shah shunts Advani out With RSS nod Modi in full control of BJP govt

BJP leader LK Advani. Reuters

The way things unfolded on Tuesday sends two messages that Modi’s control over the party and the government is total and cannot be challenged. First, that his protégé Amit Shah can take tough decisions previously considered unthinkable, and second, that their coordination with the RSS over such policy matters is very smooth.

A decision of this magnitude in the organisational structure of the BJP could not have been possible without RSS’s clearance. To put it another way, the RSS’s faith in Modi is unflinching and any possible irritant in his way has simply been moved aside. The party could claim that the generational change in the BJP is complete. The party president is just about 50 years old and no one in decision making capacity in the government or in the party is over 65.

The consolation offered to the three party elders, officially designated as Margdarshak who will be part of a panel called the Margdarshak Mandal is for all practical purposes meaningless. This team of so-called mentors will comprise Vajpayee, Modi, Advani, Joshi and Rajnath Singh. There are many in the BJP who think it is highly unlikely that this Margdharshak Mandal will ever even meet.

Though technically, the BJP leader maintains, there was no official on-record briefing it appears that the veterans were chucked out, rather unceremoniously to infuse fresh blood and new age ideas into the decision making echelons of the party. That would have been done only if vacancies in the 12-member parliamentary board and 15-member central election committee were created. Amit Shah, the party chief had to be brought in. Along with Shah, Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan and general secretary JP Nadda are the new entrant in the two elite committees. Modi will have a towering presence in these committees.

Chouhan has been included to give a signal that the two committees are not the preserve of central leaders, and that the party respects its regional powerhouses, a process that had begun with Modi’s inclusion in these bodies over a year ago. Chouhan was also considered to be one of Advani’s favourites. Other members in the committee include Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari, Anath Kumar, Thavarchand Gehlot and Ramlala.

The process of Advani’s marginalisation in the organisational structure, which was on for quite some time is now total. It couldn’t be more ignominious to him. He was recently removed from the post of working chairman of BJP parliamentary party and now from parliamentary board. He is now just one among the 282 MPs of the BJP. He remains in the party but without any weightage.

Though Advani had lost his pre-eminent position after the Jinnah episode, he was still relevant, though with reduced clout, till mid-2013. His inability to read the mood of the party workers and of the nation at large in favour of Narendra Modi proved to be his undoing.

A party insider, with close connections in the RSS said, “It was sad that a leader of Advani’s stature could not assess how politics was shaping up and how his one time protégé had become a charisma. He should have been the one to announce that transformation and hand over the reigns to him, instead he tried to resist the winds of change. He even did not listen to the clear messages conveyed to him by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and his deputy Bhaiyaji Joshi. He perhaps didn’t realise that he was opening too many fronts in one go, that too at a time when his influence was waning.”

But then there are other questions such as if his removal and that of the other two elders was necessary to make space for Amit Shah’s mandatory inclusion in the team. Couldn’t some other leaders from the list be removed for that purpose? Ananth Kumar whose name was initially considered for dropping, managed to save his position. All thanks to his improved relationship with the Sangh and Modi. Thavarchand Gehlot is there to supposedly give schedule caste representation.

How functional and important is the BJP parliamentary board, that too when the Modi government is in power at the Centre?

Technically, the parliamentary board is the party's highest decision making body and deals with issues like the naming and removal of chief ministers, putting together collective wisdom for devising a fresh strategy, taking disciplinary action against senior functionaries and so on. But then all issues on the agenda that come before the parliamentary board are in practice decided beforehand by a select group that the party president may decide and put before the board for formal ratification. The decision to elevate Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate is a case in point. That informal group now could consist of Modi, Amit Shah, Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari.

The parliamentary board’s significance is in many ways more notional than real. Nonetheless, in the party set up the committee has certain ceremonial value. The Central Election Committee will of course meet to decide and select from a panel of names sent by respective state units for assembly elections. When the decision to deny ticket to Jaswant Singh a ticket from Barmer and offer it to Sonaram in the last parliamentary election was taken, Sushma Swaraj had famously said that the issue was never discussed in the central Election Committee.

No one could say whether Advani was given prior information of the decision to drop his name from the two positions that he held. “In any case this was coming out in the media for sometime and he may have known," a party leader said.

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