Jaswant Singh to LK Advani: Is BJP treating its old guard right?

Bilochan Prasad, 54, hails from Chhapra in Bihar but, has spent half his life plying auto-rickshaws in Delhi. He is quite amused by the milling crowds at the headquarters of various political parties during the ticket distribution season.

Chandrakant Naidu March 24, 2014 10:30:32 IST
Jaswant Singh to LK Advani: Is BJP treating its old guard right?

Delhi: Bilochan Prasad, 54, hails from Chhapra in Bihar but, has spent half his life plying auto-rickshaws in Delhi. He is quite amused by the milling crowds at the headquarters of various political parties during the ticket distribution season. “If Narendra Modiji wants to come to power to fight the bad parties, why does he need so many from those very parties?” he asks about a stream of new inductees being offered tickets for Lok Sabha.

Most senior leaders in the BJP now seem to be echoing Bilochan Prasad’s simple question.

The quarrel within the BJP is not just over the formulae evolved to shut out the old guard or the pestering senior leaders who keep demanding tickets for their relatives but, over their selective application.  While the party stood firm in denying tickets to relatives of all the ministers’ relatives in Madhya Pradesh it has gone out of its way to endorse the candidature of Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh’s son Abhishek Singh for Mahasamund. Now a demand is being orchestrated to get Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s wife Sadhna Singh to contest from Vidisha assembly seat which he had vacated on his election from Budni.

Jaswant Singh to LK Advani Is BJP treating its old guard right

Jaswant Singh and LK Advani. AFP.

Some old candidates needed to be replaced in the changing situation and the selections would always be disputed. But, with Narendra Modi, and Rajnath Singh taking calls on all the tickets, sweeping aside objections by all other members of central election committee, the conflict of their own political interests can’t be overlooked.

Rajnath’s Singh’s shift from a vulnerable Ghaziabad to Lucknow is a case in point. He seems to be settling scores with many old tormentors during his first stint as party president.

So is the case of denial of ticket to Harin Pathak in Ahmedabad East. Paresh Rawal is a valid choice by all means. But has Pathak been dropped on merit or his poor equation with Modi – or the tag of being Advani supporter? In Uttar Pradesh the party’s list has a whopping 37 per cent of candidates drawn out of the rivals like Samajwadi Party, the BSP or the Congress.

They have been preferred over loyal members. The new leadership believes the old party hands have lost connect with the masses and shakeup could revive the party. Given the state of the BJP in the 2009 elections it was unthinkable to expect the party to improve its performance. The squabbling old leaders would not have let the party move forward. But do the new imports enjoy impeccable credibility or a winning edge; or it’s just a calculated risk.

One can’t hide one’s amusement when the parties campaign for the candidates they had opposed during the past elections. Caste has often been simplistically held out as one most significant factor in the heartland elections. If it had not been for the caste dynamics the voting pattern should have remained constant. Why are Yadavs moving away from Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi party; or, for that matter, why Muslims, stereotyped as Samajwadi or Congress voters, are drifting to Mayawati? Even Mayawati is not sure of shoring up the entire 17 percent Dalit vote that has remained with her through all ups and downs so far.

Harin Pathak airs the same views about the defectors getting precedence over old guard over the past three months. “The party has been inducting Congress’ third grade turncoats, who have noisily criticised the BJP earlier and they are even being felicitated here,” Pathak laments and wonders why Modi needed to do this when he is so popular. During the OBC resurgence Modi perhaps can afford to antagonise the Brahmin votes that rallied behind Pathak, who is yet to decide his course. His confrontation with the party may not work. But his silence could amplify the dissent within the party.

In Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje’s antipathy for Jaswant Singh has cost him the Barmer nomination. Nobody from the party tried to reach him after he set the 48-hour deadline for quitting the party. “If I am not emotional about my home and my party, then what am I going to be emotional about... If the party decides to talk to me, they know my numbers and how I can be reached," Jaswant Singh said.

He was sought to be slighted along with former vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat during Vasundhara Raje’s earlier stint as chief minister. The party is in ferment in Madhya Pradesh as most ministers whose relatives were denied tickets are still sulking. They have been warned they would lose their ministry if they failed to back the official candidates.

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