Rage of the veterans: It's a repeat of 2005 for BJP in 2015 with a minor change in cast of characters

History is repeating itself for the BJP, albeit with minor modifications. The principal players remain the same but their roles have reversed. It is 2015 and not 2005, but the similarities are interesting.

In 2005, LK Advani was under attack from the party he then presided and the RSS for his “Jinnah was secular” remark made during his Pakistan visit. He was targeted by virtually all quarters of the Sangh Parivar for his “ideological deviation” and one of the most prominent “second generation” leaders, a top minister today, had remarked that “Advani had finished his 60 years of politics in six days of Pakistan visit”. Advani resigned as party president and then stayed on after senior leaders collectively went to his residence and persuaded him to continue.

While the BJP’s so called “steel frame” (the then second generation leaders) melted under pressure or otherwise, one leader who kept quiet and swung it in favour of Advani, to the extent possible, was Narendra Modi. He stood by his mentor in the crisis. He had his own reasons to it – If RSS could break a leader of Advani’s stature then surely he (Modi) could be their second target. Modi had a running feud with the VHP and some of the RSS leaders and was conscious of the consequences of Advani being thoroughly vanquished.

Though Advani announced his resignation in Chennai a few months later, he made it known that the RSS had forced the decision on him. The handing over the party’s presidential baton to Rajnath Singh happened at the year-end in Mumbai national executive and council meet. Advani slowly resurrected himself though he could never regain same authority.

 Rage of the veterans: Its a repeat of 2005 for BJP in 2015 with a minor change in cast of characters

PTI image.

This time around, it is Advani along with three other octogenarian leaders - Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar - who have made Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah their targets not only for defeat in Bihar election but also the way the party is functioning.

"To say that everyone is responsible for the defeat in Bihar is to ensure that no one is held responsible. It shows that those who would have appropriated credit if the party had won are bent on shrugging off responsibility for the disastrous showing in Bihar. The principal reason for the latest defeat is the way the party has been emasculated in the last year. A thorough review must be done of the reasons for the defeat as well as of the way the party is being forced to kow-tow to a handful, and how its consensual character has been destroyed," Advani said in their open letter.

Sudheendra Kulkarni was said to be the man who was responsible for influencing Advani’s Jinnah remark. This time around, sources say Arun Shourie is the one coordinating and piloting Advani-Murli Manohar Joshi-Yashwant Sinha-Shanta Kumar’s joint statement. Shourie had met Advani on his birthday. It is believed that after exchange of greetings the broad contour of the draft statement was discussed. Next day — November 9 — witnessed a rare situation when Advani drove to Joshi’s Raisina Road residence. Sinha and Shourie were already present there to discuss the emerging intra-party situation at length and put a final seal on their joint statement, considered to be a Diwali eve bomb. Shourie, Sinha and Joshi have on several occasions been critical of Advani but in changed circumstances all things seems to have been forgiven and forgotten. After an hour, the statement was released from Joshi’s residence gate to the media.

In 2005, after losing the parliamentary election and partial retirement of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani still was considered the tallest BJP leader but his aura was on a slide.

In contrast, Modi is the prime minister, his command over the government and the party is total but after a severe beating of the BJP in Delhi and Bihar in 2015, there are many in the BJP who believe that his popularity is waning and his aggressive pitch is no longer yielding the desired dividend, thus it was an opportune time to strike against him.

Some also see a conspiracy theory to be at work – to deflect attention and blame from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for his controversial statement on reservation, which proved to be turning point in Bihar elections. It came after party MP Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, a rooted to the ground politician, blamed Bhagwat’s untimely statement which polarised backwards, Dalits and Muslims in favour of Nitish-Lalu-Congress Grand Alliance as one of the principal reasons for debacle. RSS’s thinker Rakesh Sinha tweeted against Yadav and a series of telephonic conversations between the BJP and Sangh leaders took place. Yadav was asked by the party to clarify and then keep quiet.

After all, this was for the first time in the history of RSS-Jansangh-BJP that a party leader of repute while still being in the organisation had publicly challenged or blamed the RSS chief, their ideological fountainhead.

But the problem with this conspiracy theory is that Shourie and Sinha (Yashwant) are in no way RSS favourites. Advani and Joshi too have lost their old connect with the RSS and with their own party too. “There is no way RSS would train its guns at Modi and Shah through them. The RSS may have certain issues for or against Modi-Shah but there are established ways and means to discuss and debate them. The RSS would not like anything that could in any way make things difficult for them (Modi-Shah),” a senior government functionary with deep understanding of RSS-BJP said. Sinha and Shourie have been termed as habitual dissenters and he cites a number of examples. Shourie’s “bombard the (BJP) headquarters statement”, most famous of that.

Modi is in sync with the RSS so far and his command over the party is total. He may have lost his ability to read the popular pulse though. That’s something for him to ponder. He will have time to reflect on that by the time he returns from his tour abroad. It would be interesting to see if the fortunes of Jayant Sinha (Minister of State, Finance) is affected as and when the next cabinet reshuffle takes place. His father Yashwant Sinha has made things difficult for him.

Updated Date: Nov 13, 2015 12:51:13 IST