Thursday, December 01, 2005

Meltdowns in the BJP and Shiv Sena. A Trend?

First, Vajpayee retired. Then L.K. Advani got himself in hot water over his comments on Jinnah, and will probably be out by the end of the year. Before he goes, however, he's made sure to get Uma Bharti out of it, and that seems to have stuck. Bharti, I understand, is going to form her own regional party in Madhya Pradesh. Also look for her to do a Ayodhya-bound "Ram-Roti Yatra."

On the Shiv Sena side, the meltdown is even more extensive. Most recently, Raj Thackeray quit the party, and openly questioned his brother Uddhav's leadership. Before that, it was Narayan Rane. What exactly Raj's defection means, and where he will go is still a matter of some speculation (he will probably not go to the Congress). DNA Mumbai speculates as follows:

No more can Narayan Rane be sure of disgruntled Shiv Sena leaders making a beeline for his camp. The Sena corporators, MPs and MLAs, who had been keen on joining Rane, now have an option - a Raj-sponsored Sena.

The possibility of Raj Thackeray floating a separate organisation may put the brakes on the exodus of disgruntled Sainiks looking for an alternative political platform to Rane's Congress.

A senior official in the Congress said, "The vertical split in the Shiv Sena will upset the horizontal growth of Rane." Majority of the leaders, pushed into a corner by Uddhav, had sought refuge with Raj. Rane wanted to tap such elements, which felt slighted or isolated in the Uddhav sena.

Horizontal? Vertical? Kya, kya? I'm not sure what they're talking about. Anyone have a guess?

All the troubles in the BJP and Shiv Sena parties may suggest the end of an era -- both parties are struggling to find new momentum for their respective agendas. Are they finished? Probably not: we said the same thing about the Congress Party in the spring of 2004, when the NDA government looked unbeatable. There was considerable infighting there too, along with many questions about who could really lead the party into the next era (the Sonia-Manmohan solution deftly solved all the political problems presented by Sonia Gandhi's leadership of the party). Whether or not we will see another Babri Masjid type event, it seems hard for me to imagine that the era of Hindutva is really behind us.

Nothing lasts forever, so it's dangerous to gloat in politics (as in everything else in life). As soon as Congress hits a rough patch (or the Communists finally quit in frustration), will the Sangh Parivar be back at the center? Or are we headed towards a future of even more localized politics, held together by some vaguely centrist, currently nonexistent party?


Kumar said...

Dr. Singh:

One can only hope that the BJP sheds its Hindutva baggage; or, at least, the crazed variety peddled by all too many on the Hindu right. It would be best for India if the BJP were to become a sensible Hindu-right party (along, say, the lines of the Christian Democracts in Germany).

Having dissed the BJP, I suppose I have to add that their rise has changed--permanently, I think--the political landscape in India. Notwithstanding, Mr. Arjun Singh's 'detoxification' drive, it is now possible to 'commit' Hinduism(s) in the public sphere, even if attended by vehement crticism. And this criticism is not an altogether bad thing either--it'll keep everybody on their toes.


vk said...

I think that the NDA's star is on the rise. The recent electoral victory in Bihar is extremely significant in this regard. It has broken the control of the middle caste alliances over power and reasserted traditional
alignments. These alignments favour the NDA. I also think that though Advani is retiring soon, he will be back. There are no real equals to either him or Vajpayee in terms of ability to get votes in the BJP.

Krish said...

If this UPA govt. survives the full term and if Manmohan and Sonia doesn't make any blunders, you can write an obituary for BJP. It won't vanish. It will just exist as a party making noise with 40-50 MPs. Even when they were in power, we saw the power struggle between Vajpayee and Advani. After they lost power, the power struggle between them intensified further. Not only that, the power struggle between the second rung leaders went out of proportion. Wait till Jaitley or Sushma Swaraj take the BJP President's post. Pramod Mahajan will start his games to destabilize them. Advani will do his best to bring in a split between BJP and RSS. It is going to be messy and it will mark the beginning of end of BJP. This will be good for the Indian society in a way. We need to shed the fundamentalism if they ever want to achieve the target of becoming an advanced country.

However, if Manmohan-Sonia duo mess up in the next 3 years or so, it is a different ball game. They need to keep the likes of Arjun Singh under control. Any misstep will help BJP cover up their problem and unite into a single group. Well, we will have to wait and see.