Thursday, October 29, 2009

BSY faces rebellion. BJP Govt in deep crisis

Who's to blame for Karnataka problem?
The BJP Government in Karnataka, by all accounts, finds itself in choppy, if not turbulent, waters.

Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has declared war on the cash-rich and powerful ‘Reddy Brothers’ of Bellary, who, in turn, appear to be exerting to bring the Government down. The ‘Reddy Brothers’ virtually control all iron ore mining in Bellary and have similar ‘business interests’ in Andhra Pradesh.

The ‘Reddy Brothers’, Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy and his elder brother and Revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy, have criticised Yeddyurappa for not being sufficiently alert to the woes of the victims of the recent floods. They have launched their own rehabilitation programme and propose to build 50,000 houses for the flood-affected people.

Yeddyurappa, apparently, demanded that they abandon their private project and contribute the money to the official rehabilitation programme. The ‘Reddy Brothers’ not only ignored the Chief Minister’s demand but also refused to invite him for the ‘bhoomi pujan’, apart from lashing out at him in public. They are being supported by Health Minister B Sreeramulu.

An incensed Yeddyurappa retaliated by transferring bureaucrats in the three Ministries and in Bellary who are believed to be close to the Ministers. He wants the party to take action against the three Ministers whom he wants sacked from the Government.

The ‘Reddy Brothers’ and Sreeramulu have retaliated by stoking further dissidence in the BJP legislature party; 15 ‘dissident’ MLAs have been flown out to Hyderabad where they have in put up in a hotel. Sreeramulu says five more will join them soon. The ‘dissident’ MLAs are incommunicado.

Meanwhile, Speaker Jagadish Shettar, a known Yeddyurappa-baiter, has begun flirting with the rebels. One story has it that the ‘Reddy Brothers’ want Shettar to be made Chief Minister. Another story doing the rounds is that Yeddyurappa, in an effort to win over Shettar, offered him the Deputy Chief Minister’s post, but that has been rejected.

Three questions arise:

a) Why did Yeddyurappa choose to precipitate a crisis at this point of time when there are enough fires burning in the BJP? To my mind, his reaction to the defiance of the ‘Reddy Brothers’ has been extremely churlish, if not cussed. He could have done without discovering merit in integrity for some more time.
b) How come the central leadership of the party was unaware of the unfolding crisis till it pushed the Government to the brink of losing majority? The crisis is by no means an overnight development. Does the answer lie in Dilli4 being clueless about what’s happening beyond south Delhi? Or was the situation allowed to drift because one member of the cabal that has converted the party into its fiefdom would like to see Yeddyurappa make an ignominious exit?
c) Who will the so-called national leadership of the BJP blame for the mess in which the party finds itself in Karnataka? Will it look for yet another scapegoat or will it, for a change, look into the mirror? A fish, as I have often said, begins to rot from its head.

The BJP leadership’s incompetence apart, there’s a conspiracy theory which raises an interesting possibility. Apparently Jaganmohan Reddy, said to be close to the ‘Reddy Brothers’ (over-lapping ‘business interests’ are being cited) is involved in the effort to bring down the BJP Government. If he is able to do so, or so the story goes, he will claim the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s post as his trophy from the Congress high command.

The situation at the moment, as the cliché goes, is extremely fluid. Arun Jaitley is camping in Bangalore and has been speaking to various groups to find a solution. The RSS is also trying to broker peace among the feuding factions. Yeddyurappa, however, is recalcitrant, as are the ‘Reddy Brothers’ and fellow dissidents, though they have said that they will abide by the decision of the party ‘high command’.

If the crisis snowballs, the BJP will lose its Government in Karnataka where it has been in power for 18 months. The BJP has 117 MLAs in the 224-member Assembly. That majority could disappear if the ‘Reddy Brothers’ walk out with 20 MLAs. Some say if push comes to shove, the number could go up to 40, thus reducing the BJP’s strength to less than 80 MLAs.

There was great jubilation when the BJP won the Assembly election in Karnataka. It marked the party’s coming to power in a southern State for the first time. But coming to power is only half of the power game. The other half is the ability to retain power.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BJP savaged again.Party pays for drought of leadership!

Delhi cabal has its way: Vasu forced to resign.

Friday evening update:

It’s truly bizarre. Rather than ponder over the party’s defeat in Maharashtra and washout in Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, the BJP’s central leaders [Dilli4 +2] spent all of Thursday and Friday hounding Vasundhara Raje, threatening to suspend her from the party if she did not put in her papers immediately as Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan Assembly.

Vasu was formally elected leader of the legislature party. She was not ‘appointed’ to the post by short-circuiting the rules laid down in BJP Constitution as has been done for Dilli4 and their mentors.

Vasu has been held responsible for BJP’s defeat in Rajasthan Assembly election and later the Lok Sabha poll. Vasu would have fetched victory had Dilli4 and their mentors not conspired to a)field rebel candidates and fund them; b)undermined her authority by appointing those opposed to her as party office-bearers; and, c)not played wretched games to pull her down so as to neutralise competition.

Dilli4 and their drum-beaters (including in media) would like the world to believe that Rajnath Singh alone is responsible for Vasu's sacking. This is not true. Dilli4 colluded in this shocking spectacle of a promising leader who has delivered for the party much more than the BJP's Sir Thomas Clifford, Lady Arlington, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Ashley and Lord Lauderdale being humiliated.

Vasu has her faults and can be outrageously imperious when she chooses to. But those faults are far outweighed by her leadership qualities, her popularity and her ability to connect with the masses. Unlike Dilli4, she leads (or should it be led?) from the front. Most important, she is the 'modern', presentable, youthful face which the BJP needs so badly.

Strangely, not a single ‘national’ leader has stepped down from office despite leading the BJP to a humiliating defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha poll. If the party lost the election it is because voters rejected the BJP’s ‘national’ leadership. Ironically, those who led the party to its defeat have been handsomely rewarded.

Vasu refused to give her resignation to Rajnath Singh or Dilli4. On Friday morning she handed over her resignation letter to LK Advani. That is a measure of the authority and prestige that the party’s ‘national’ leadership commands today!

Not to go down without a fight, Vasu has written a letter, sent to each member of the parliamentary board, reportedly making the following points:
. She feels humiliated by the manner in which her resignation issue was handled.
. There is lack of inner-party democracy in the BJP’s functioning and there is no accountability within the organisation.
. Some senior party leaders created hurdles in her functioning as Chief Minister.
. There has been a continuous decline in the party due to lack of leadership. For example, the party’s decline and fall in Uttar Pradesh.
Who will Dilli4 and their mentors sack after they have sacked everybody else? Soon it could be the turn of the hapless peons, drivers and tea boys at the BJP Central Office!

The most absurd comment that I heard on Thursday, the day results for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh were declared, was made by BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad. “The results were unexpected,” he said, “but we accept them with humility.”

If only the BJP had been less humble and more robust, and had the party bothered to end its crisis (some would say drought) of leadership both in the States and at the national level, perhaps the humiliation of successive defeat could have been avoided. But neither is going to happen soon.

With Dilli4 firmly entrenched and the RSS stepping back, at least for the moment, the BJP will continue to wallow in denial. To protect its own vested interests, Dilli4 will insist on maintaining status quo.

If Bhishma Pitamah could have led an army into battle when he was more than 100 years old, there is no reason why, or so we are told, the BJP should look for youthful leaders who can feel the pulse of today’s India and with whom voters aged 40 and below can identify; more importantly, leaders who will be seen as leading the party (and the State / nation) into the future.

Now for the most misleading comment of the day: Congress spokespersons have claimed that the Assembly poll results are an unequivocal endorsement of the party’s policies and programmes. The party has also claimed that it has ‘defied anti-incumbency’.

That’s hogwash. The results of the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly election were predictable. In Haryana the Congress has been halted at 40 – six short of simple majority. INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala, with 31 seats, has vowed not to sit in the Opposition. In Maharashtra the Congress-NCP coalition may have reached the halfway mark, but ‘victory’ has been achieved through the expedient means of propping up Raj Thackeray’s virulently parochial MNS.

Nonetheless, the BJP should, if it is still serious about remaining in mainstream national politics, try and figure out why its seat share has declined in Arunachal Pradesh. The current nationalist fervour in that State should have been ideal for the party which claims to put nation first. If at all there is any introspection (the BJP says it will deliberate on the ‘road ahead’!) it should also include a frank discussion on why Kiran Rijiju left the party. That would necessitate some explanation on financial issues and the corrupting influence of certain ‘leaders’.

As for Haryana, Swapan Dasgupta has already raised some interesting and revealing points in his blog on why the BJP failed to enter into any meaningful alliance in that State. I think Dilli4 should be asked to explain why it got its sums wrong. There is, however, the view that an alliance between the BJP and INLD may not have worked to either’s advantage on account of Haryana’s caste arithmetic.

The most interesting are the results of the Maharashtra election. My personal view, as I have written in The Pioneer’s main editorial comment, is that the winner came second in this poll. Together, the BJP and Shiv Sena have secured 30 per cent of the total votes, down from 33.64 per cent in 2004. The Congress and NCP vote-share is 38 per cent, almost two per cent down from 39.81 per cent in 2004. The MNS has got six per cent.

Needless to say, the MNS vote has come from the BJP-Sena catchment area, especially in the Mumbai-Thane-Pune belt. The MNS may have won only 13 seats, and lost its deposit in 95 of the 143 seats it contested, but it has inflicted severe injury on the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Raj Thackeray wanted to spite his uncle and cousin; the Congress wanted to split the Opposition and anti-incumbency vote; their interests coalesced.

Yet, the decline in the BJP’s tally from 56 seats in 2004 to 46 seats in this election (the Shiv Sena has suffered greater loss: It is down from 62 seats to 44 seats) cannot be entirely attributed to the ‘MNS factor’. Nor is there any reason for the BJP to celebrate because it is two seats ahead of the Shiv Sena and hence will get to nominate the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly.

The BJP needs to explain as to why it has fared poorly in Vidarbha region, which saw most suicides by debt-ridden farmers, where Congress-NCP candidates have performed remarkably well. It must also look within to find reasons as to why in Marathwada the Congress-NCP coalition has doubled its tally of seven seats in the 2004 election.

A last point: I am increasingly veering round to the view that all high falutin talk of there being a co-relation between election results and quality of governance / agenda of governance is pure bunkum.

The quality of governance, if at all this word can be used, in Maharashtra over the past decade has been appallingly poor. This poll was contested against the backdrop of high inflation (CPI pegs it at around 14 per cent in both urban and rural areas), mounting agrarian crisis, industrial job losses, and a crippling power shortage.

Vilasrao Deshmukh was waxing eloquent on CNN-IBN as to how the voters had endorsed the good work done by him which was continued by Ashok Chavan. P Sainath asked him to list four good things done by the Congress-NCP Government. He couldn’t think of any. Finally it came down to Sainath asking him to name one achievement. Deshmukh pretended a disruption in communication and went off air.

In sharp contrast, the BJP had an excellent governance blueprint which touched every strata of society – from the pavement poor to those who live in Mumbai’s opulent palaces. The BJP-Shiv Sena Manifesto had some very good ideas. The BJP-Shiv Sena’s record in governance is nothing to be scoffed at, especially on the organised crime front as well as infrastructure development.

But I guess the people of India are least interested in what a Government can give them. What turns them on and swings their vote remains a mystery. Or perhaps not. It could just be something as simple as credible leadership – in the States, in New Delhi.

In my previous blog I had lamented that the BJP was unravelling rapidly yet nobody in the party seemed to be bothered. Between then and now, nothing has changed. Much as I hate saying this, it is unlikely to change in the coming days, weeks, months.

What do you think?



Total seats: 288
Results declared: 288
Party Seats Vote
Cong 82
NCP 62
BJP 46
SS 44
MNS 13 06%
CPM 01
Ind & others 48


Total seats: 60
Results declared: 60
Party Seats Vote
Congress 42 50%
Trinamool 5 15%
NCP 5 21%
BJP 2 5%
Others 6


Total seats: 90
Results declared: 90
Party Seats Vote
Congress 40 35%
INLD 31 27%
HJC 6 7%
BJP 4 9%
Independents 7

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BJP unravelling rapidly. Is anybody concerned?

The BJP just continues to get sucked deeper into the mire of deceitful and duplicitous faction politics. In the process, it continues to get pushed farther to the margins of national politics.

On Thursday evening what used to be the all-powerful but is now a pitifully emasculated Parliamentary Board of the party met for an emergency meeting after LK Advani and his group sought a rethink of party president Rajnath Singh's decision that Vasundhara Raje must resign as Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan Assembly. Rajnath Singh believes she should own up to the party's dismal performance in Rajasthan in the Lok Sabhal election.

It is another matter that not a single central leader of the party has as yet owned up to the party's total, absolute and humiliating rout in the Lok Sabha election. On the contrary, those who fashioned the party's election campaign, which proved to be an unmitigated disaster, have been rewarded. Dilli4 remains as powerful as ever, manipulating every twist and turn in the party's downward spiral.

Vasundhara Raje, who enjoys overwhelming support in the BJP legislature party, has refused to step down as instructed by Rajnath Singh who now finds himself in a minority of one in the parliamentary board. Even the West Bengal unit of the party appears to have cocked a snook at Rajnath Singh.

An unnamed 'senior' BJP leader has been quoted as saying "there are serious differences over the move to oust Vasundhara Raje". It's really now an issue on which Rajnath Singh has virtually no support in the parliamentary board.

At the end of three hours of discussions, the parliamentary board came to the decision that no action is to be initiated at the moment. Instead, status quo will be maintained till Rajasthan Assembly bypolls are over on November 7.

End result: Vasu is smiling; Dilli4 is grinning; Rajnath Singh is smarting. It also reflects on the RSS's say on BJP affairs -- whether it signals dwindling clout or shows confusion is for you to decide.

For all practical purposes, Rajnath Singh is now no more than a lame duck president whose writ doesn't run and whose decisions are being increasingly challenged if not ignored by top, middle and junior leaders in the central and State units of the party. The president's office stands denuded of power and authority.

Conclusion: LK Advani is not going anywhere. Rajnath Singh may have to opt out soon. Dilli4 remains untouched, unchallenged.

Irrespective of Maharashtra Assembly election results (the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance could suffer heavy reverses and losses and be left in the cold yet again)it is likely Nitin Gadkari will be brought in as president. He may want to put together his own team by bringing over young leaders like Manohar Parrikar. Whether he will succeed in doing so or be forced to become putty in Dilli4's hands is anybody's guess at the moment.

Bottom line: More than four months after crushing defeat in Lok Sabha election, BJP's entrenched discredited top leadership, including Dilli4, refuses to wake up to reality. After Thursday's meeting, I find the BJP resembling George Orwell's Animal Farm.

From here to oblivion could be a short journey, unless drastic steps are taken by the RSS. The BJP is fast resembling a tamasha, an embarrassing one at that. A shame and a pity.

The Sangh cannot, indeed must not, wish away its responsibility.