If it were to be left to the Indians who use Twitter and Facebook, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, would have already been appointed the Prime Minister of the country. But alas that cannot be the case.
Yesterday (June 9,2013), Modi was appointed the Chairman of the campaign committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. This appointment is being seen as the first step that India’s main opposition party has taken towards declaring its prime ministerial candidate for the forthcoming election.
The appointment has sent out a clear signal that Modi is the ‘leader’ among the leaders in the BJP. But even with that there is still a long distance between Narendra Modi and 7, Race Course Road (the residence of the Indian Prime Minister). As the old English saying goes “well begun is half done”. But its only half done and half still remains to be done.
First and foremost it is clear that the BJP does not have the wherewithal to get a majority on its own (Neither does the Congress. No party does in the current scheme of things). This has happened because the proportion of votes got by national parties has fallen over the years. In 1991, national parties among them got around 81% of the votes polled. By 2009, this number had fallen to less than 64%.
The party has a very small presence in large parts of Eastern India (West Bengal and beyond) and is practically non-existent in Southern India, except for Karnataka. The irony here is that across all states in India, the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh(RSS), the parent body of the BJP, has the highest penetration in the state of Kerala (though UP has more shakhas). Despite that the BJP has never been able to win a Lok Sabha seat in the state, till date.
The party is not much of a force to reckon with in Andhra Pradesh, though it has won a few seats in the state in the past when it was in alliance with the Telgu Desam Party (TDP). The state sends 42 MPs to the Lok Sabha. The TDP now does not want to be seen aligning with the BJP because that had cost the party its Muslim vote bank in the past. “This is not going to help the BJP. It will not improve the party’s fortunes,” said a TDP leader while reacting to Modi’s appointment. Jagan Mohan Reddy, the other big player in the state, has also said in the past that he won’t support the BJP. Though recent news-reports suggest that BJP is trying to get close to Reddy and his YSR Congress.
In the neighbouring state of Karnataka, the BJP was decimated in the recent assembly elections. This after BS Yeddyurappa, the most famous BJP leader in the state, quit the party. The going theory is that is the BJP has to be a serious player in the state that elects 28 MPs to the Lok Sabha,, it will have to get Yeddyurappa back into its fold. The question of course is will Modi attempt to get Yeddyurappa back into the state? And if he does that, how does he plan to handle all the corruption allegations that Yeddyurappa faces?
One of the major issues against the incumbent Congress government is the rampant corruption that it has unleashed. And if BJP decides to associate itself with corrupt politicians like Yeddyurappa and Jagan Mohan Reddy, then it will be putting itself in the same boat as the Congress.
In Tamil Nadu, which elects 39 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the BJP is non existent. But the Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa currently seems to be on amicable terms with Modi. “At a personal level, Modi is a very good friend of mine, I have high regard for him as an able administrator. My good wishes are always with him whether he wins election in Gujarat or achieves an elevation in his own party. I’m happy for him,” she remarked after Modi’s appointment. Whether the two ‘good friends’ translate their friendship into a pre-electoral alliance remains to be seen. Also, the BJP cannot forget that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government fell in 1999, due to the mercurial Jayalalithaa, pulling out of the alliance.
The four southern states together elect 129 MPs to the Lok Sabha. The BJP has presence in only one of these states. Hence, its important that the BJP allies with other parties in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. But alliances in these states come with there share of problems.
Then come the states of Orissa and West Bengal which elect 63 Lok Sabha MPs between them (Orissa – 21, West Bengal – 42). The BJP was in alliance with Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Orissa till 2009 for a period of nearly 11 years. But since then Naveen Patnaik, chief minister of Orissa, and the main leader of BJD has been cold towards the BJP.
As he told The Economic Times in an interview today (June 10, 2013) “ I have always maintained that our party will not forge an alliance with either the Congress or the BJP, we will continue to maintain equi-distance from both.”
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, one of the main political parties of West Bengal, has also been in alliance with the BJP in the past. The BJP has been in recent times trying to get close to Mamata. It did not put up a candidate in the recent by-election to the Howrah, Lok Sabha constituency, which Trinamool won. Mamata is also known be as mercurial as Jayalalithaa, and hence can be a tricky alliance partner.
A major reason that Narendra Modi has been appointed the premier leader of the BJP is the fact, that the party expects this move to help it do well in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), where it has rapidly lost support over the last 15 years. In the current Lok Sabha the party has only 10 MPs from the state, which elects 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. In the past it has even had more than fifty Lok Sabha MPs from the state. To tackle this Modi is being projected as an OBC leader in the state by the likes yoga guru Baba Ramdev. Modi’s protege Amit Shah has been appointed as the state party in charge. The resurgence of the BJP is not possible unless the party gets around 30 seats from Uttar Pradesh.
While Modi might draw in the votes in Uttar Pradesh, what does he do about Bihar? Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, does not want his party Janata Dal (United) association with a Modi led BJP. So even if Modi gets in the votes in Uttar Pradesh, a breakup of the BJP-Janata Dal(United) alliance in Bihar, might negate the overall effect. And if BJP and Janata Dal (United) fight elections separately in Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal might benefit from it. In Bihar, the upper castes vote for the BJP, whereas the a spate of lower castes vote for the Janata Dal (United), which is one of the reasons that makes the combination unbeatable. The state elects 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
So there are several tricky alliance issues that Modi needs to tackle. And the sooner he tackles them the better it is. Pre-poll alliances are much more beneficial in the first past the post system that India follows. This is the only way for the BJP to ensure that the anti incumbency vote against the Congress led UPA does not split.
Of course, Narendra Modi understands the alliance pressure on the BJP very well. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay quotes Narendra Modi in the book Narendra Modi – The Man. The Times as saying “When Atalji became prime minister for the first time in 1996 – we got no allies – Akali Dal and Shiv Sena had been with us earlier but not new allies. But in 1998 the situation changed – the parties and their leaders also increased (laughs). Then in 2004 our seats got reduced – the allies got reduced. The issue therefore is that the number of allies depends on the winnability of the BJP”.
And the winnability of the BJP will depend a lot on the alliances it is able to enter before the elections. Given, Modi’s hardline image, it will be difficult for the BJP to get prepoll alliance partners (not that it will be easy to get post poll alliance partners), given that no party wants to drive away the minority vote. As Abheek Barman writes in The Economic Times “A BJP led by Modi will find it much tougher, without minority votes. Modi’s supporters say, so what? Modi will help bring all Hindu votes together. This united Hindu vote is a tired, old RSS assumption.” There is nothing like a Hindu vote. The Hindus largely vote along caste lines.
On its own the BJP has managed a best of 182 seats in the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections. Since then the number has fallen. After the 2004, Lok Sabha elections the party had 137 members in the Lok Sabha. This fell to 116 members after 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
If the BJP wants to come to power, it will have to best its tally of 182 seats, given that with Modi at the helm it will be more difficult for the party to find post poll alliance partners. As Sebastian PT writes on the Business Today website “There is little doubt that Modi is the most popular leader in the BJP today but he is still a polarising figure in Indian politics-very similar to L.K. Advani in the 1990s. Advani had to step aside for AB Vajpayee, who was seen as having the ability to take everyone along, especially the allies.” And for all we know Narendra Modi might have to step aside for someone else who is more agreeable to the potential allies. So one cannot write off the likes of Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh or for that matter even Arun Jaitley.
So Delhi is still faraway for Narendra Modi. Or as the sufi saint Nizamuddin Aulia once said “Hunoo Dehli Door Ast (Delhi is still far away).
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on June 10, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
If media reports are to be believed, Lal Krishna Advani, is looking for a safe seat to contest from, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat in Guajarat from which Advani is currently a member of parliament (MP) is no longer deemed to be safe as it falls in the land of Narendra Modi.
As Coomi Kapoor writes in The Indian Express “Because of the bad vibes between Narendra Modi and Advani on the leadership issue, the latter does not want to put himself at Modi’s mercy by standing again from the Gandhinagar seat.”
Advani it seems has been advised to contest from Lucknow. This would mean latching onto the legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The other reason here could be the fact that Samajwadi Party chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav has had nice things to say about Advani in the recent past.
AsIftikhar Gilani writes in the Daily News and Analysis “Advani’s advisors initially wanted him to contest the 2014 election from Lucknow, a seat once represented by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. However, with the fast-changing loyalties within the BJP, Modi has laid a claim on both Gandhinagar and Lucknow constituencies to in an attempt to showcase his national acceptance.”
Hence with Modi eyeing to contest from Lucknow as well as Gandhinagar, Advani now plans to contest from a safe seat in Madhya Pradesh. “Advani has reportedly set his sights on the Bhopal constituency since Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is a friend who can be relied upon. An advance team has already gone to Bhopal to make an assessment of the constituency,” writes Kapoor in The Indian Express. (Another DNA report suggests that Modi wants to contest from Lucknow whereas his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah wants to contest from Gandhinagar).
What is ironical here that it was Modi who first suggested to Advani to contest from Gandhinagar more than two decades back. Advani was looking for a safe Lok Sabha seat to contest from in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections. As Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay writes in Narendra Modi – The Man. The Times “He (i.e. Advani)…relied on Modi to play a crucial role in “giving” him a new political home, Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Advani’s decision to move to Gujarat was because the Congress in 1991 sprang a surprise by nominating the popular film actor, the late Rajesh Khanna, to contest against Advani from New Delhi which had traditionally been a tricky seat owing to comparatively less number of voters (just 4.5 lakh) and a low turnout (in 1991 it was 47.86%). In any case, Advani contested from both New Delhi and Gandhinagar and this proved to be providential as the BJP strongman barely scraped through in the capital by less than 1600 votes.”
Advani has represented Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha since then, except in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections which he did not contest because he was facing charges of money laundering in the Hawala scam.
A report in The Times of India in 2011 suggested something similar. “In 1991, it was Modi who suggested to Advani that he should contest for Lok Sabha from Gandhinagar…Gandhinagar was until then represented by Modi’s peerturned-foe Shankersinh Vaghela . It was a masterstroke as BJP cadres got charged up in the state and Vaghela was relegated to the fringes . The relationship grew with Advani frequently visiting Gujarat after becoming an MP from the state,” the report pointed out.
The relationship between Advani and Modi did not start in 1991, but a few years before that. Modi was the second pracharak from the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) to be deputed to its political affiliate the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The first being K N Govindacharya. Those were the days when Modi went around Ahmedabad in an ash coloured Bajaj Chetak scooter.
Modi’s deputation to the BJP took place sometime in 1987-88. This was around the time when Lal Krishna Advani was rebuilding the BJP after the debacle of the 1984 Lok Sabha elections in which the party had won only two seats. Among other things Advani decided to revive the post of organising secretary in the state units of BJP. In the erstwhile Jana Sangh (BJP’s earlier avatar before it merged with other parties to form the Janata Party in 1977) the post was held by RSS pracharaks. Modi was made the organising secretary of the Gujarat unit of the party. “From the beginning it was evident that Modi was Advani’s personal choice and he was keen to strengthen the unit in Gujarat because the state was identified as a potential citadel in the future,” writes Mukhopadhyay.
Modi would soon rise to national prominence when he would play a part in organising Advani’s famed rath yatra which yielded huge political dividends for the BJP. As Mukhopadhyay points out “Modi came into the national spotlight for the first time when he helped organise Advani’s Rath Yatra in September-October 1990…Modi coordinated the arrangements during the Gujarat leg and travelled up to Mumbai and it was a huge success in Gujarat – both in terms of seamless arrangements and public support.”
In the years to come the relationship between Modi and Advani went from strength to strength, with Modi emerging as the super Chief Minister in the BJP government in Gujarat in the mid 1990s. As The Times of India report quoted above points out “It was with Advani’s blessings that Modi emerged as a ‘super CM’ even as he ran the government from the back seat.”
Advani’s fondness for Modi became very well known in the BJP circles. “Throughout the 1990s and even after Modi became chief minister, Advani’s special fondness for Modi has been well known by both party insiders and observers. In 2002, when Modi was under attack for the role of the state administration in Gujarat riots, it was due to Advani’s protection that the BJP leadership gave him a fresh lease of life. Earlier Advani had played a crucial role in the making of Modi as chief minister replacing Keshubhai Patel in October 2001,” writes Mukhopadhyay.
The relationship started to sour after Advani on a visit to Pakistan in June 2005 had good things to say about Mohammed Ali Jinnah. As Advani wrote in the Visitors’ Book at the Jinnah Mausoleum: “There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history…But there are very few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual.”
Advani obviously was trying to get rid of his tag of being the posterboy of Hindutva. But saying nice things about Jinnah went against the entire idea of Akhand Bharat which the RSS believes in. Around this time, Modi started to distance himself from his mentor. Advani had to pay for this statement and had to quit as the BJP party president in late 2005.
And this created space for Modi for a bigger role. As Mukhopadhyay writes “The original poster boy of Hindutva ceased to be and yielded space to the much younger Modi as the mascot of the aggressive Hindu face. At times it appeared that the guru-shishya relationship of yore had been replaced by intense rivalry,” writes Mukhopadhyay.
This rivalry has now come to the fore with Advani looking for a safe seat outside Gujarat to contest from. Modi is trying to inherit the political legacy of both Vajpayee and Advani by wanting to contest the next Lok Sabha elections from both Lucknow as well as Gandhinagar.
The trouble is Advani hasn’t given up as yet his aspirations of becoming the Prime Minister of India. Modi has his supporters within the BJP. As BJP President Rajnath Singh recently told the Open magazine “Narendra Modi is the most popular BJP leader in the country.” But then so does Advani. In an interview to The Economic Times, Yashwant Sinha, a senior BJP leader said “Advaniji is the senior-most, most respected leader and if he is available to lead the party and government, then that should end all discussion. Everyone should fall in line and work together for the party under his leadership. But the call will have to be taken first by Advaniji himself, secondly by the party and finally by NDA (National Democratic Alliance) .” Cine actor Shatrughan Sinha also wants BJP to fight elections under the leadership of Advani.
A factor working in favour of Advani is that he is acceptable to BJP allies like Janata Dal (United). Narendra Modi clearly is not. As the Open Magazine points out “JD-U leader Devesh Chandra Thakur was even more open on the question of Advani’s candidacy for the PM’s post. “The NDA contested under the leadership of LK Advani [in 2009]. I do not think there should be a problem for any NDA faction to go to polls under his leadership. Advani will definitely be more acceptable to most factions of the NDA,” he said after the party’s national executive meeting. “What further indication can Nitish Kumar give?” asks another JD-U leader considered close to the Bihar CM.”
L K Advani, the original posterboy of Hindutva is deemed secular enough to head the NDA. Narendra Modi is not. As Kingshuk Nag writes in The NaMo Story: A Political Life “The ghosts of Gujarat 2002 are likely to haunt Narendra Modi till his last days.”
Advani had to play second fiddle to Vajpayee in the 1990s after building the BJP from scratch. This happened because with Vajpayee at the helm BJP would have been able to attract more allies, which it eventually did. Nearly two decades later Advani might find himself in a similar situation where he(like Vajpayee was) is more acceptable to the potential allies than Narendra Modi is. It is safe to say that no one has served the BJP more than Advani. His contribution to building BJP as a national party is even greater than that of Vajpayee.
Let me conclude this piece with an old bhojpuri saying: “Chela Cheeni Ban Gella, Guru Gud Rah Gella (which loosely translated means the student has become sugar, whereas the teacher continues to be jaggery).” Whether this comes to be true in the context of Advani and Modi, we will find out over the course of the next one year.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on April 27,2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
Tavleen Singh in her very interesting book Durbar recounts one of her earliest reporting experiences in Delhi. The year was 1977 and the state of internal emergency declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was still in effect. The opposition leaders had come together to address a rally at the Ram Lila maidan in Delhi.
The leaders started to arrive in their white Ambassador cars by around six pm in the evening. The ground was full. And the boring speeches started one after the other. As Singh writes in Durbar “I thought people might start to leave unless somebody said something more inspirational. It was past 9 p.m. and the night had got colder although the rain had stopped.”
But nobody had left. They were all waiting for a certain man called Atal Bihari Vajpayee to speak. By the time Vajpayee rose to speak it was well past 9.30 pm. The crowds clapped chanting ‘Indira Gandhi murdabad, Atal Bihari zindabad‘. As Singh puts it “He acknowledged the slogans with hands joined in a namaste and a faint smile. Then, raising both arms to silence the crowd and closing his eyes in the manner of a practiced actor, he said, ‘Baad muddat ke mile hain deewane.’(It has been an age since we whom they call mad have had the courage to meet) He paused. The crowd went wild. When the applause died he closed his eyes again and allowed himself another long pause before saying, ‘Kehne sunne ko bahut hain afsane.’ (There are tales to tell and tales to hear). The cheering was more prolonged, the last line of a verse that he told me later he had composed on the spur of the moment. ‘Khuli hawa mein zara saans to le lein, kab tak rahegi aazadi kaun jaane.’ (But first let us breathe deeply of the free air for we know not how long our freedom will last). The crowd was now hysterical.”
Such was the connect Vajpayee had with the masses. Having heard him give speeches to a large audience of over a lakh, I can safely say his pauses which became a butt of jokes later when people saw him make speeches on television, would mesmerise the entire audience when he spoke to them live.
In the Lok Sabha election that followed the leading opposition parties came together to form the Janata party. Vajpayee’s party Jan Sangh was also a part of it. The Janata experience was soon over and by the 1984 Lok Sabha elections Jan Sangh in its new avatar as the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was down to two seats.
From there on Lal Krishna Advani built the party on the ideology of hardcore Hindutva, taking the number of seats that the party had in the Lok Sabha to 88 in 1989 and 120 in the 1991. This fast rise of the party was built on slogans and ideas like “saugandh Ram ki khaate hain mandir wohin (i.e. Ayodhya) banayenge” and “ye to kewal jhanki hai Kashi Mathura baaki hai”. Vajpayee took a backseat for a while. It is one thing to instantly connect with the masses when you address them and entirely another thing trying to build a political party from scratch. And this is where Advani flourished.
In the 1980s and the early 1990s the BJP espoused causes like making temples in Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura. It talked about banning cow slaughter, having a uniform civil code, and doing away with the Article 370, that gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. All this was music to the ears of voters across Northern and Western India and the party catapulted from being a political front of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to having some identity of its own.
In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections the BJP won 187 seats in the Lok Sabha and was invited to form the government. At that point of time it was Vajpayee and not Advani who had played larger role in reinvigorating the party, who became the Prime Minister of the country.
While Vajpayee may have been a taller leader there was practical considerations at play as well. The BJP on its own did not have the strength to form the government. It needed other parties to support it either by joining the government or supporting it from the outside. And the chances of that happening were better with a moderate Vajpayee at the helm of things than a hardcore Advani who by then was looked upon as a man who had played an important part in bringing down the Babri Masjid. At least, that was the perception among a host of political parties.
So Advani had to make way for Vajpayee as the Prime Minister. BJP’s first tryst with power lasted less than three weeks and even with Vajpayee leading, it could not attract the support required to prove its majority in the Lok Sabha. But things changed in the years to come and Vajpayee was the Prime Minister from March 1998 to May 2004.
His moderate image and larger than life persona helped him rule the country with a rag-tag coalition of more than 20 political parties.
Narendra Modi is now trying to convert his image from that of a hardcore Advani of the 1990s to that of a more moderate Vajpayee who ruled the country. At least, that is the conclusion that one can draw from the speech he made at the Shriram College of Commerce in Delhi, yesterday.
In the speech he said several things that tried to project an image of a moderate ‘Modi’. Lets sample a few lines.
– The youth of the nation has its finger on the mouse of computers and is changing the world. India’s journey has gone from snake charmers to mouse charmers
– The ambassador of a nation asked me what major challenges India faces and I said the biggest one is that how we use opportunity. When asked what the opportunity was, I said the youth. Europe buddha ho chuka hai, China budha ho chuka hai.
– This nation is being ruined by vote bank politics. This nation requires development politics. If we switch to politics of development, we will soon be in a position to bring about lasting change and progress
– We need P2G2. Pro-People Good governance
– Why shouldn’t we make the ‘Made in India’ tag a statement of quality for our manufactured products?
If the above statements are viewed in isolation Modi does not come across as a hardliner that he is typically made out to be. He comes across as a man who has some vision for India.
Politically this makes sense for both BJP as well Modi. If Modi is able to soften his hardcore image in the days to come he might start to appeal to people beyond his home state of Gujarat and votaries of hardcore Hindutva. He might also start to appeal to political parties who currently won’t touch him with a bargepole given his hardcore pro Hindutva image.
This is very important in this era of coalition politics where no single political party can form a government on its own and sticking to any ideology becomes a burden beyond a point. If this strategy of projecting a softer Modi does work, it would mean that the BJP would be going back to its soft Hindutva strategy that it followed during the reign of Vajpayee. As we all know this strategy worked wonders for the BJP till it was abandoned in favour of the India Shining strategy.
A softer Modi will continue to appeal to the traditional supporters of the BJP and at the same time appeal to those who currently have doubts about him. That seems to be the idea behind the new Modi that India saw for the first time in Delhi, yesterday.
Whether that happens remains to be seen. As marketing guru Seth Godin writes in All Marketers are Liars “Great stories happen fast. They engage the consumer the moment the story clicks into place. First impressions are more powerful than we give them credit for.”
Given this getting rid of first impressions in the minds of the voter is very difficult unless you are the Congress party, and do not stand for anything. So it remains to be seen whether people of India will buy the new story that Modi is trying to project at the national level. But then we all have to start somewhere.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on February 7, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at [email protected])
Sunday evenings are normally difficult days for newspaper editors. There is not much happening politically. Businesses are shut and so is the government.
So unless there is a rail mishap somewhere or India happens to win bronze medal at the Olympics, bringing out the Monday edition is a major challenge in comparison to most other days.
Unless, someone like LK Advani happens to write a blog which smells of the foot in the mouth disease, and can be read between the lines.
Newspapers have gone to town highlighting that Advani has conceded to the possibility of a non BJP-non Congress government emerging after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. “A non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister heading a government supported by one of these two principal parties is however feasible,” wrote Advani. This has become the headline point.
But the truth is a little more complicated than that. The word to mark in Advani’s statement is “however”. The context in which he uses the word however has been missed out by the newspapers while reporting on the blog.
Advani starts the blog with an informal chat he had had with two Senior Cabinet Ministers in the current United Progressive Alliance at a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister(PM) Manmohan Singh, for the outgoing President Pratibha Patil.
As he writes “In an informal chat with two senior Cabinet Ministers belonging to the Congress party before the formal dinner, I could clearly perceive an intense sense of concern weighing on the minds of both these Ministers. Their apprehensions were as follows: a) In the Sixteenth Elections to the Lok Sabha, neither the Congress nor the BJP may be able to forge an alliance which has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. b) In 2013 or 2014, therefore, whenever the Lok Sabha elections take place, the Government likely to take shape can be that of the Third Front. This, according to the Congress Ministers would be extremely harmful not only for the stability of Indian politics but also for national interests.”
The blog then goes on to address the concerns of these Congress ministers. “My response to the anxiety voiced by these Congressmen was: I can understand your concern, but I do not share it. My own view is: i) The shape which national polity has acquired in the past two and a half decades makes it practically impossible for any government to be formed in New Delhi which does not have the support either of the Congress or of the BJP. A third Front Government, therefore, can be ruled out. ii) A non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister heading a government supported by one of these two principal parties is however feasible. This has happened in the past also. But, as the Prime Ministership of Ch. Charan Singh, Chandrashekharji, Deve Gowdaji and Inder Kumar ji Gujral (all supported by Congress) as also of Vishwanath Pratap Singhji (supported by BJP) have shown, such governments have never lasted long.”
Essentially Advani is saying three things in a very direct way. The first and foremost is that the Congress is worried after having been in power for nearly eight years at a stretch. The second thing is that he does not expect the third front to come to power, as a certain section of experts has been widely speculating. The third and the most important point is that no government in the country can be formed without the support of either the Congress or the BJP. Hence even if the Congress or the BJP do not form the government they will run the government. Given this, such a government is not expected to last long.
While Advani has said that a non-BJP non-Congress PM can emerge in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, he has also said that such a PM cannot last long as has been the case in the past. This is a very important point that has been missed out on by the media while reporting on the blog and thus creating an incomplete picture.
As expected the Congress leaders are shouting from the rooftops that Advani has already accepted defeat. “Advani has conceded defeat by saying that there can’t be a BJP prime minister in 2014. It means he has conceded defeat… After this blog, how will a BJP candidate win?” said ex journalist and now BCCI office bearer and Congress leader, Rajiv Shukla.
That feeling does not come out anywhere through a proper reading of the blog. In fact Advani clearly says that “it may be the first time when the Congress Party’s score sinks to just two digits, that is, less than one hundred!” Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but the statement does make it clear that Advani hasn’t accepted defeat in any sort of way.
Shukla’s statement should also be seen in light of the fact that Advani attacked the Gandhi family in his blog. As he wrote “The party’s (the Congress party) miserable performance in Rae Bareilly, Amethi etc. which have long been regarded as pocket-boroughs of the first family, in the U.P. Assembly polls held recently and its dismal record in the Corporation elections of Uttar Pradesh where as against the BJP’s score of ten out of twelve Corporations, the Congress drew a big blank are clear indices of the party’s collapsing fortunes.”
The main job of any spokesperson of the Congress party is to keep the flag flying for the Gandhi family and that’s what Shukla was basically doing.
Another cocktail party theory going around is that Advani has basically used the blog to make a veiled attack at his own party, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), and the senior leaders who are busy projecting Narendra Modi as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2012 elections. The logic being that Narendra Modi cannot lead the BJP to a win in the Lok Sabha elections and so he (i.e. Advani) still remains the right candidate, his age notwithstanding.
Now that is something only Advani himself can throw light on and we can only make speculations on the same.
To conclude, let me throw in some lines from a popular reggae song called “Games People Play” first released in 1994 and sung by this group called Inner Circle. As the lines go:
All the games people play now,
Every night and every day now,
Never meaning what they say, yeah,
Never say what they mean.
Politicians are a tad like that.
(The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on August 6,2012. http://www.firstpost.com/politics/media-and-the-art-of-misreading-lk-advanis-blogpost-406759.html)
(Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at [email protected])