Controversies Take Sheen Off BJP Campaign
By Pratul Sharma and Subhash Mishra - NEW DELHI
Published: 30th Mar 2014 10:14:12 AM
The induction of Bihar turncoat Sabir Ali kicked up a furore in the BJP, exposing the faultlines in the top leadership. Such was the harshness of reaction that an unnerved Ali—a former JD(U) leader and Rajya Sabha member—offered to keep his induction into BJP in abeyance. He said till an enquiry cleared his name of the allegation that he sheltered Indian Mujahideen’s Yasin Bhatkal in his house, he would remain outside. But that was not enough.
A series of similar “dubious entries” had already brought a section of the BJP’s old-guard to boiling point, with the Ali induction the internal strife showed up again and got mixed up with the legitimate struggle for political space.
Sources said Shahnawaz Husain, BJP’s minority face in Bihar for many years, so much so that he was made a young member of the Vajpayee Cabinet, was none too happy with his fiefdom being bartered to opportunistic camp-switchers. Nor was Naqvi.
Known for his organisational skills, Naqvi was handpicked by Narendra Modi and pushed to prominence when the latter came to be projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. He used his current clout within the Sangh to strike back and it had immediate rippling effect. What Sushma Swaraj’s tweet opposing B Sriramulu’s re-entry into the BJP’s Karnataka unit could not achieve, Naqvi’s sharp tweet on Ali managed, a senior BJP leader pointed out.
As the BJP top honchos scurried for cover, its Bihar state unit did a double take and the RSS read the riot act. The Sangh got its spokesperson Ram Madhav to issue a statement backing Naqvi’s position, after which BJP had little option but to repeat the Pramod Muthalik episode. Sabir Ali was shown the out gate within hours of entry into the house.
So by Saturday afternoon, BJP’s newly appointed media in-charge for the 2014 election Ravi Shankar Prasad read out a terse two-line message from his party president Rajnath Singh stating: Ali’s “membership has been annulled”. “BJP chief has also asked the party leaders to express their opinions within the party forums and not outside,” Prasad added.
Ironically, Prasad announced Ali’s exit note from the same platform from where he with hundreds of his supporters joined the BJP, just a day ago. Ali’s welcome party comprised the party’s Bihar in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan, general secretary J P Nadda and BJP chief’s political advisor and spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi. But on Saturday none of them could be found.
Coming close on the heels of a similar situation where BJP had to withdraw membership given to controversial Karnataka Ram Sene leader Pramod Muthalik last week, this was a double whammy as the party looked too eager by half to “broaden its base”, take on any turncoat before the voters turned up to vote.
Muthalik’s quick exit was the result of similar criticism from within the party. Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, sources said, called up Rajnath Singh to say that “this cannot be allowed’’ and Sushma Swaraj too joined in the protests that got magnified in the media.
It did not help matters that the social media and YouTube which wait to lap up controversy that comes its way went viral with Sabir Ali’s fulminations against Modi for so long ago. The party was similarly
red-faced in UP where it has given ticket to former Congressman Jagadambika Pal who till two weeks ago was making political hay by attacking the BJP and Modi.
If controversial faces, Muthalik and Sabir Ali, took off some sheen from BJP’s high octane campaign, it was jolted when senior leader Jaswant Singh rebelled over denial of ticket to contest his last elections from Barmer. Again it was a Congress turncoat Sona Ram Chaudhary who joined BJP and replaced the veteran, in a coup mounted by Singh’s bête noir and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Vasu, sources say, has Modi’s full backing so no one to intervene on Jaswant’s behalf.
The BJP is still hoping Jaswant Singh would accept a post-poll carrot—a plum ambassadorial position if the party comes to power—and withdraw from the Barmer race he has now joined as Independent candidate. Another old-hand in Bihar, Lal Muni Choubey withdrew from Buxar after Modi called.
Rajnath Singh, meanwhile, has made a customary statement asking Jaswant to withdraw nomination and even expressed regrets that he could be given a ticket. “I hope I do not have to take a severe action”, like expulsion, against him.
However, complaints about faulty distribution of tickets have come in, especially from Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP hopes to put up a handsome show. Going back on its promise to give tickets to clean candidates, the BJP has allotted a ticket to Sakshi Maharaj from Unnao. The controversial Maharaj was a main accused in the killing of senior BJP leader Brahmdutt Diwedi, and even faces rape charges by a female disciple of his ashram. An anguished BJP MLC from Unnao Hridaya Nath Dixit who was seeking a ticket is now cosying up to Samajwadi Party.
Maharaj’s entry has angered the Brahmin community, a significant player in state politics, which has is threatening to defeat him. In Jaunpur, builder K P Singh has been given a ticket ignoring the local leaders and workers, while in Mohanlalganj, the ticket has gone to Kaushal Kishore who was once an Independent MLA and a strong critic of the BJP.
In Mirzapur, the BJP has given the seat to Apna Dal, and in protest former state president of the party Om Prakash Singh is sulking and his son has quit the BJP. His son had contested 2012 Assembly election.
In Ghaziabad and Baghpat, workers staged demonstrations against the party leadership for fielding V K Singh and Satyapal Singh neglecting the local leadership.
Former Samajwadi MPs Brijbhushan Sharan Singh has been fielded from Kaiserganj, S P Singh Bhagel from Firozabad and S C Gupta from Banda.
This has led to protests from the local units. Interestingly, BJP even fielded Rashtravadi Communist Party chief Kaushal Kishore from Mohanlalgunj after he took the ideological leap to the right last month. While Hema Malini and V K Singh may not come from other political parties, their nomination from Mathura and Ghaziabad led to protests by disgruntled workers who questioned why outsiders were being imposed over them.
The news of protests have been pouring from Haryana as well. State general secretary Pradeep Sangwan quit after his supporters held a demonstration in Delhi as the ticket was given to Congress leader Ramesh Kaushik from Sonepat. Similarly, Bidyut Baran Mahato, a former JMM leader, who too has cases against him, has been fielded from Jharkhand.
Though senior BJP leaders are claiming “these are usual election blues”, it needs to be seen whether the Modi wave can blow away the voices of dissent or mar the party much-expected ascendency to power in May.
Disclaimer: We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the NIE editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.