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How Vajpayee and Advani chose to serve the cause of NDA and weakened their strong state units to stay in power

The serious anxiety of some of the BJP’s Delhi leaders over the shrinking of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has its roots in the six years when the Vajpayee-led NDA ruled the country. Vajpayee’s ardent desire to stay in power cost the BJP quite dearly in states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal.

BJP had emerged as a major force in these states with the exceptions of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal where its growth was still limited to urban pockets. In the state of Odisha, BJP was almost equal in strength to Naveen Patnaik’s BJD while Uttar Pradesh was its strongest bastion followed by Bihar. The NDA partners like BJD, JD (U), Mamata Banerjee, and Chandrababu Naidu had no option but to be with the BJP.

The anxiety to stay in power made Vajpayee go out of his way to placate and please the regional satraps. Apart from diluting the core ideology of the party, he marginalized the state BJP leaders, and various other Sangh Parivar organizations and forced them to cede ground to his ‘secular’ allies. The UP unit of BJP bore the most disastrous brunt of his ‘appeasement’ strategy when he assiduously wooed Mayavati. In the process, the BJP lost an important regional leader like Kalyan Singh who was thrown out of the party for his open defiance of Vajpayee.  

In Bihar, a leader like Susheel Kumar Modi was asked to play second fiddle to Nitish Kumar who had so endeared himself to Vajpayee that he went out of his way to promote and make him the Chief Minister of Bihar for a week in the year 2000. This was probably the only serious instance of the misuse of the Governor’s office during the Vajpayee regime. Nitish Kumar owes his survival and rise in Bihar politics to Vajpayee and the BJP.

Advani and some other rootless Delhi leaders continue to pursue the appeasement agenda without realizing Vajpayee’s follies. They have been serving the cause of NDA to the detriment of their own party in the hope that it will catapult them back to power. They are mistaken in believing that it’s a smart strategy. It is not. They must realize that appeasing regional satraps to expand the NDA at the cost of BJP is pure idiocy and political hara-kiri. It will take them nowhere.

Look at what happens. While the NDA expands, BJP shrinks. BJP has shrunk to nothing in important states like UP, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. However, the confident mood of the BJP’s Bihar unit gives an indication that they have not ceded their electoral turf in spite of the foolhardiness of their leaders like Advani and Sushma Swaraj and have seen through the shenanigans of Nitish Kumar to do another Naveen Patnaik well in time.   

The Karnataka debacle was also a result of similar thinking. This time, Advani chose Justice Santosh Hegde as his ally over BS Yeddyurappa. He sacrificed Yeddyurappa to become the darling of dubious media-driven anti-corruption crusaders and without brooking much delay, embarked on another Rath Yatra that fizzled out as soon as it started. Unfortunately, blinded by his desire to be sworn is as the PM of India, the senile patriarch cannot see the naked truth of his political bungling. He does not even realize that ‘The Prime Minister of India’  is nothing more than an epitaph for his memorial if he lacks the vision, wisdom, and will to give a new direction to the country. His protégé Modi seems to possess the three and that is what has made him so popular.

It is time for corrections in the BJP’s strategy. It should not pursue a course its opponents would like it to pursue. They would want it to remain entangled in the nebulous idea of the NDA. It serves their objectives well. 

Advani and the other Delhi leaders of the BJP must take their final call now. Do they want to save and serve the NDA or the BJP? The only agenda of NDA is to defeat the UPA and come into power. Is that the BJP agenda too? If it is not, and the BJP sincerely believes in nation-building through political power, it should strengthen itself and stop taking recourse to easy ways.   

Rajesh Kumar Singh