BJP: A divided house despite patch-up moves

By Anjali Ojha

Mumbai: It is now out in the open that not all within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are happy with their president Nitin Gadkari getting a second term, largely because of an internal struggle for power.

While the BJP central leadership, ahead of the two-day national executive meet in Mumbai, tried to patch up with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, the differences between the party president and other central leaders seem to be creating new camps within the party.

Foremost among those upset with Gadkari is BJP veteran L.K. Advani, said a party source, who did not wish to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. Advani thinks Gadkari takes decisions unilaterally, after receiving directions from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), said the source.

Then there is Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who is not only upset with Gadkari but also with Modi, said a source but did not explain why.

Even veteran Murli Manohar Joshi is against Gadkari, said the source.

Both Advani and Joshi were absent when the BJP at its national executive meet which ended here Friday amended its constitution, facilitating the second consecutive presidential term to Gadkari.

Even though the BJP is downplaying the absence of Advani and Joshi from the crucial national executive session, a party source admitted the differences were evidently due to an ego clash.

“The problem is Gadkari’s closeness to the RSS. He is taking directions from Nagpur (the RSS headquarters), which upsets the seniors,” another party insider, who also declined to be identified, told IANS.

“Also, some leaders felt that this amendment to party constitution might not be good in the long run. The restriction put on a party president from getting a second term was to prevent the concentration of power. BJP does not belong to a family,” he said.

An amendment passed Thursday evening enables a BJP president at national, state and district-level to get a second successive term. Gadkari’s term expires in December.

Some new power equations are also emerging within the party. Gadkari has attempted to patch up with Modi, who was upset with him for inducting his arch-rival Sanjay Joshi into the national executive.

Joshi quit his party post just ahead of the national executive meet since the word spread that Modi would not attend it if Joshi continued to be its member.

This is how Gadkari was forced to sacrifice his close associate as the BJP felt it needed Modi’s popularity for the next general election, due in 2014.

Yeddyurappa too is trying to cash in on the differences between Gadkari and Advani. He has been favouring Gadkari and speaking against party leader Ananth Kumar, who is close to Advani.

BJP’s senior leaders had asked Yeddyurappa to resign from the chief minister’s post following graft charges against him. Now he is looking to Gadkari for reinstatement as the chief minister in Karnataka.

However, despite the differences, there seems an agreement among the party leaders to focus on the mid-term elections which the party is expecting, say others.

“The focus for now is on upcoming elections and there is a sense of confidence in the party,” said another leader, a view endorsed by others.

“The challenges are clear and the organisational structure cannot be disturbed. That is clear to all,” she said.

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