New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari is likely to be re-elected to the post unopposed on 23 January, but senior leader L.K. Advani’s attempt to push Sushma Swaraj’s candidacy for the post shows simmering differences within India’s principal opposition party, analysts say.
The internal opposition to Gadkari’s continuance as president spells trouble for the party in a year it faces a raft of state elections, including in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Delhi in the run-up to the general election due in 2014, said Mumbai-based political analyst Jai Mrug.
The staunch support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP, helped Gadkari stave off Advani’s attempt to push Swaraj as an alternative candidate for the party president’s post.
“Even as Gadkari is set to become the party president again, infighting has not been put to rest. It will again come up after the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections in November. L.K. Advani did try to stop Gadkari by putting Sushma Swaraj’s name, but RSS did not back down,” said Mrug, who closely follows developments in the BJP.
“One thing is very sure that Advani does not like Gadkari. He reposes his faith more in his protegee Swaraj and this could be primarily for two reasons as he thinks that Sushma is less harmful and he (Advani) could have more say in party and NDA (National Democratic Alliance) affairs with her as party president.”
Gadkari’s position has weakened since allegations of corruption against him surfaced last year, prompting some senior leaders to demand that he step down. The allegations against the party chief will hurt the party’s prospects in the 2014 national elections, according to party members who are opposed to him getting a second term. According to a report by the Press Trust of India, Gadkari is supposed to appear before income tax officials on 21 January.
Still, the BJP on Sunday issued a notification for the election of party president, putting to rest speculation that any other leader may take over the reins of the party. The president of the party has been elected unopposed since 1980, when the party was formed from the erstwhile Jana Sangh.
To quell a rising tide of internal opposition to Gadkari, the BJP leadership had decided to put the election of party president on the backburner until after the results of the elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat were announced in December. The BJP retained Gujarat with a victory credited to chief minister Narendra Modi, who is seen as a potential prime minister candidate in the 2014 election, but was voted out in Himachal Pradesh.
The issue of prime ministerial candidate will again create fresh trouble after the November assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Mrug said.
“The Gadkari camp will push for Shivraj Chauhan (chief minister of Madhya Pradesh) if he wins the assembly elections for the third consecutive time. Chauhan is leader of the other backward class and has more acceptability among NDA partners,” he said.