Past imperfect, future tense

Past imperfect, future tense

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a party that believes in the future, literally. The party’s “second-generation" leaders never lose an opportunity to create a controversy. This time it centres around Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, whom some BJP leaders have dubbed the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 parliamentary elections.

Predictably, this has led to a rash of statements. It all began on Friday when BJP leader Arun Shourie said that next time, too, Gujarat would have the chance to elect the prime minister. What he said was later echoed by party general secretary Arun Jaitley.

By that time, party leaders were trying hard to emphasize that L.K. Advani was their leader and the party’s prime ministerial candidate. In a different context, party chief Rajnath Singh went as far as to say that Advani would not retire from politics if the National Democratic Alliance failed to secure a majority in the ongoing elections.

One way to look at the BJP’s situation would be to say that the party cares deeply for the future. But that would be a partial truth at best: Does the party care about the present?

At a time when the fortunes of regional parties seem to be on an upswing, one would assume that countering the political influence of those parties and focusing on the NDA’s “winnability" this year would be a more pressing concern for the BJP.

What the “Modi for PM" episode shows is that the BJP is a party that does not seem to be at ease with itself. The faction-fighting between second-generation leaders in the party is a well-known phenomenon. Of late, however, these squabbles have tended to become public (the Jaitley-Sudhanshu Mittal row is a recent example).

Some may argue that viewing the aforementioned case in this light may be stretching things too far. However, the broad overlap in terms of the actors in the present episode and the one during the Mittal controversy, and the nature of the statements suggests that there may be a continuity here, however sketchy it may seem.

As argued in these columns before, there are outstanding leadership issues in the party that senior leaders such as Advani and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not resolve. These issues continue to haunt the party’s future.

BJP: a party that is fighting with itself? Tell us at