What kind of a general is he who concedes defeat even before the battle, asks Rajiv Shukla

Without ruling out a government headed by a prime minister belonging to neither the Congress nor the BJP in the next Lok Sabha elections, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani has said the Congress’ tally could be the lowest since 1952.

In his latest blog, ‘Speculations on Congress’s fate in 2014,’ he has argued that there are no chances of a third front. At the same time, he has conceded that neither the BJP nor the Congress may be in a position to form a government. “A non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister heading a government supported by one of these two principal parties is, however, feasible. This has happened in the past also...”

Mr. Advani’s comments are not likely to go down well within his party either. For several months now, party leaders have been speculating on who could be projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. Since the arrival of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at the BJP’s centre stage after the Mumbai national executive meeting and talk of the possibility of his joining the prime ministerial race, there has been a sense of unease among some constituents of the National Democratic Alliance.

Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar has been vocal. He has gone public with his views that the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate should have “secular credentials.” He has also taken up the issue with BJP president Nitin Gadkari.

In his blog, Mr. Advani has said his views on the prospects of the Congress are based on an interaction with “two senior Cabinet Ministers.” The Ministers, he has said, are concerned at the stability of a government if it is not headed by either the Congress or the BJP.

“Unfortunately, the two governments since 2004, UPA I and UPA II, have both been so badly mismanaged that the current state of anxiety in the ruling establishment is quite understandable…It would not at all be surprising if the next Lok Sabha elections yield a result, which for the Congress may prove the worst in its history since 1952.”

He has said the Congress’s “miserable performance” in Rae Bareli and Amethi in the Assembly elections and its dismal record in the subsequent local bodies polls in Uttar Pradesh reflected its collapsing fortunes.

“So far as the BJP is concerned, the bungling in Karnataka notwithstanding, all recent public opinion surveys clearly reveal that the principal beneficiary of the Congress’s fast-eroding reputation continues to be the BJP!”

In an aside, Mr. Advani has said if the Congress has successfully avoided a Lok Sabha poll till now, it is only because of its “alliance partner — the CBI.”

Reacting to Mr. Advani’s comments, the Congress said he conceded defeat of his party even before the election. “I can say… that Mr. Advani himself has conceded defeat by saying there is a possibility that there can’t be a BJP Prime Minister in 2014. After this blog, how will a BJP candidate win?” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla asked.

Terming the BJP leader a “reluctant general” going to war, Mr. Shukla said: “If anybody is reluctant, how can anyone win the war. What kind of a general is he who concedes defeat even before the battle?”

Another Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi said Mr. Advani’s remarks reflected an internal rift in the BJP and recalled the predictions made by him before the 2004 and 2009 elections. Mr. Chaturvedi said: “Whatever [Mr.] Advani is saying is on the basis of internal rift and feud that is going on in his party. In 2004 too, he predicted, and that time, his people were out on a feel good factor and the India Shining campaign. What had happened to that prophecy?”

Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh echoed these sentiments. “Even before the elections, the BJP has conceded defeat.”

More In: National | News