The Bharatiya Janata Party has long since lost its brand image of being a party “with a difference.” Even the joke about the BJP being a party “with differences” has begun to fray at the edges. Indeed, in the eight years since it made the transition to Principal Opposition Party, the BJP has rarely been in the news for anything but its in-house squabbles. Today, as Lal Krishna Advani takes on Nitin Gadkari, who has himself just about escaped being mauled in a battle with Narendra Modi, there is no saying who else will jump into the fight. The latest to don the boxing gloves is none other than the BJP's mouthpiece, Kamal Sandesh, which delivered some stinging homilies to the Gujarat Chief Minister. Not long ago, Mr. Advani, Mr. Modi and Arun Jaitley formed the troika that was seen to be ranged against the party's second rung. Even as the feuding raged, entered Mr. Gadkari, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-appointee, apparently on a mission to spread sunshine and cheer in the party. But obviously the party chief did not take the high seat in the BJP merely to win a geniality contest. As Mr. Gadkari set about clipping some important wings in the party — including notably that of the Gujarat Chief Minister — his own ambitions came to the fore. And yet there was only one way the Modi-Gadkari war could end — with Mr. Modi emerging triumphant.
For Mr. Gadkari, it was a hard choice. Either he allowed Mr. Modi to rub his nose in the ground or he settled for a deal whereby he would get a second term as chief in return for unreservedly acknowledging Mr. Modi as the future leader. The unstated subtext was of course that the Gujarat Chief Minister would be the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election. But surely in a party brimming over with PM-hopefuls, the twosome should have known better than to seal the deal by themselves. Mr. Gadkari got his second term only to face an unexpected party-pooper in the form of Mr. Advani. The curious thing here is the see-sawing Advani-Modi relationship. Once Mr. Modi's most ardent supporter, Mr. Advani today feels badly treated by the younger man. His outburst against Mr. Gadkari (recorded in his blog) is at least in part directed at Mr. Modi, and as much is evident from the party organ's indirect barbs at Mr. Modi. If there is a beneficiary here, it is the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. Scam-tainted as it is, the UPA even at its lowest point has more allies by its side than the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and for the only reason that the BJP continues to be viewed as a party with a sectarian agenda. As a deeply polarising figure, Mr. Modi cannot but further disadvantage the NDA.
Keywords: BJP squabbles