Debating India

BJP

Rajnath is willing

Tuesday 26 December 2006

With Rajnath Singh anointed party president for three more years, Hindutva and minority-bashing unsurprisingly took centre stage at the Lucknow session of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Council session. Blessed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP chief volleyed and thundered on previously taboo subjects - Ram temple at Ayodhya, Uniform Civil Code, and repeal of Article 370, which provides special constitutional status for Jammu and Kashmir. Also on the agenda was putting an end to "minority appeasement politics." Mr. Singh set 2016 as the deadline for the purge, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the demand for a separate electorate raised in the Congress session of 1916. But all this was a teaser-trailer to what was to come. The BJP chief likened the party delegates to "baratis" (the bridegroom’s party) waiting to carry the "satta ki sundari" (the goddess of power) from Lucknow to the heart of the national capital. He was the bridegroom, of course. Some months ago, the natural question in political circles would have been `Rajnath who?’ but believe it or not, this Mr. Singh has thrown his hat into the ring for the country’s most coveted political job. It is a different matter that there is someone at the top in the BJP with a far more credible claim - Lal Krishna Advani. The Leader of the Opposition has decidedly not ruled himself out.

The supreme irony is that Atal Bihari Vajpayee continues to top the charts in a party bristling with prime ministerial candidates. The veteran has consciously kept a low profile; in fact, he is on record that he will not contest another election. Nonetheless, Mr. Vajpayee’s name cropped up repeatedly at the Lucknow meet, with Murli Manohar Joshi being emphatic that the former Prime Minister would lead the BJP in the 2009 general election. So what explains Mr. Singh’s confidence? In 2009, Mr. Vajpayee will be 85 and Mr. Advani 82. The comparatively youthful BJP chief reckons he has another advantage - the unreserved support of the RSS. It was by design that the three contentious issues of Ayodhya, Uniform Civil Code, and Article 370 staged a return in Lucknow. Yet even Mr. Rajnath Singh must know the self-limiting nature of Hindutva. It was a BJP-led government that placed the three issues on the back-burner since the coalition partners would have it no other way. Today with the National Democratic Alliance in disarray and power hopelessly out of reach, the BJP chief can sing the "mandir wahin banayenge" (we will build the temple in the same place) song. The political bookmakers will be giving long odds on his having the voice to render the same song in early 2009.

See online : The Hindu

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