Is India's BJP facing its worst crisis?

LK ADvani Mr Advani is one of the architects of the BJP

India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finds itself in its worst crisis ever.

Party veteran LK Advani's sudden resignation from all party positions on Monday followed the weekend elevation of controversial leader Narendra Modi as the man to lead the party's campaign for 2014 elections.

Media reports say the 85-year-old Mr Advani harboured ambitions of being the prime ministerial candidate in the polls and had been upset in the way Mr Modi - regarded as an upstart by his opponents in the party - was instead being promoted.

At the heart of the crisis is a clash of personalities and a battle for political control between the BJP's old and new guard, familiar triggers that lead to splits in political parties.

Mr Advani, his defenders say, is one of the architects of the 33-year-old Hindu nationalist party who, along with the charismatic former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, helped it to become a major political force, taking it from two parliamentary seats in 1984 to government within 15 years.

They believe with Mr Advani at the helm, the party has a better chance of pulling along its allies in the 2014 polls as many see Mr Modi as a divisive figure.

Formidable challenges

Mr Advani's supporters believe he was treated unfairly when the party went ahead and named Mr Modi, 62, as the all powerful campaign chief for 2014, a prelude to naming him as the party's new prime ministerial candidate.

Mr Modi's defenders say that by picking the Gujarat chief minister as the man to lead the campaign, the party has bet on a man who promises decisive and strong leadership, espouses a brand of muscular nationalism, and appeals to the young and a wide swathe of India's booming and restless middle class. They point to Gujarat's robust economic performance as proof of Mr Modi's abilities.

Narendra Modi Mr Modi has been appointed the party's campaign manager

His supporters also believe that Mr Modi, described by his biographers as a reclusive, master strategist, is BJP's best bet at triumphing over the ruling Congress party, beset with allegations of corruption and inaction.

But his critics say Mr Modi will face formidable challenges in the days ahead.

Within the party, according to The Times of India, many see him as an "autocrat rather than a team player".

Outside, more importantly, he is seen as a divisive leader who is accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in 2002 which left more than 1,000 dead.

Some 15% (180 million) of India's 1.2 billion people are Muslims. Muslims comprise over 11% of the voters in more than six states, including populous and politically crucial Uttar Pradesh.

By one estimate, Muslim votes could turn out to be a deciding factor in over 200 of the 543 parliamentary seats. There have been media reports of possible consolidation of Muslim votes in the event of Mr Modi being pitched as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

There is also the question of whether middle-of the-road allies of the BJP will be comfortable with Mr Modi's aggressive brand of politics.

One ally - the Janata Dal-United, which runs the government in Bihar state in coalition with the BJP - has already made noises about walking away from a federal BJP-led alliance if Mr Modi is made the prime ministerial candidate. Others may follow.

Wonders Kingshuk Nag, writer of The Namo Story, a book on Mr Modi's political life: "Mr Modi is offering himself as the change young India is desperate for. The party is trying to make the 2014 polls as a referendum on Mr Modi. Will India accept him?"

Mr Advani's open "revolt" against Mr Modi, who was once his acolyte, has now come as a twist in the tale and could ruin the party for the BJP.

Will the old guard rally around Mr Advani and split the party? Or will they fall in line with Mr Modi? Or will the BJP manage to placate the patriarch and arrive at a face saving solution acceptable to Mr Modi and the young guard?

In many ways, Mr Advani and Mr Modi, leader and follower-turned-adversaries, mirror each other: both are hardline and polarising leaders of their own generations. Only now, one appears to be ranged against the other, and at stake is the future of the BJP.

Soutik Biswas Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    @Living Stone....And you think Congress will lead India towards greater prosperity. Its time for you to wake up and smell the coffee! Stop living in the stone age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Modi cannot give you jobs, better economy or more money. A prime minister alone can't work out magic like that. But any seemingly good looking short term progress will be far outweighed by the tarnished image the country will get due to oppression and even possible butchering of religious minorities and lack of religious freedom. This alone will take the country to the stone ages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I wouldn't go as far as 'Crisis'. But yes, winds of change are affecting BJP and i think its for good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    All Modi's visas to the United States are cancelled because of the policy that a person responsible or "directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom" is ineligible for visa.

    He carried out one of the worst religious genocides. So what's the use if he can give you jobs, but your life is taken away by members of this religious group? (@Hanif Shaikh)

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    It is indeed a temporary set back for BJP. They will have to deal with it. The opposition have got a handle and so have some of the NDA allies - like JDU. But BJP has a team in place that will come out stronger from it and that augurs well for the party. As far as Advani is concerned the less said the better. Totally unbecoming of a man in his stature. He will be the biggest looser in all this.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Advani is old now but his views matter - he's long been a rock of the BJP and if he's unhappy, something must be seriously wrong with the party.

    The BJP has long distinguished itself as being far more ethical and far less corrupt than Congress. It's only hope is to keep to the same path.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Modi is the answer to young India? He is 62, and by no means, "young". Modi's rise might play out as an advantage for Congress. But the option of having Rahul Gandhi as PM is equally worse. What it then comes down to is dynastic politics. Congress and BJP are equally worse. The same old, same old is getting old now. There hasn't been a time that I have been more pessimistic about India.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Advani has understandably been pursuing prime ministerial aspirations..but the tragedy lies in the typical psyche of Indian politicians like Advani who refuses to see the writing on the wall. It reminds me of Comrade Jyoti Basu who was understood to have gone into a fit of rage when the CPIM Politburo threw a spanner into his PM ambitions as well.
    Advani must accept things gracefully ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Good riddance. An 85 yr old guy should retire anyways. And why is Modi always called controversial? If you pick on one point in 10 years, I think Bush needs to be called a martyr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    In most countries- 'democratic parties' have difference of opinions, but Indians are not used to that as most political parties of India except BJP/CPI are family dominated business fronts. Under Modi -BJP definitely has a better chance then under the 85 year old Advani, As a Indian Muslim i want job,security & healthcare, which congress does not provide without being stereo typed. Maybe Modi can?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    An 85 year old geriatric is throwing a tantrum unworthy of even a toddler!
    Mr. Modi has a proven record at successfully developing and running Gujarat.- an enviable record the young unproven mollycoddled "leader" of the Congress- Rahul Gandhi will be unable to match.

    India's finally headed for an efficient. small, and effective Govt. Time to get on the Modi train or be left behind, Mr. Advani!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Advani is No Nelson Mandela that his departure will give a body blow to the image of his party BJP. In South Asia, politicians should learn how to gracefully step down from politics before they are shown the door.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    It's time for Indian politics to grow up and address real issues like ending extreme poverty and violence against women and girls, tackling corruption and improving infrastructure. There are more people in India that live on less then $1 a day than the entire continent of Africa.

    Indian politics needs to move beyond nationalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Probably time has come for BJP (& Advani + RSS) to accept Modi as the new leader, end this mess soon before too much damage done for 2014 election.

    Modi is more popular & also powerful, in both electoral politics & track record as an administrator. He also represent present day India better than Advani.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Advani should gracefully bow out and allow Modi to lead BJP to victory in the coming election.Modi is a really capable person and the country needs him. Advani's best chance to be remembered in history favorably is if he gracefully retires......or else he will be remembered as the wily old man who spoiled the pitch for BJP with his tantrums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Ideally I would like Advani to be the PM with Modi as Home minister & Nitish Kumar in other important ministry UNDER Advani- at least for the first term. I know that both India & BJP is not the same as it was during Vajpayee-Advani era. In fact even Modi does not reflect mostly opportunist current BJP 'leaders' who made BJP just another party.
    Probably AAP is a better place for Advani now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Mr. Advani is a spent force, whose belligerent methods inside the parliament has disgusted scores of Indians. There are very few takers for his anti-Muslim, anti-Christian policies today. In simple words, he does not enthuse the voters today as he did during the RathYatra -Ram Mandir days. India is sick of the Manmohan -Sonia duo. All are restless to see the Congress out of Delhi. Modi is the man


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