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
    0

    Comment number 58.

    "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?"
    when did 62 YEARS BECOME "YOUNG"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 57.

    @ 51 LLH
    Besides, it is not just sharing faith if one tells another that they will go to hell if they dont carry the same belief system as someone else. You need to wake up from your slumber and realize that no one is a saint here, Christians, Muslims or Hindus. No need for one community to play 'victims', all religions victimize each other. Every one plays politics, just pick the least corrupt.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    Update - Advani withdraws his resignations from senior posts.

    He must have read my posts at #53 and #54! There's hope for the BJP yet. For India's sake, let's all hope so....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    @ 51.LLH
    It is very natural for minorities to feel persecuted when they are not handed the special treatment that they think they deserve. The sad state of affairs in India is that if one opposes a religion based reservation system (eg the Muslim quota) then one is seen as persecuting muslims!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 54.

    #50.Northern1
    "Muslim extremism is bad enough but that it should serve to provoke and legitimize extremism amongst some Hindu nationalists and others is a sad state of affairs."

    It is absurd to compare Hindutva with Islamism - Hindu cultural pride has not degenerated into terrorism and Hindutva is a legitimate, anti-colonial movement (against both the British & Mughal colonialisms).

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 53.

    Modi or no Modi, the BJP needs to get its act together and to take power soon.

    Congress continues to loot India - not only its resources but also its morale and self-esteem. The BJP is the only viable hope for India before it gets discarded on the dustheap of history as just another corrupt, post-colonial, poverty-stricken backwater.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 52.

    Unfortunately in India religion, caste and politicians children without any capability mix with politics. No wonder there aren't any proper policies to eradicate poverty; political parties are after vote bank policies which doesn’t do much to the country in the long run.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 51.

    48. & 46. Kaushika
    I don't know what news you are reading-- Christians are often persecuted in India. All they do is share their faith, and then they are attacked and accused of "forcing conversions." I've never seen where the BJP believe in equal treatment for all religions--saying it is not enough. 50. Northern 1 said it best: "Religions of all sorts should not mix with politics."

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 50.

    Muslim extremism is bad enough but that it should serve to provoke and legitimize extremism amongst some Hindu nationalists and others is a sad state of affairs. Religions of all sorts should not mix with politics.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 49.

    I wish BJP find a leader who is not tainted or corrupt and people from all religions can vote for BJP at the next general election.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 48.

    To suggest that Christians are targetted in India & are 'dying for their faith' would be laughable it the allegation was less horrendous. On the contrary the level of missionary activity & conversions in the rural areas seems to be growing ! Why single out the BJP - there were riots against the Sikhs when the Congress was in power ! With Modi post 2002 there have been no riots in Gujarat!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 47.

    As a Christian myself, I dread what will happen to my community if Modi becomes PM or if BJP wins. Christians are dying for their faith in the villages and towns of India. Pastors were hacked to death in 2008 in Orissa their wives raped, and people driven from their homes - when the BJP was in power in the state.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 46.

    To 'Khadi'.. are you suggesting that the people of Gujarat who have voted in Modi for 3 consecutive times and also in the recent by-elections are not true Indians ? On the contrary if you are a true Indian you WILL vote for Modi ! Also, secularism effcetively means equal treatment for all & NOT 'special reservation' for some as you may like to believe. Hence all secular Indians WILL vote for Modi

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 45.

    Voting for Modi is like voting for Hitler back in 1930's Germany. You NRIs and all might go on and on about him but true Indians will NEVER vote for some one who goes so against our secular principals.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    I think muslim in Gujarat are happy for the growth of Gujarat. They are more conserned for economic growth. I am sure Mr. Modi can be best prime minister of India. We made one mistake in past for not selecting Valaohbhai Patel for prime minister's post. We do not want to make same mistake for not selecting Mr. Modi. Second thing you may not know how corrupted congress play dirty game for Modi.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 43.

    Muslims and certain sections of 'secular' indians will never vote for any BJP candidate so their opinion on Modi's candidacy is of little significance. Hardline congress voters will never vote BJP either. The rest , ie voters who can be influenced, form a significant majority, and many of them are likely to vote BJP if Modi is the prime ministerial candidate, rather than any other leader from BJP.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 42.

    For the ignoramous ones who clamour about BJP being forward caste bastion, Modi is an OBC -i.e. Other Backward Caste!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    BJP with Modi at the helm has got to be the way forward as India is in serious need of reform after 50 years of second rate policies from the INC. It's also time that leaders in India look at reforming the inept affirmitive action policies implemented by the 'vote bank strategists' INC. With the INC in charge this will NEVER change ...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 40.

    Its clear from the comments that some people have been 'rattled' by the prospect of Modi become the PM of India ! Guess what - its the people of India who will make that choice. Modi's goverment has delivered significant benefits across ALL commumities and now if there is a groundswell of support and a wind blowing in Modi's favour its for the right reasons.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    Dear BBC - what prompted you to change the caption from 'Is BJP headed for a split?' to less mischievous 'Is India's BJP facing its worst crisis?'. You got too embarassed by your own blatant abuse of media power?

 

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