BJPs stand apart, is the leadership issue buried

New Delhi, April 20 | Updated: Apr 21 2005, 05:30am hrs
With the BJP categorically ruling out change in leadership, questions galore on whether the issue has been buried completely. Also, clarifications by the party on Mr Vajpayees endorsement of Mr Sudarshans suggestion seems to offer little solace.

Notwithstanding the public posturing, Mr Vajpayees remarks seem to have hit Mr Advanis moral authority to continue as party chief hard. Sources say Mr Advani had offered to quit right after Mr Sudarshans attack, but was prevailed upon not to succumb to the sangh parivars pressure. Now, Mr Vajpayees remark may be the proverbial last straw.

Although Mr Advanis present tenure ends only in 2007, BJP sources say that he is seriously considering quitting the party post during the partys silver jubilee celebration year itself. All these public jousts have had a demoralising effect on Mr Advani, said a party source.

But is the second generation of leadership as ready to take over as Mr Vajpayee allegedly said There are several leaders waiting in the wings, including Narendra Modi, Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti, Rajnath Singh and Vasundhara Raje though not necessarily in that order. However, political analysts say that there is still a problem of acceptability. For one, most of these leaders do not seem to be willing to accept the other as their chief. Also, none of them have Advanis or Vajpayees stature at the moment.

This apart, unlike other political parties, a BJP leader also needs the sangh parivars endorsement. They say that one of the reasons behind the demand by RSS and VHP for a change in the leadership has been to induct more Hindutva ideologues into the BJP.

However, one cannot ignore the fact that this being the era of coalition politics, the BJP has not been able to form a government by itself, with its numbers dwindling in the last election.

Moreover, just as Mr Vajpayee was like a magnetic force, attracting even those parties who were opposed to hardline Hindutva ideologies, the next leader too will have to have this quality, along with other leadership qualities and wide acceptability so as to pull the party out of the abyss it seems to have fallen into after the polls.

More importantly, at present Mr Advani, besides being president, is also the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. If at all he decides to relinquish both or one of his posts, two leaders would have to be groomed to take over one, who would have wide acceptability among all the parties in the NDA, and the other, who would have the sanghs backing. The question is, who are these leaders

Also, the possibility of Murli Manohar Joshi taking over the saddle during the transition period cant be ruled out, although sources say that he does not seem to be interested.

As of now, Mr Advani has the hard task of leading the party through this critical phase when dissensions at the state-level too are hurting the party. But, as Mr Vajpayee said, its up to Mr Advani to decide on what the next step should be.