Much of the contretemps in the BJP boils down to the thwarted ambition of the one-time “loh purush” who, with time, has rusted into a heap of scrap metal but entertains notions of himself as the central pillar of the party. It is a pitiable scene to see L.K. Advani so tragically reducing himself into a sullen, sulky, old man who will be remembered, if at all, for his turning a page-turning chapter in the country’s life into a personal melodrama. For the first time in independent India’s short history there is the possibility of Narendra Modi — the hard-charging, no-nonsense, right-of-centre ideologue firing up young and aspiring sections of society — the bulk of the electorate in 2014 and, perhaps, assuming helmsmanship of the country. And then Advani has to go play the rancid old codger without the political wit and wisdom to espy a polity on the cusp of radical change and economic betterment.
Advani has in a huff resigned from all party posts but not given up the chairmanship of the the National Democratic Alliance. Strange, but he is presumably the chairman on account of his leadership of the BJP so, to be consistent, should’t he surrender the NDA position as well? Maybe he sees his continuing occupation of this post as offering him the outside chance at PM-ship. It is a self-serving ruse then to keep alive his candidacy. But should BJP garner more Lok Sabha seats than in 2009 –thanks mainly to Narendra Modi’s galvanizing efforts, say, in the 180 range, and BJP require the help of allies and coalition partners to bid for power, would Advani at that moment in time have the political currency to be hoisted to head an NDA government by acclamation? Doubtful, in the main because a person who will have contributed nothing to the party’s electoral success cannot remotely hope to mobilize support behind himself — least of all among the elected BJP MPs and the party cadre, who will owe him nothing, and sentiments about his past role in founding BJP will count for even less. Politics is hard business not fueled by sentimentality but success.
The more likely prospect is Advani setting himself up as spoiler, fully cognizant of and canny enough to know what he is doing but determined to harm the chances of his own party at the hustings any way, whatever it takes. This will be sad denouement for a man who has lived by his political acumen but will be brought down by hubris. History will pass a curdled Advani by and very fast with whatever love, respect, and goodwill he has generated among the people over the years dissipating like a thin wisp of smoke.
Of course, the Congress party clutching at straws, will keep alive the Advani issue with snarky comments by Messrs Digvijay Singh and Co., in the hope that BJP partners like JD(U) will be sufficiently alarmed to desert the NDA in the next general elections. Except, if BJP needs Nitish Kumar, the JD(U) equally desperately needs the upper caste and urban votes in Bihar that Modi and BJP can attract. After nearly a decade of misrule, misgovernance, and rank bad and grossly corrupt government, it will be a wonder if the Congress Party will be able to fill the space vacated by BJP in Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s scheme of things. This is no small consideration because Lalu Yadav threatens to storm his bastion. (Lalu does not stand a chance, but damned if, together with Paswan, he doesn’t spice up life for Nitish!) The prospect staring Nitish in the face will be this: He has not a snowball’s chance in hell to be Prime Minister of any coalition; worse, he may not even have Bihar to lord over! He will be reduced, you guessed it, to being a JD(U) version of Manmohan Singh — no political support base, no constituency, no future.
In game theoretic terms, it is Nitish and JD(U) confronting enormous uncertainties. Narendra-bhai’s problem is a more straightforward one by comparison — to win as many seats for the BJP as possible, every additional Lok Sabha seat secured firming up his right to run the country. When it comes down to it, Nitish has no choice other than to blink!