Virendra Kapoor

Victory, they say, has many fathers, defeat none.

The stunning defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has unleashed an unrelenting wave of recriminations within the Sangh Parivar. The fissures in the Hindutva family, visible to the discerning observer even before the polls, have now erupted openly. The Lal Kishenchand Advani camp is blaming the Atal Bihari Vajpayee camp; the latter is blaming both Advani and the RSS, while the RSS is holding both the Union home minister and prime minister responsible for the rout. Even the non-controversial BJP president, Kushabhau Thakre, has been dragged into this messy game of finger-pointing.

People claiming to speak for the PM accuse Advani of hobbling the former at every step. Advani is being accused of having carved out his own little empire within the government, thus belittling the power and control of the Prime Minister's Office. Barring Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana, every other senior BJP minister is being encouraged to believe that he owes his job not to Vajpayee but Advani. Notable among such are Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and Power Minister P R Kumaramanglam. Before she quit to jump into the electoral fray in Delhi, Sushma Swaraj too was closely identified with the Advani camp.

The Advani camp counters that the PMO is needlessly obstructionist in clearing projects and decisions of key ministries headed by senior BJP ministers. That the prime minister is unable to give a lead and direction to the government and that he is a prisoner in the hands of a coterie which had nothing to do with the BJP. Further, that Vajpayee's Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra is the biggest stumbling block to the efficient running of the administration, and that he has no idea either of the monitoring of the functioning of various ministries nor of anything else barring postings and transfers of the personnel in the ministry of external affairs.

"For a man who had hardly worked in the MEA in New Delhi for less than half a decade throughout his long career in the foreign service and for someone who retired over a decade ago, to be made the principal secretary to the PM was an extraordinarily flawed decision. Mishra cannot but be a drag on the smooth running of the government," confided a senior member of Advani's inner advisory council.

"Clearly, he has been brought in not because he can perform well, but because the PM trusts him to be his man," added the Advani camp-follower bitterly.

The RSS side

The RSS, for its part, is none too happy with either Advani or Vajpayee. Its relations with Vajpayee were always correct but never warm, but Advani had been its darling all along. Things changed after he became the home minister. Now the RSS has cooled off towards Advani also.

Advani's propensity to be 'always correct and proper in things official' has annoyed the RSS leaders the most. They blame him for giving in completely to the bureaucrats. They had hoped that Advani would be able to give a distinct saffron touch to the content and direction of official policy.

With the RSS unhappy with Vajpayee and Advani, the man who has come further close to it is Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi. Dr Joshi stands to gain also from the fact that his godfather in the RSS, K S Sudershan, is set to take over as the sarsanghchalak from Professor Rajendra Singh shortly. Dr Joshi's audacious attempt to saffronise education might have misfired politically, but it has endeared him immensely to the RSS top brass.

Kushabhau's folly

A word about the whining against the harmless Shashikant 'Kushabhau' Thakre.

Senior leaders from Madhya Pradesh complain that the party chief was so confident of victory in his home state that he was reckless in the distribution of tickets. He and Sumitra Mahajan, MP and newly-appointed party general secretary, ignored the claims of genuine party workers and gave tickets to those who had no record of service in their respective constituencies.

But no one accuses either Thakre or Mahajan of malice or groupism. They are blamed for complacency and disregard of winning candidates.

Will it ever end?

Is there any likelihood of the internecine warfare within the Sangh Parivar ending soon?

Insiders are not very optimistic. The defeat has intensified, and not lessened, the name-calling. The reason for the disarray in the Sangh Parivar is not far to seek. Said an old-timer in RSS, "Guruji (Golwalkar, the long-time RSS chief) was, of course, the super boss. His word was law for everyone associated with the Sangh family. But till the deaths of Madhukar Dattatreya 'Balasaheb' Deoras and his brother Bhaurao Deoras, the RSS was still able to control wayward elements in the BJP and other off-shoots of the Parivar. Now nobody listens to RSS leaders. Their own stature has come down while that of a few BJP leaders has grown. Hence the confusion and free-for-all in the once disciplined Sangh Parivar."

As against this, Sonia Gandhi faces no such problem in controlling wayward Congressmen.

After onions, urea?

After onions, is it now the turn of urea prices to hit the stratosphere?

Punished severely for its failure to check the thousand per cent increase in the price of lowly onions at the time of the assembly election, the Vajpayee government was quick in reacting to reports about the sharp rise in the price of urea and other fertilisers in recent weeks. In several agriculture-dominant states, the shortages are rather acute.

Minister of State for Agriculture Som Pal, blamed rightly for his failure on the onion front, didn't want to take any chances. In a SOS to the PM he warned of the grim situation. Vajpayee promptly ordered an inquiry.

A preliminary report by an intelligence agency left the blame squarely at the doorstep of Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Surjeet Singh Barnala. Certain middlemen were trying to make a killing in league with the fertiliser producers and distributors. Indeed, there are increasing reports of sleaze in the functioning under Barnala.

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