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Virendra Kapoor | May 15, 2004
Predictably, the blame game has begun in the BJP.
And the accusing finger is invariably pointed at one man: Pramod Mahajan.
The street-smart party general secretary did his own thing without consulting other politically savvy colleagues. He put more trust in his durbar rather than seasoned partymen who had spent a lifetime working for the RSS-Jan Sangh-BJP.
The biggest charge against Mahajan is that he sabotaged the electoral tie-up with Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra for fear that his position as the state's foremost representative in the NDA would be endangered. So he played his cards in such a way that Pawar felt humiliated and had no choice but to drop the idea.
When Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani met Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and got him to agree to the idea of letting Pawar into the NDA, Mahajan leaked the news to the media prematurely. Pawar was embarrassed and issued a hasty denial.
Thackeray had agreed, even if reluctantly, to do business with his long-time enemy only because he understood the need for such a tie-up. The Sena-BJP-NCP alliance would probably have swept the Lok Sabha poll in Maharashtra, as also the assembly election to follow later this year.
Thackeray's nod came only after Advani reportedly assured him that no matter which of the three constituents secured the maximum number of seats in the assembly, the chief minister would be from the Sena.
For Pawar, entry into the NDA made immense sense. He is getting on in years and also suffering from an ailment. The way the state government has been run in Maharashtra, the Congress-NCP combine can hardly expect to retain power in the next assembly. In any case Pawar is not keen to become chief minister for the fifth time. By joining the NDA he could have got a key portfolio in Vajpayee's Cabinet.
But when word got out prematurely about his parleys with the BJP, Pawar went back to the Congress on the rebound, jettisoning his earlier opposition to Sonia Gandhi's claim to the prime ministership on account of her Italian origin.
Mahajan's detractors in the BJP now argue that if only he had not acted in such a manner, the Sena-BJP-NCP combine would have swept Maharashtra.
Quite aside from scuttling Pawar's entry into the NDA, Mahajan and his hangers-on, who virtually monopolised the BJP's media campaign, showed a total lack of imagination in planning and placing advertisements.
Flush with funds, they were arbitrary, believing they alone could replicate the success they had undoubtedly achieved in pulling off great victories in the December election to the Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assemblies.
In fact, the party leadership allowed Mahajan and Co to virtually usurp the Lok Sabha campaign only because they had hogged the entire credit for the BJP's spectacular showing in December.
Been there, done that!
Power and factionalism being constant companions, the BJP came to be afflicted with this disease once it made the switch from the Opposition to the Treasury benches.
It is an open secret that Mahajan cared two hoots for party president M Venkaiah Naidu. Indeed, Mahajan was reluctant to work under Naidu, but had no option when he found himself out of the Vajpayee government.
To ensure accountability, Naidu made it clear that he wanted no one else to collect funds for the party's Lok Sabha campaign.
But Mahajan is said to have collected money to fund the party campaign run by his team.
You can imagine Naidu's embarrassment when he approached a couple of industrialists to come to the aid of the party, only to discover that Mahajan had been there before him!
Guru the BJP didn't need
Pramod Mahajan isn't the only one in the firing line of hard-core RSS-BJP supporters. Even S Gurumurthy, the Chennai chartered accountant, who wears his Sangh Parivar connections on his shirtfront, is being blamed for the downturn in the NDA's fortunes, but this time in Tamil Nadu.
Apparently it was Gurumurthy's persistence that led to the sundering of ties between the BJP and the DMK, and, consequently, with the PMK and the MDMK.
AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa may have had her reasons for securing leverage with the NDA government -- she is still facing prosecution in some cases -- but it was Gurumurthy who is said to have convinced RSS chief K S Sudarshan and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani.
Advani went along with Gurumurthy unmindful of the fact that the DMK had been a model ally while Jayalalithaa had pulled down the Vajpayee government when she had been part of the NDA in 1998-1999.
As a senior BJP leader remarked, "Vinaash kaale, viprit buddhi." There is an English equivalent to that Sanskrit proverb, which goes: Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.
Return to the bar
A vast majority of Indian politicians have no source of income other than, well, politics.
But if politics is not a milch cow for you, you have to earn your keep by honest and dignified means.
So, even as the results of the parliamentary election trickled in and it became clear that the NDA would not retain power, high-profile BJP politician Arun Jaitley was contemplating a return to his legal practice.
The BJP spokesman had abandoned his lucrative practice upon joining politics full-time some years ago despite mild protests from some members of his family.
Of course, Jaitley will still do the party's work -- the BJP is, after all, his passion -- but he can no longer devote all his time to it.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh