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Gadkari, Modi, and the BJP's gymnastics on corruption

Last updated on: January 9, 2012 20:10 IST

Gadkari, Modi, and the BJP's gymnastics on corruption

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The induction of former Bahujan Samaj Party leader Babu Singh Kushwaha is a sign of the Bharatiya Janata Party's nervousness on the Uttar Pradesh battlefield. It is also the result of the BJP's intra-party tensions, analyses Sheela Bhatt

By inducting Babu Singh Kushwaha, a main suspect along with Mayawati's brother Anand Kumar in the Central Bureau of Investigation's serious inquiry into loot of people's money in the National Rural Health Mission, Bharatiya Janata Party President Nitin Gadkari has proved that his party's support to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement was political fraud.

Kushwaha's induction notwithstanding, it is also evident that Gadkari is focusing on 2013 when his term ends as BJP president -- and he is ready to cross lines in pursuit of his future plans.

In his September 30, 2011 speech at the BJP's national executive in New Delhi, Gadkari had told his party: 'Like the UPA at the Centre, the Bahujan Samaj Party has established a thoroughly corrupt regime in Uttar Pradesh. This state provides us an example of how unchecked corruption damages the fundamentals of governance severely. The National Rural Health Mission illustrates as to how the Congress and the BSP are hand in glove. The UPA sends crores of funds, refuses to conduct any audit, thereby allowing daylight robbery of the public exchequer. In return, the BSP goes soft at the corrupt UPA in the Centre."

"Uttar Pradesh is the symbol of coalition of the corrupt. Mayawati represents bad governance, corruption and destruction of democratic governance. The SP (Samajwadi Party), BSP and Congress are trying to fool the people. Whenever the UPA requires support at the Centre, the BSP and SP willingly offer it. When they offer support, the CBI says the cases against Mulayam (Singh Yadav) and Mayawati are not worth pursuing. We have to fight with all three," he said.

Now, the SP, the BSP and the Congress will be relieved -- because the BJP cannot take a moral high ground on the issue of corruption anymore.

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Image: Babu Singh Kushwaha


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A Raja, Suresh Kalmadi should join the BJP

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Kirit Somaiya, BJP national secretary and chairman of its Scam Expose Committee, has details of the NHRM scam on his website. (external link) He got many official documents through Right to Information applications. He has allegedly taken off the site any mention of Kushwaha's 'fake companies'. The Mumbai-based Somaiya is known as a crusader against organised corruption within the system. Now, he walks the tightrope on the scam that he investigated with quite some success in Lucknow.

"The NRHM scam is huge," he told rediff.com. "Mayawati has created more than 300 bogus companies. Some dozen companies are in name of "Kushwaha". It should be investigated by the CBI. If Kushwaha is guilty then he should be punished."

Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and spokeswoman Nirmala Sitharaman resorted to verbal gymnastics to describe Kushwaha.

Sinha, who generally articulates national issues fearlessly, said, "He (Kushwaha) was a part of Mayawati's corrupt government. Now he will bring to light all the wrongs that were being done."

Sitharaman said: "Kushwaha has come as a whistleblower to the party and will expose the deeds of UP Chief Minister Mayawati."

Kushwaha? Whistleblower? By that logic Chandraswami, Sukh Ram, A Raja, Suresh Kalmadi, etc, should join the BJP to spill the beans on their party!

Kushwaha was sacked from the BSP and desperately needed political protection. He tried unsuccessfully to get into the Congress.

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Image: A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi, who are currently lodged in Tihar Jail on charges of corruption


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Gadkari is desperate for electoral success

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He was a backroom boy for Mayawati. Years ago, he used to handle her telephones and petty matters and slowly grew in her inner circle. It is believed that Mayawati trusted him so much that he was to replace her in case of her arrest. His involvement in the NRHM scam if and when proven will not be surprising news -- he was close to the seat of power in Lucknow.

Gadkari, who is desperate for electoral success in UP, was pursued by a group working closely with him. That includes Sanjay Joshi, Vinay Katiyar and young researcher Arun Narendranath. For them, the 'caste calculus' is the mantra to defeat the Congress in UP.

As is often repeated, around 305 constituencies in UP have more than 20,000 Muslims each. In about 100 seats, Kurmis are in large numbers.

The Congress is eyeing the Kurmi vote in a big way. It has given pride of place to Beni Prasad Verma and he is likely to be the Congress's top leader if the party is a part of any government formation in Lucknow.

What binds Gadkari, Joshi and Katiyar is that they are 'anti-Delhi' -- they think that the BJP's 'high command' that sits in air-conditioned rooms and endlessly debates politics on television and is largely driven by the media is clueless about how the other India works and thinks. Gadkari, Joshi and Katiyar think the high command is unaware of the rough and tumble of the caste-dominated real world of UP.

This anti-Delhi attitude was also behind the induction of Kushwaha, who Gadkari hopes will rope in the Kushwaha community vote, which accounts for less then 4 percent of UP's. But Kushwaha lacks stature in his community and in Lucknow's power setup. He was merely a sevak of Mayawati. The public perception about him -- before Gadkari picked him -- was that of a partner in the NRHM scam.

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Image: BJP chief Nitin Gadkari


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Timing of Gadkari's gambit is baffling

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Gadkari's supporters argue that it is the BJP's gambit against the Congress combination of Muslim, Kurmi, non-Yadav Dalits and non-Yadav backward class support base. 

Joshi, who was mentored by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 1980s and who understands very well -- some say as well as Modi -- the concepts of social engineering necessary to fight caste-based political battles, has influenced Gadkari.

"Our president wants everyone to wait till the (UP) results come out," a highly placed source in the BJP told rediff.com.

Another senior BJP leader said, "Gadkari is under the sway of Arun Narendranath. He works with him. He is a psephologist who researches and predicts poll trends. On the basis of past trends, he has come up with a formula of caste combination in UP that he says will work in the BJP's favour. When one party has to forego Muslim, Yadav and Dalit votes even before the campaign begins, what do you do? Gadkari has gone by Narendranath's formula -- and in the process he may have lost the balance."
 
The timing of Gadkari's gambit is also baffling. In November 2011, none other than the Allahabad high court directed the CBI to conduct an inquiry into the misuse of NRHM funds in UP. The agency will have to show some progress in the case to the court.

The CBI file has lots of documents -- provided by Somaiya, who has issued press releases on behalf of the party about the irregularities in the NRHM funds disbursed to UP last year by the Centre. Two medical officers have been murdered in UP and the CBI is probing if these deaths are linked with the NRHM scam.

The chance of Kushwaha being arrested by the CBI has been quite high since the last two months because the case is initiated by the high court.

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Image: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati

Tags: Gadkari , BJP , CBI , NRHM , Muslim

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BJP wants to exploit the sentiments of OBCs

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Which is why Gadkari providing Kushwaha the BJP umbrella now is baffling.

At the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, Gadkari, Katiyar and the BJP's UP chief Surya Pratap Shahi are seen with suspicion. Kalyan Singh has alleged on camera that an inquiry should be initiated to probe if money has changed hands in the Kushwaha decision.

Gadkari's colleagues are busy explaining that it is nothing but realpolitik, admittedly 'fraught with risk'. They proudly claim that by linking up with Kushwaha, Gadkari has ensured the BJP of the Bundelkhand region's Most Backward Class votes. The BJP is a marginal party in the miserably poor region. Now, with Kushwaha's help, the local party unit will at least get some candidates to nominate for the upcoming election.

Gadkari and Katiyar advocate new vote banks for the BJP. They are desperately looking for an Other Backward Classes leader to counter the Congress's Muslim-Kurmi strategy.

UP-based Muslim leaders like Mujtaba Farooq, national president of the Welfare Party of India, have spoken against the Centre's announcement of 4.5 percent sub quota for the minorities from the 27 percent OBC quota.

Non-Congress parties including the BJP want to exploit the sentiments of the OBCs whose quota will be reduced due to this announcement.

Another argument against the sub quota is that several Muslim castes have benefitted from the 27 percent OBC quota. Farooq estimates that Muslims were getting almost 3 percent reservations alone out of the 27 percent.

The BJP and other parties in UP want to tell people that the Congress has sanctioned 4.5 percent for all minorities -- which will include Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis -- only for political benefit. 

What was the main motivating force that pushed Gadkari to go for such a crass political move that will (even if it helps the BJP win the votes in  4/5 constituencies) take away the pan-India plank of anti-corruption that has touch the chord of voters all over the country in 2011?

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Image: The BJP flag


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'Gadkari's approach to politics is like a business'

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Why is Gadkari not afraid of losing the moral high ground that the BJP enjoyed while opposing the Commonwealth and 2G scams?

The BJP president and his coterie believe that if Gadkari manages to make the BJP a player to reckon with in Lucknow, it will help him score over not only Lal Kishenchand Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj but even Narendra Modi.

The Gadkari gang feels that if the UP experiment succeeds, Gadkari will be pitted against no less than Rahul Gandhi.

Gadkari's critics allege that he is capable of many more such realpolitik moves that the Delhi-based media and the BJP leaders may abhor. Gadkari wants a second term as BJP president and to stake the claim to lead the party in the 2014 election.

"Our president has an 'anti-Delhi' mindset," said a source who works closely with Gadkari. "His approach to politics is like a business. Indian politics teaches you that one plus one is not always two."

Those who back Gadkari think that if his team wins substantial non-Yadav and non-Kurmi OBC votes to counter the Congress' Kurmi votes, the media and as well as his detractors within the BJP will forget that he did something unethical.

In a desperate search for the OBC face Gadkari, even, brought Uma Bharti from Madhya pradesh against strong opposition from Arun Jaitley and others because she belongs to Lodh community. Her supporters even declared that she is BJP's chief ministerial candidate. Amongst 170 million population of UP the BJP doesn't have one credible woman OBC leader forcing them to import Bharti.

In the BJP's time-tested tradition, a story was leaked -- that Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were not in favour of Kushwaha's induction.

The way Kushwaha was asked to write a letter to give the BJP a face-saver proves that the 'Delhi-clique' has worked overtime against Gadkari.

But the most important point is that Gadkari is getting ready to counter Modi in the long run. Gadkari feels that Modi is becoming the Gujarat-version of Sharad Pawar, who influences national politics, using his clout in Maharashtra.

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Image: BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj


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BJP is right now a leaderless party

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"The rift between Modi and Gadkari is widening everyday," a senior BJP leader in Gujarat told rediff.com. "Sanjay Joshi's comeback in the party is not a small issue for Modi. Modi has sent to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh a long 'chargesheet' against Joshi."

If Gadkari, without any help from Modi, can manage any position for the BJP above the Congress in the four-corner contest in Uttar Pradesh for 403 assembly seats, he will establish himself in the party.

Now he is hamstrung from above by the RSS. Behind his back, he is abused as 'a-200-crore-worth-middle-class-businessman in the higher echelon of politics'. But if he can prove his mettle in UP, he can look forward to further RSS support.

Modi, meanwhile, has become so resourceful after 10 years of ruling Gujarat that money will not be a problem for him in the Lok Sabha election of 2014, says one of his former colleagues in the RSS. It is well-known that he has Corporate India's solid backing.The common factor that works for Gadkari as well as Modi is that the BJP is right now a leaderless party.

Unlike the Congress, the BJP is strong in the states where the party is in power. The BJP high command is not as powerful as the Congress high command. Gadkari and Modi both have to worry more about National Democratic Alliance allies and other regional parties than their party's high command.

With Advani getting older and weaker there is no established leadership in the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, said a staunch Modi supporter and BJP office bearer in Gujarat.

And with an 'unaccountable leader' in Nagpur and a wobbly high command in Delhi, Kushwaha-esque events will go on. For the BJP leaders, winning elections at the micro level is far more important than the macro image of the party. In the Lok Sabha election of 2009 Modi had given seats to four controversial candidates, some of whom had criminal backgrounds.

Yes, the Uttar Pradesh elections are as crucial for the BJP, Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari as they are for the Congress and Rahul Gandhi.

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Image: BJP leaders Narendra Modi and L K Advani


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