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Virendra Kapoor | October 05, 2004

The knives are out in the BJP.

The faction-ridden party is in the midst of a succession war with various aspirants for the top job furiously plotting against one another to grab the position that was occupied for decades by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani.

With age catching up on both senior leaders, the position is now open to the second rung. And the juniors are freely employing intrigue, back-stabbing, manipulation and sabotage in their naked quest for power.

Sanyasin-politician Uma Bharti's complaint that the party leadership sabotaged her Hubli-Amritsar Tiranga yatra needs to be seen against this backdrop.

Bharti's has been more or less a solo effort from the moment she quit as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh following the issuance of a non-bailable warrant against her in a ten-year-old case of causing riots in Hubli, Karnataka.

After she spent a fortnight in prison, the Karnataka government unilaterally withdrew the case, freeing Bharti to reclaim the CM's post. But she chose to go on a rathyatra, expecting a grateful party to provide unstinted support.

Her hope was belied. The leadership did precious little to prop up her yatra.

True to her fiery nature, Bharti openly let party president M Venkaiah Naidu and the others know what she thought of them.

Uma herself is not a candidate for the top job in the BJP, but she is apparently being targeted because of her perceived proximity to general secretary Arun Jaitley. Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Pramod Mahajan are invariably mentioned as frontrunners in the race for succession.

Often the last two, in tandem or independently, take recourse to subterfuge to keep the presumed threat from Jaitley at bay. Mahajan, in fact, finds it so hard to conceal his animus against Jaitley that even at press conferences he makes snide remarks about him.

Knowing that Bharti backs Jaitley for the top job, Swaraj and Mahajan did not want her stature to grow as a result of her 'sacrifice' of the chief ministerial gaddi and the subsequent yatra.

As for Naidu, the truth is that he is widely seen as a lame-duck president who will make way for one of the three contenders sooner rather than later.

Curiously, all three contenders For the top job are Brahmins while it is Bharti who belongs to the more politically correct Lodh community, a numerous OBC group with a substantial presence in both Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

This may be why some Sangh Parivar strategists are now toying with the idea of a joint Jaitley-Bharti leadership. Jaitley's suave, urbane, intelligent image, this line of reasoning goes, will be complemented by Bharti's aggressive, grassroots, pro-Hindutva appeal.

As against this, Mahajan is hobbled by his image while Swaraj has her own limitations as a lateral entry into the Sangh Parivar. Barring her silver-tongued oratory, she has little going for her.

Admittedly, the onus of ensuring a smooth succession was on the Big Two in the party, but because they have been engaged in a turf war of their own for decades, neither is willing to show his hand.

This does not, however, prevent someone claiming to speak on Vajpayee's behalf from whispering in the ears of the various contenders for the job in the most conspiratorial of tones that he -- the former prime minister, that is -- is keen for him/her to win, a ploy that has been used so often that it has lost its value.

People enjoying Advani's confidence are not known to have resorted to such ploys to string them along.

Much ado about a non-interview

The prime minister's media adviser, Sanjaya Baru, has been dragged, most unfairly, into the controversy over the so-called interview Dr Manmohan Singh granted to the RSS weekly Panchjanya. Several Left-leaning journals and journalists have felt emboldened to seek Baru's removal because of this non-interview.

But, honestly, it is much ado over nothing because the PM never granted the weekly's editor, Tarun Vijay, an interview; and the journal never claimed that it had interviewed the PM.

It so happened that Vijay met the PM for all of five minutes between official engagements. As one delegation was leaving after seeing Singh at his Race Course Road office and another was waiting to be ushered in, Singh exchanged a few innocuous words with Vijay.

That was when he told the journalist that he was saddened that even leaders of the stature of 'Advaniji and Vajpayeeji' had participated in the disruption of Parliament, and that he did not see the Opposition as an enemy. That was all. Singh then asked Vijay to leave as he had scheduled meetings.

Vijay wrote a long article weaving in the few words Singh had spoken and recalling what the PM had said in an earlier interaction with the Editors Guild. He did not claim to have got an exclusive interview with Singh.

But those seeking to target Baru converted Panchjanya's 'analysis' into the PM's maiden press interview to the RSS journal!

Incidentally, Panchjanya has interviewed at length leaders of the two Communist parties, including Somnath Chatterjee, Nilotpal Basu and D Raja, and has had no hesitation in branding those as exclusive interviews.

Gentleman Roy

Class tells.

When Zee trumped the competition by resolving in its studios the dilemma of Gudiya, the hapless wife of an Indian PoW who was married off to another man on the presumption that her first husband was dead and is now eight months pregnant, it was by all means a riveting spectacle.

It was reality television at its best with village elders and religious heads offering live on camera their views on the woman's unusual predicament. She was to go back to her first husband, was the considered verdict of the elders assembled from the three villages concerned, those of the two husbands and Gudiya's own, a decision that was accepted by all concerned.

Giving credit where it was due, Dr Prannoy Roy, the suave promoter of the rival NDTV news channel, congratulated Zee in a message to its local head, while a Hindi channel, which makes loud claims about its superior TRP ratings, set the police after Zee, complaining that Gudiya and her two husbands had been 'kidnapped' by the channel.

When the police landed at Zee's NOIDA studios, they were surprised to find that Gudiya was keen on the channel helping her out of the mess in which she found herself for no fault of hers. In fact, she did not want to leave till the matter was resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

Big money vehicles

Politics continues to be the easiest route to riches.

At least two senior BJP politicians insured their financial future when they were in power at the Centre by securing in the name of their kin lucrative distribution agencies for a well-known brand of two-wheelers.

These outlets, in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, are said to net nearly Rs 1 crore per annum for their owners, though the BJP politicians can split legal hair by claiming that they have nothing to do with them since these are being run by relatives.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

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