Herald: Can BJP still claim tag of party with a difference?

Can BJP still claim tag of party with a difference?

12 Jul 2019 06:08am IST
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12 Jul 2019 06:08am IST

The ongoing political drama whose first act stunned the State by its audacious script and was to end with a climactic dropping of old ministers and swearing in ceremony of new ones 24 hours later hasn't ended yet.

The second act taking place in New Delhi saw an unexpected twist – a delay in the formal joining of the 10 MLAs who a day earlier had quit the Congress and handed over a letter to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of their ‘merger’ with the BJP. The breakaway Congress group saw some tense moments on Day 2 of the drama, when the expected meeting with the BJP National president was put off, and they met the working president of the party who welcomed them. The ceremony where new ministers will be inducted will now take place in a third act, on a third day and is tantalisingly poised to spring a surprise as to who gets knocked off the list of cabinet ministers.

As this was playing out on centrestage, in the wings in Goa there was another drama unfolding that, ironically, did not support the scenes on the stage. Off stage, the BJP’s senior leaders and its rank and file questioned the merger move, and its followers on social media ensured that the party and the whole world was made aware of their displeasure at the events. The harshest criticism to the party’s actions came through the social media, where the party was panned for the drama that was being enacted. This was just not the well-oiled BJP machinery with a common aim at work. In fact two Ministers, one of them Nilesh Cabral and the other in confidence, have admitted that they were unaware of the move that was being plotted. 

The resistance in the party to this move was visible within hours of the merger news breaking out, when Utpal Parrikar, son of former chief minister the late Manohar Parrikar had some strong words to say in reaction to this. “Bhai's (Manohar Parrikar) way forward, directions ended on March 17 with his death. This is a new road or direction that the new leadership has taken. We will have to wait and see how party’’s old and loyal karyakartas react to this,” Utpal said. From the manner in which most of the others reacted, they appear to be in sync with this young BJP karyakarta.

There are the former minsters and MLAs, many who will find that they may not be in a position to claim a ticket to contest in the constituencies they have nursed, and so unhappy. The party’s former minister Rajendra Arlekar, who was once seen as a potential chief minister, was candid to state that the party in Goa is proceeding on an ‘incorrect path’. Another former MLA rued that party discipline, which was strictly observed under the leadership of Manohar Parrikar, has vanished. He even questioned whether the party will remain united in the long term. Another former Minister wondered whether the party does not trust its allies, as the government was comfortable numerically, and this merger was not necessary. 

Having increased its tally from 13 MLAs in 2017 to 27 in 2019, by bringing in 13 MLAs from the Congress in three batches, can BJP still claim to be a party with a difference, with an ideology and a discipline that surpasses that of other parties? Currently, in Goa if not in the rest of the country, the party appears to have lost that advantage. By populating its legislative wing with members of the Congress, the party’s disciplined cadres have been given the opportunity to reproach the leadership and they have done just that. That’s the price the party will have to pay, but in the long run this dramatic merger could cost the BJP much more.

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