Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party must be somewhat relieved that they have finally found someone to support in the presidential poll. P.A. Sangma, the former Speaker of the Lok Sabha, was not the party’s candidate. But the BJP failed to find someone it could call its own nominee. The party’s decision to support Mr Sangma is, therefore, one forced on it by factors over which it had little control. The entire episode exposes a crisis within the BJP that the party’s leaders have obviously failed to resolve. It is not just that the party has failed to get its allies in the National Democratic Alliance on board. The United Progressive Alliance and even the Left Front face divisions within themselves over Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for the president’s post. But the BJP’s crisis was of a different nature — it did not seem to have a strategy of its own for the crucial political battle. All it said was that it would not allow the UPA’s nominee to be elected unopposed. And all it did was wait for the UPA to announce its candidate. Even when that wait was over, the BJP could not come up with a nominee of its own. Its decision to support Mr Sangma is actually an admission of its failure to act on its own.
For the biggest party of the Opposition, this is the worst kind of reactive politics. One has only to contrast the BJP’s lack of initiative with the proactive politics that Sonia Gandhi and even Mamata Banerjee played for the presidential poll. Even if the former president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, did not eventually agree to join the contest, Ms Banerjee had acted on her own strategy by naming him as her choice. Ms Gandhi may not have taken all the UPA partners into confidence before finalizing Mr Mukherjee’s name. But she did not allow extraneous factors to stifle her initiative. By contrast, the BJP presented the picture of a party paralyzed by indecision. To make matters worse for the party, it got entangled in a row with its ally, the Janata Dal (United), over the acceptability of Narendra Modi as a possible NDA candidate for the prime minister’s job after the 2014 parliamentary polls. The controversy over Mr Modi had nothing to do with the presidential poll. But it strengthened the impression that the BJP is a party in disarray. How the party repairs the damage will largely determine its — and the NDA’s — fortunes in the next general elections.