The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Year of blows for BJP

New Delhi, May 11: BJP leaders are getting ready to draw up a “chargesheet” citing the UPA government’s “failures” to coincide with its first anniversary on May 22. But they privately admit there is “as much, if not greater need” to look at their own record in Opposition since May 2004.

One of the problems worrying BJP leaders is the failure to clinch the leadership question.

The anointment of L.K. Advani as party president after the loss of Maharashtra was meant to rein in the “ambitions” of second-rung leaders and raise party morale. But from day one, he has been under siege.

Uma Bharti challenged his authority in full public view and the VHP declared he was not up to the mark. Advani’s attempts to appoint party chiefs in two crucial states, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, were resisted by Narendra Modi and Uma loyalists.

Then came the stunning blow: RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan’s advice that Advani and A.B. Vajpayee should step back from “active” politics. Advani fought back by according bigger roles in party affairs to Sangh bete noires Venkaiah Naidu and Pramod Mahajan.

But the leadership controversy was revived by party vice-president M.A. Naqvi’s surprise statement that the BJP would be led by younger leaders in the next election. Naqvi kept his job by apologising to Advani.

A second worry has been the signs of fracture in the NDA. The Telugu Desam Party, though an “outside” supporter, was an important ally. Now it seems to be wooing the Left.

The NDA’s failure to make an impact as an Opposition, too, is bothering BJP leaders. The boycott of Parliament, they feel, has not worked.

The perception is that the boycott was called to “protect” one individual, George Fernandes, because of fears that a discussion on his defence deals may raise questions also on the roles of some BJP leaders and their associates.

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