The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Second rung jinx strikes again
- Will another BJP leader fade away'

New Delhi, April 22: In the BJP’s heyday through the nineties, it was not just party chief L.K. Advani who was the object of the Opposition’s envy but also the second-rung leadership he had groomed.

Advani was an unerring talent-spotter and gave his proteges the space and the mileage he thought they deserved.

Leaders like Pramod Mahajan, K.N. Govindacharya, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Narendra Modi, Uma Bharti, Ananth Kumar, Kalyan Singh and M.L. Khurana all bloomed under Advani’s benign gaze.

With Advani out on a limb and A.B. Vajpayee in the sunset of his life, these proteges have either left the BJP or got marginalised or been forced to swim or sink. The BJP, which cocked a snook at the Congress for “failing” to raise a second rung of leaders, now finds the boot is on its own foot.

If Pramod rallies back, it is believed it will be a long while before he regains the chutzpah and elan that marked his style of functioning, even when he was down and out.

Govindacharya and Uma are out of the BJP and are reportedly determined to float their own party. Sources said their twin agendas are to reclaim the BJP’s “ideological” turf and “cut Advani to size”.

Kalyan Singh lost his stature and base the day he returned to the BJP after parting ways to launch his own party. Khurana has also said goodbye and there is an admission in the BJP that unless it throws up a weighty leader by the time Delhi goes to polls, there is little hope of taking advantage of the popular resentment against the 10-year Congress rule.

The immediate problem the BJP has is getting someone like Pramod who can combine organisational skills with a political perspective that transcends his home state.

It is thought that Jaitley has too many preoccupations to focus single-mindedly on politics. Sushma has the charisma to pull crowds and, perhaps, votes, but organisational management has never been her forte.

In the BJP, it is acknowledged that Naidu had little to show for himself except to speak in alliterations while his acolyte, Ananth Kumar, has not emerged as a leader in his own right, not even on home turf Karnataka.

As for Rajnath Singh, unless he can deliver Uttar Pradesh in the next Assembly polls, there will be a question mark on his continuance as party chief.

That leaves Modi to have the run of the way. The Gujarat chief minister believes the BJP could pull through again in the 2007 polls. A second win will place him firmly as the “first among equals” and create the ground for 2009. Between 2007 and 2009, hectic jockeying for who leads the party in the general elections will start and he could well be a serious contender.

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