The president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Nitin Gadkari, may have taken on more than he can manage by announcing that the BJP will support Mamata Banerjee if she moves a no confidence motion against the government in the Lok Sabha. Mr Gadkari proceeds on the assumption that on economic reforms he presides over a united party. This may not be altogether true. The most powerful leader within the BJP, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, may not approve of any step that makes him or his party appear as opponents of economic reforms and economic growth. The most important winning card Mr Modi holds in Gujarat is that, under his leadership, the state has emerged as one of the preferred destinations of investors. He can hardly afford to discard that card. There could be other leaders, to wit Arun Jaitley, who will not be too enthusiastic about opposing economic reforms. Mr Gadkari may rue the fact that he spoke too early.
It is literally too early since the next session of Parliament is more than a month away. In politics, a week is a long time, so a month and more is like eternity. It is undeniable, of course, that sections of the BJP are opposed to economic reforms but this cannot lend itself to the conclusion that everyone in the party is opposed to it. The opposition to economic reforms emanates primarily from Nagpur where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh holds sway, preaching the mantra of swadeshi. But not all loyal members of the sangh parivar are converts to this mantra. Messrs Modi and Jaitley are only two very prominent examples. What Mr Gadkari also overlooked is that when the BJP ran the government, it did not shy away from advocating liberalization of the economy and inviting foreign capital. There is an obvious tension within the party between the pull of the RSS mantra and the demands of governance. Leaders like Mr Modi and Mr Jaitley obviously believe that if the BJP is to project itself as a party in waiting, it cannot ignore the priorities of governance. It is not possible any more to govern India on the ideology of swadeshi. Thus the BJP is in a process of churning. Mr Gadkariís assertion ignores this process. It also ignores the possibility that Ms Banerjee, given her record of wooing Muslims in West Bengal, may not want to have any truck with the BJP. Discretion, Mr Gadkari should know, is the better part of rhetoric.