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Monday , October 15 , 2012
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BJP struggles to find one FDI voice

- Reservations in party over Gadkari support to Mamata’s no-trust threat
Jumping the gun? Gadkari at a rally in Ahmedabad on Thursday. (AP)

New Delhi, Oct. 14: Nitin Gadkari may have “over-stepped” his mandate when he declared last Sunday that the BJP would back Mamata Banerjee’s threatened no-confidence motion, party insiders said.

For the record, however, spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Prakash Javadekar said: “If the party president states something, it is taken as a policy decision. When Mulayam Singh Yadav or Sonia Gandhi state something, you (journalists) never ask if the decision was debated and discussed in their party fora. Why a separate yardstick for the BJP?”

Neither the party’s core committee nor its parliamentary board — the apex policy and decision-making apparatuses — has met after the BJP completed its national executive/council meet in Haryana in the last week of September.

L.K. Advani left for New York shortly after to attend a UN General Assembly session. Sushma Swaraj suffered a viral attack. Arun Jaitley travelled to Bangalore and Gandhinagar on political work. Another veteran, Murli Manohar Joshi, said in Calcutta on October 2 there was no point bringing a no-confidence vote without the requisite numerical support. Former chief Rajnath Singh was also ill.

Sources said the BJP was of the view that rather than bring a no-confidence motion, Mamata could move a resolution against FDI that it could consider endorsing, provided it was “appropriately worded”.

The sources stressed that their views would have to be “seriously” factored in before Gadkari could take a call, more so because Advani headed the NDA in Parliament and Sushma and Jaitley were Opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

The sources also said though NDA convener and Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav shared a dais with Mamata when she protested against the UPA government in Delhi last week, the coalition constituents needed to be on board before a critical decision was clinched.

The BJP sources also conceded that while Mamata could speak out against the UPA’s economic reforms with alacrity, as the principal Opposition, their party had to take into account “long-term” considerations.

“Assuming that Mamata’s no-confidence motion’s central theme is opposition to FDI at large, should we fall into her trap?” a source asked.

The source emphasised that even at the Surajkund meet, the BJP had made it clear it had no issues with reforms or FDI per se, but had a problem with FDI in multi-brand retail and would distinguish between reforms that were in “national interest” and those that were not.

Indeed, sources in the Gujarat bureaucracy said chief minister Narendra Modi had conveyed to the Delhi brass that he was not against FDI in insurance and pension.

“He clarified that he opposed retail FDI because women in Gujarat still had a mental block against buying frozen food from malls and so he could not alienate their support before the (December) elections. But if Modi were to utter a word against FDI in insurance and pension, we can imagine the sensex falling steeply. Believe me, no Gujarati will like that because each and every one of them is stock-market friendly,” a Gujarat official said.

As things stand on the question of economic reforms, the BJP is split. Sushma and former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha harbour serious reservations, while Jaitley, Modi and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan are for reforms.

“It’s understandable. Sushma and Sinha need to rachet up their political rhetoric, Modi and Chauhan have to govern, they need investments, they need money to bankroll their social schemes. Willy-nilly, the BJP will have to use this model if it comes to power at the Centre,” a source said.

At the core of the BJP’s dilemma on FDI and reforms is the eternal governance-versus-politics polemics.

The sources said that while the NDA needed to enlarge beyond just four parties, and Mamata — once part of the coalition — was a potential ally and could not be “entirely isolated” in her anti-UPA campaign, the BJP needed to adopt a more calibrated approach and not “grandstand” against the Congress all the while.

“There are no easy answers,” a source said. “As the party’s helmsman, Gadkariji should appreciate this.”