There does not appear to be much hope for the BJP to emerge as a major challenger to the Congress in 2014, although the latter is now much weaker than it was at the time of the last general election.
It isn't only that no front-runner has appeared in the saffron outfit in the leadership tussles between L.K. Advani, Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, the latest developments in Karnataka and Gujarat confirm that where lust for power is concerned, the BJP has become a mirror-image of the party it loves to hate - the Congress.
Arguably, this fall from grace of an organization claiming to harbour spiritual-minded Rambhakts - devotees of the Hindu deity - was inevitable considering that its rise was based on the pseudo-religious plank of temple building and minority-baiting.
Since there was no ideological inspiration other than the flaunting of a provocative Hindu agenda and demonising of Muslims and Christians, it was only to be expected that the BJP would comprise elements, not all of whom could be regarded as true representatives of virtuous conduct.
Nowhere has this evidence of degeneration been more evident than in Karnataka, which first saw the BJP members being accused of corruption - B.S. Yeddyurappa and the Bellary brothers - and then, after their eviction from office following a Lokayukta verdict, continuing to find ways and means of regaining their lost authority.
Hence, Yeddyurappa was first dragged kicking and screaming from the chief minister's post and now the same spectacle may be witnessed if and when his successor, Sadananda Gowda, is asked by the BJP 'high command' - as in the much-maligned Congress - to make way for his predecessor.
The only difference between the two parties is that the BJP top brass, unlike its Congress counterpart, is a house divided and, therefore, far more vulnerable to pressure tactics by groups wielding the caste - Yeddyurappa belongs to the Lingayats who constitute 18 percent of the electorate - or the party's standard communal card.
The fractures in the BJP's top echelons of power are the result of an inability to find a suitable replacement for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the last and only moderate in the saffron brotherhood who had some understanding of India's multi-cultural polity.
Others, notably Advani and Modi, have been trying to remould themselves in Vajpayee's image but without success because of their deeply-hued saffron past - the breaking of the Babri masjid in Advani's presence in 1992 and the communal riots in Modi's Gujarat in 2002.
But it isn't only the craving for power, a natural urge among politicians, which guides the votaries of Hindutva. Another natural inclination has manifested itself, with a section of BJP legislators spending time in the Karnataka and Gujarat assembly chambers watching pornographic films on their mobiles.
The shift of focus to erotica will seem also the more strange for a party which not only wants to enforce the teachings of the Bhagvad Gita in Madhya Pradesh schools but also advises those who do not want to study the Hindu spiritual text to leave the country, presumably for Pakistan.
If the Congress is guilty of minority appeasement, the BJP can be charged with offering a gratuitous affront to the minorities. If the BJP is genuinely interested in teaching the sacred texts, it can choose passages from all the major faiths, as India's pluralism demands. But singling out a Hindu scripture is evidently motivated by reasons other than an emphasis on spiritual knowledge.
As the BJP further exposes its narrow-minded agenda, its organisational fault lines have also been highlighted with the latest contretemps over the Rajya Sabha nominations which have dented the credibility of the party president, Nitin Gadkari, more than that of his unknown candidate, the London-based Anshuman Mishra.
If Gadkari had earlier caused a flutter in the party by trying to induct Babulal Kushwaha, a tainted former minister in Mayawati's government, his latest initiative, which saw Mishra lash out at 'dead wood' in the BJP, cannot but strengthen the hands of Gadkari's detractors who have never quite accepted this choice of a 'provincial' from Maharashtra as party chief by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Given the BJP's current rocky ride, it is not surprising that the Congress has won surprising victories in two by-elections in Karnataka and Gujarat. The Congress's success in Udupi-Chikmagalur is noteworthy as much for the margin of victory, 45,724 votes, as for the fact that the constituency was considered the BJP's stronghold which elected Sadananda Gowda in 2009.
Mansa in Gujarat, too, was a BJP stronghold since the party had won it since 1995. But the Congress's victory by 8,000 votes is a welcome development, considering that the assembly elections will be held in the state by the end of the year.
While the Congress, after its recent setbacks in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa, can breathe a sigh of relief, the same cannot be said of a BJP mired in scandals and political quagmires.
(24.03.2012 - Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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