NITIN Gadkari’s formal withdrawal of his candidacy for a second term as president of the Bharatiya Janata Party has evoked considerable reaction in the media. The New Indian Express (January 24) said that “with greater foresight things could have been managed better had Gadkari opted out of the contest earlier.” The man who succeeded him, Rajnath Singh, said the paper, has risen from the ranks, held various posts in the party and the administration and, after taking over “has demonstrated a rare candidness by admitting that he is taking over as President in not a very conducive condition.” The paper pointed out that with “increasing alienation of the people from the Congress and its opportunistic allies the situation also presents the BJP with a window of opportunity.
Deccan Herald (January 24) said “by denying incumbent president Nitin Gadkari re-election for a second term and electing Rajnath Singh as the new party chief, the Bharatiya Janata Party has just managed to wriggle out of a politically difficult situation at the last minute.” “The continued defence of Gadkari and the dramatic volte-face at the end, on an important issue like the party’s national leadership show it in a poor light”, the paper emphasised.
The Hindu (January 24) thought that Gadkari “was hardly the quintessential Sangh ideologue considering he neither flaunted his nationalistic credentials nor declare with passion on Hindutva.” Nor, added the paper “did he fit the other Sangh ideals of personal austerity and probity.” The departure of Gadkari, said the paper, is only half the story, maintaining the real challenge will come later when it decides its Prime Ministerial candidate. It named Narendra Modi as one of the candidates who, however “comes with a baggage that cannot augur well for the expansion of the National Democratic Alliance”.
Most hard hitting was The Free Press Journal (January 16) when Gadkari was still a candidate and had not put in his resignation. Drawing the party’s attention to “the public disclosure of the questionable business practices of Gadkari’s Purti Group of Companies, the paper said after that public disclosure, Gadkari had become “a complete disaster. Describing Gadkari as “a tainted leader” the paper said with him at the BJP head, the party “would stand fully compromised”. “Why does the party want to score such a self-goal? How can anyone in his right mind in the main Opposition party ever consider going to the polls under Gadkari?” the paper asked.
Hindustan Times (January 24) said “Rajnath Singh did not appear to quite savour the moment” and “whether wittingly of unwittingly Mr Advani seems to have handed the new incumbent a crown of thorns”. Nothing that the party “has been riven by factionalism and in-fighting in recent times” the paper said “Mr Singh’s patchy track record will also be of some concern to the BJP”. The paper revealed that “it was Rajnath Singh who dropped today’s BJP star Narendra Modi from the party’s Central Parliamentary Board and wondered whether the Gujarat strong man has forgotten that incident”. Under Rajnath Singh’s watch, earlier, the BJP had plummeted to 51 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2007.
The Asian Age (January 24) said “the sudden and inglorious exit of Nitin Gadkari as BJP president…. underscores once again the inner fragility of the saffron party.” Pointing out that Rajnath Singh “was always the second string in the Hindutva parent body’s bow” the paper said “suggesting his name for the party presidentship has been a “clever move” to avoid “blood-letting.” That, said the paper, is “good from the point of view of a national party.”
In conclusion the paper said that “if the new BJP chief reads the party factions right in his new innings as leader, he could finesse some of the incipient opposition.” “All in all” said the paper, it is “a tricky situation”.
The Telegraph (January 24) said that there are two things to be noted: One, is the influence that the RSS continues to exert over what can only be described as political affairs and the other is that the fissures that exist within the BJP, considering that it is not as united as appearances would suggest. “Like any other family, the Sangh Parivar is not free of its internal tensions, some of them unnecessary and unbecoming.” As for Nitin Gadkari, said the paper, that he could no longer continue as president “was a foregone conclusion” and “the mantle of the presidency thus had to fall on Mr Singh in the absence of any serious and credible contenders.” LK Advani is supposed to have said that he was “happy” with Gadkari’s exit but not “thrilled about Rajnath Singh’s appointment.” The general belief is that it was Advani who worked for the ultimate exit of Gadkari.
DNA ( January 24) had an article by Parsa Venkatesh Rao Jr that said that “Modi will hit the first road block with Rajnath Singh because he stands taller than the latter because he is a successful Chief Minister. Rao however said that despite these differences, Modi and Rajnath Singh, it should be possible for the two war horses with different experiences to work together.”
The Telegraph (January 25) has quoted Rajnath Singh as saying that he would fight the battle in the “streets and Parliament” against the “saffron terror” remark of Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, taking up the cudgels on behalf of the RSS that swung the job for him and gifted him for a second stint as BJP chief. It is significant that on January 24, S Gurumurthy, the well-known commentator on political and economic issues wrote a damning piece in The New Indian Express exposing Shinde’s ‘lies’. It is clear that Shinde has to go and there can be no two views on it.
Actually, The Times of India (January 22) demanded that Shinde must come clean about the ‘Hindu terrorism’ tag before it spirals out of control. Writing in The New Indian Express (January 26) Balbir Punj asked whether Shinde is batting for Pakistan! Before the matter gets totally out of control and the next parliamentary session becomes an area of fight, it would be better for Dr Manmohan Singh, if not Sonia Gandhi herself, demands Shinde’s resignation for peace to prevail. How come that a Home Minister could not access facts when Gurumurthy did with such éclat remains a mystery.
As The Times of India put it, people in public life and especially those who hold responsible positions in government need to chose their words with circumspection. The BJP has no choice left now: it must stand up and fight to the finish.