Slew of corruption cases dented BJP image in 2011

New Delhi: Fight for oneupmanship among the top brass in the BJP and a slew of corruption cases plaguing its governments in Karnataka and Uttarakhand blunted the main Opposition`s attacks in 2011 against the Congress-led dispensation reeling under scams and policy paralysis.

83-year-old L K Advani, with his never-say-quit spirit, threw his hat in the ring one more time when he announced at the end of the Monsoon session of Parliament that he would take out yet another yatra across the country. While the stated aim of the yatra was to take on the UPA government on corruption and black money, sections within the BJP and the RSS felt this was just a red herring and he was trying to project himself as a contender for prime ministerial candidate of the party in the next elections.

It was not surprising then that the 38-day yatra from Sitabdiara in Bihar to the capital could muster only a lukewarm response. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared to be at loggerheads when the latter kept away from the BJP National Executive here. He was said to be sulking over Advani`s initial decision to begin his yatra from Sardar Patel`s hometown of Karamsad in Gujarat.

Advani changed his plans and chose Sitabdiara, the birthplace of socialist leader and hero of the anti-Emergency movement, Jaiprakash Narain. While Advani may be back in the reckoning in BJP, other top leaders also tried to assert themselves in different ways.

Party president Nitin Gadkari re-inducted firebrand Hindutva leader Uma Bharti and former general secretary (organisation) Sanjay Joshi much against the wishes of their bete noires in the BJP.

Modi continued to oppose Joshi`s comeback and this was another reason for him to sulk. The chief minister also tried to reinvent himself by holding sadhbhavana fasts after the Supreme Court gave him relief in one of the 2002 Gujarat riots cases. He is said to be nurturing national ambitions and once the Gujarat elections are over in December 2012, he is likely to move to Delhi to prepare for the 2014 general elections.

Gadkari also showed grit when he prevailed over Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa after he was indicted by the Lokayukta in mining cases. The Lingayat leader, who had managed to stay in the saddle in an earlier land allotment case where he had favoured his sons, had to put in his papers. Later Yeddyurappa was jailed in a corruption case and had to spend a few weeks behind bars.

Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank was forced to resign as Uttarakhand chief minister when the party high command realised that rampant corruption in his government was likely to cost the BJP the forthcoming elections in the state. Gadkari and the top brass brought back B C Khanduri as chief minister. But many feel this may be a case of "too little, too late" though Khanduri has gained popularity with his Lokayukta Bill which brings the chief minister under the ambit of the ombudsman.

All these problems in its camp weakened its attack against the Congress-led UPA government. But BJP did manage to corner the government in Parliament on scams as it floundered in the face of challenges from Team Anna and the Opposition.

The BJP also sought to take credit for the resignation and later arrest of former telecom minister A Raja in the 2G spectrum case, and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi.

Virtual rollback of FDI in retail, embarrassment over failure to get the Lokpal Bill passed, defeating the Bill giving constitutional status to Lokpal, boycott of Home Minister P Chidambaram, were some of the issue on which BJP has been claiming success.

The BJP started the year 2011 on a high note when the government acceded to the Opposition demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the 2G spectrum issue during the Budget session of Parliament.

The party continued to pin-prick the government time and again on the issues of corruption and rising prices. Advani`s yatra against black money did bring the issue to the fore while increase in prices of petro products and essential commodities added fuel to its charge against the government.

The party also claimed that the country was moving towards a more bipolar polity after the Left parties lost power in Kerala and West Bengal. The BJP is now looking at 2012 with hope as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur go to polls.

Elections are due at the end of the year in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh as well. The BJP hopes against hope of retaining power in Uttarakhand and Punjab (with SAD). While Gujarat may be smooth sailing due to Modi, the party is not so hopeful in Himachal Pradesh.

Return of Uma Bharti and two yatras in Uttar Pradesh do not seem to have cut much ice with the voters in the politically significant state. The Congress may edge it to the fourth spot behind the SP and the BSP after it recently announced 4.5 per cent quota for minorities within the OBC share and a huge package for the weaver community.