Monday, June 10, 2013

Succession at BJP

Narendra Modi's appointment as head of the poll committee of the BJP, which could be a prelude to his being projected as candidate for the post of PM, is a tribute to the working of grassroots democracy in India. It is said that the RSS backed his candidature. Maybe, but this in itself would not have been adequate to deal with opposition from the stalwarts of the party, such as Advani (and, if reports are to be believed, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Uma Bharti).

BJP President Rajnath Singh and other senior leaders found it impossible, at the end of the day, to ignore the groundswell of support from the party cadres. It is a tribute to the working of Indian democracy that these voices from below can make themselves heard.

This is not the first time that this has happened in the case of Modi. Following the Gujarat riots in 2002, then PM Vajpayee was under tremendous pressure from various quarters to send Modi packing. His own instincts were in favour of such a move. And yet Vajpayee could not act, again because it would have meant displeasing the rank and file of the party. This is the assertion of inner-party democracy and, whatever reservations people may have about the outcome, it is a phenomenon that deserves respect.

Can Modi bring it off for the BJP? His critics say he is a divisive figure and that he will scare away potential political partners. His track record suggests otherwise. As a boy, he ran away from his family in a village and thereafter proceeded to fend for himself. He comes from a backward caste and lacks the trappings of education as well as family support. In a country where politics is still centred on caste, he has been able to create a coalition of forces that transcends caste barriers and win three consecutive elections. At the national level, he can be expected to similarly make a direct appeal to the masses on the strength of some overriding slogan, say, development or governance. It is more than likely that, as elections approach, other political parties will find it expedient to join hands with the BJP as they see the mood of the people swinging in the BJP's favour.

Note the contrast between the succession process at a political party, such as the BJP, and a reputed corporate such as Infosys. At BJP, the old guard has been brushed aside on grounds of performance and the reins have passed into the hands of a proven achiever. At Infosys, the leading member of the old guard is back in the saddle on the ground that nobody can else is as suited to rescue the company. That is because nothing resembling democracy can be seen in most companies; decision-making is centralised and the wishes of various stakeholders, or even of the majority, go unheard. And politicians are said to be bad at governance; India's companies are said to be models of good governance.

Nature's way is to ruthlessly discard the old and to promote the young. It is ironical that political parties, which are maligned day in and day out for poor governance, are better tuned to the laws of nature than the vaunted heroes of the corporate world

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