Special to Times of Oman
Is BJP on a roll? It would seem so what with a steady influx of celebrities and leaders of all walks of life into the party and the surveys consistently showing a record number of seats for the saffron party in the forthcoming general election.
Congress and other parties like AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) call in question the survey results as they contend that these are paid surveys and hence spurious at best. There may be a kernel of truth in their view but the fact remains that the appointment of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate has, for better or worse, given the party a mighty leg-up.
Congress points to 2004 and 2009 when pretty much all the surveys had predicted a BJP-led government at the centre. On both occasions Congress turned up trumps and formed governments, now known as UPA-I and II.
Be that as it may, BJP seems confident that it will come to power this time around and for that it is cranking up a profusion of tactics prior to the poll. Party mandarins give out the impression that the current dash of leaders of rival parties, famous ex-bureaucrats, celebrity journos and actors to join the party is but a natural scramble to be part of the winning side.
This is true only up to a point. In reality it is part of a strategy, a calibrated move by the saffron think-tank. Nobody knows whether it would boomerang on the party as this has caused disaffection among a swathe of party leaders, not least those who have been denied tickets.
It should be noted that a party bent on haggling to the wire for seats with its potential (at the time of writing this piece) regional allies like the TDP has no reservation in giving tickets to new entrants from rival parties.
If they are not in the reckoning for LS (Lok Sabha) seats, the carrot of RS (Rajya Sabha) seats would be dangled before them.
The party believes that the so-called phenomenon of middle-level leaders climbing on the saffron bandwagon will create a wide-spread impression among the electorate that the magic figure of 272-plus is within reach, after all. The psychological effect of this strategy will also pull in all hesitant small parties into the NDA (National Democratic Party) fold. This is to avoid post-poll alliances as far
The entry of celebrity journalist M.J. Akbar into the saffron family is, without argument, mutually beneficial. Akbar was a Congress MP and its spokesman sometime back. Post-Rajiv Gandhi, however, he was apparently ignored by the party.
He has since been hitting out at Congress overtly and covertly for several years through his widely-read columns. Some people conjecture that he was offered an RS seat and the party's key spokesmanship.
He was squirming with embarrassment the other day when he was asked about it by a TV journalist.
Whatever, Akbar will be an asset to the party, not just because he will be another Muslim face of the party along with Shahnawas Hussain and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. His media skill and powerful writing would also be of enormous advantage to the party.
The main reason he put out for the somersault was nothing but the saffron theme song of development, something which is under a cloud of suspicion, anyway.
The party kicked up a controversy by accepting Sabir Ali, who was expelled from JD (U). However, it was vehemently opposed by the party's vice-president, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, on the plea that Ali has had terror links. He was then dropped with the same speed with which he was welcomed into the party apparently at the bidding of the patriarchal RSS.
The funniest somersault was that of Sonaram Choudhry to become the party's candidate in the Barmer constituency of Rajasthan. Chaudhry may have set his sights on a ministerial berth, who knows. In the bargain, BJP's good old veteran, Jaswant Singh, who had already started his campaign in Barmer was dumped without ceremony. Now he is contesting from Barmer as an independent. He has several sympathisers in the old guard though the Modi brigade would give him a wide berth.
Understandably, he is now crying foul and rubbishing what he termed veneration of Modi. In particular, he points out the 'Na Mo' chants fostered by the party (now withdrawn) as it is only to be used for a Hindu deity. However, his post-rejection vituperation amounts to nothing. He wouldn't have attacked Modi as he did if he were allowed to contest from Barmer.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.