Dissent over seats rattles BJP's poll rath
The BJP's carefully orchestrated election effort seems to be hitting a rough patch closer to the Lok Sabha polls with some senior party leaders not hiding their unhappiness over ticket allocation and one of its allies miffed at its handling of ties.
The latest to express dissent is senior party leader Jaswant Singh who has been denied a ticket from Barmer in Rajasthan.
A former union minister, Jaswant Singh took potshots at the way party affairs were being managed over the past few months.
"The real challenge is between the real BJP and fake BJP. I can't decide it. People will decide," Singh said.
Jaswant Singh's outburst comes soon after a row over a seat for L. K. Advani. The party patriarch made clear his preference for contesting from Bhopal rather than Gandhinagar, the seat decided for him by the party's central election committee.
Advani finally settled for Gandhinagar after persuasion by party leaders including the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Rumblings over tickets has also hit the party in some states amid accusations that "outsiders" had been imposed.
Party candidate and former army chief General V.K. Singh was shown black flags by protesters in Ghaziabad, actor Kirron Kher was greeted with eggs in Chandigarh by a small group of party activists and supporters of Shatrughan Sinha clashed with sections opposing the actor-turned-politician's candidature from Patna Sahib in Bihar.
Party sources admitted that in some constituencies sections of party workers were still not participating in the election campaign of candidates whom they considered to be outsiders.
In Barmer, where some posters of Modi were torn up, the party has given the ticket to former Congress leader Col. Sona Ram. BJP sources admitted that Jaswant Singh could contest as an independent candidate from the seat unless his grievances are addressed.
In Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, there have been reports of a disconnect between sections of the local party workers and the central leadership in places such as Deoria, Baghpat, Fatehpur and Faizabad.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh fired a salvo at the BJP over the party giving tickets to defectors from other parties.
"In a Modi wave why is BJP engineering defections and giving seats to defectors? What happens to BJP loyalists? Modi bigger than BJP and RSS?", Singh tweeted.
BJP's ally Shiv Sena is apparently miffed at Nitin Gadkari meeting Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. The Shiv Sena has now reminded the BJP that the Advani era had not ended in national politics.
BJP sources in Uttar Pradesh said that veteran actor Hema Malini's entry into the poll fray from Mathura has irked the local leaders since there were many other aspirants. They said the party was working to bring around the disgruntled leaders, some of whom have threatened to quit.
A national leader of the BJP, who did not want to be named, admitted that reports on infighting in the party created a bad impression.
"This is a crucial phase for the BJP and we don't want to be portrayed at war... It does affect the image of the party," said the BJP leader.
Asked if it may affect its poll prospects, he said: "We are going strong and I am sure we will overcome these petty conflicts and win the general election".
Member of the BJP's National Committee on Electoral Reforms and political expert G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, however, said the "phenomenon is not limited to BJP" and and called it an "unavoidable trend".
"This issue is not confined to the BJP alone, this is happening in all parties. But since the BJP is seen as the winning party, all are in the race," Rao told IANS.
"The party workers and local leaders who have worked on the ground want to be awarded at such a time. At the same time parties also have leaders who do not necessarily have a seat to fight, but are of utility. Parties want to accommodate them, so such things happen," he said.
He said that any disgruntlement at the local level would not affect the party's overall prospects.
"Maybe on one or two seats, the winning prospects may get affected. But winnability is what parties consider in giving tickets so it may not make a huge dent," he said.
Party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said there was no confusion in the party.
"There is no confusion. All is well within the party," he said.
(Posted on 22-03-2014)