While inter-party rivalry is written about much in Indian politics, intra-party not so much! Almost every political party faces a clash in India and it may only get worse in the run up to the 2019 general elections.
First take the case of the BJP. The party secured a clear mandate in the 2014 general elections and since then it has been notching up one Assembly election after another, the latest being Assam. It seems it has no national rival.
However there could be more action within the party than outside it. The reason for this is the introduction of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy into the picture. If Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is the moderate face of the party then Swamy is the extreme side.
That is why Swamy had been kept out of the picture in the past, but no more. I had written about this change in “Has Swamy replaced Jaitley as Modi’s new mukhauta?”
However the change is just one part of the story. The clash is the next. Jaitley and Swamy think poles apart on almost everything and can the two continue without having their paths crossed. Jaitley is the Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha but Swamy has already overshadowed him there.
But the more important thing is that the BJP had put all the contentious issues in the background: Uniform Civil Code, Ram Janmabhoomi, Article 370, the crux of the Kashmir dispute…
Now they are all back in the news. Swamy has taken up all these issues and is discussing them in detail in media forums. The RSS leadership and hardline MPs and leaders in the BJP will rally around Swamy while the moderates will rally around Jaitley.
Then it will be less of a Swamy versus Jaitley kind of thing and more of a hardliner versus moderate kind of battle. And it’s not just hardline issues, but Swamy is taking up a lot of controversial issues like the sacking of RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and the re-opening of the infamous Hashimpura massacre files.
The Congress is no less divided. It took a few years of rebellion for the mantle to pass from Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi. In contrast the power transition from Indira to Rajiv Gandhi was smooth.
Sonia Gandhi came in 1998 and after a few days of turmoil, controlled the party with an iron fist. That way the case of Rahul Gandhi has been quite problematic. We keep hearing rumours of Pappu taking over the Congress and then reports emerge of how the old guard scotched that.
This started right before the 2014 general elections. He seems to have been made party Vice President as a sort of compromise.
But things are getting desperate with each passing day. Congress is losing State after State and its direction too with every passing year. What happens if Sonia gets a conviction in the National Herald case which is not as remote as it once was?
If Pappu takes over then the party (he has already been around for 12 years and most leaders will not accept his leadership) is certain to split. However even if both Sonia and Pappu quit politics, then the old guard will fight each other to oblivion. The Grand Old Party does indeed find itself in a Catch-22 situation!
The Samajwadi Party finds itself in a muddle in Uttar Pradesh. There were already two power centres in the party in the form of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Azam Khan. Then a third was added in the form of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Amar Singh’s re-entry into politics via an SP Rajya Sabha ticket has muddied the waters and Azam openly opposed that. Power is the glue that keeps warring factions together and the SP looks certain to lose in 2017 thanks to lack of governance and goonda raj. If that happens, then the party will be split wide open.
Till 2016, DMK stalwart M Karunanidhi has been the party’s perennial Chief Ministerial candidate. But the party’s loss in the recent elections changes everything. Karunanidhi will turn 97 in 2021 the year elections are held in Tamil Nadu and there’s no way he’ll be the Chief Ministerial candidate.
That puts his son MK Stalin fully in charge. How will he handle the large DMK pariwar of Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi Maran along with MK Kanzimoi, MK Alagiri and A Raja? All of them did not dare challenge Karunanidhi, but that may not be the case with Stalin.
While Jayalalitha looks invincible in the ADMK, what happens if there is a conviction by the Supreme Court this year in her disproportionate assets case? The problem with most Indian parties is that they are by and large one person shows with no clear succession plan.
The same thing will happen to the Trinamool Congress should West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee find herself in the Saradha scam dragnet. Corruption probes are being done left right and centre and many parties could find themselves fighting should the supreme leader suddenly get arrested.
Cracks have opened up in Bihar’s Mahagatbandhan too. Since Jungle Raj is back, the blame game has begun. While JDU MLAs point to RJD, some RJD leaders have pointed out that Nitish Kumar is in charge.
Nitish is gallivanting all across India with an eye to the Prime Minister’s chair in 2019. That is dangerous. He could end up losing Bihar. It is no secret that Lalu Prasad Yadav still wants to be Chief Minister.
He is keeping quite because he has been convicted in the fodder case and is awaiting the Supreme Court’s verdict. A clean chit and he will stake claim. If he goes to jail he may push for his son Tejashwi Yadav to go from Deputy Chief Minister to Chief Minister.
RJD is after all the largest party in the Bihar Assembly and a jailed Lalu has used his wife as a proxy in the Chief Minister’s chair in the past.
The CPM is also facing an identity crisis. It has been virtually wiped out in the Lok Sabha. It faces a decline in the Rajya Sabha. And its biggest blow has come from West Bengal. In the 1952 Assembly elections, the CPI became the main opposition party.
From 1952-2016, for a whopping 64 years, the Left (the CPM broke away from the CPI later on) has either been in power or the main opposition party. That has been broken in 2016. Trinamool Congress is in power, the Congress is the opposition and the CPM third with even the BJP aspiring to topple it in the years to come.
Such a debacle would have split any party down the middle, but the problem is that there is no young leadership that can challenge the fossilised old guard. There is zero chance that Kanhaiya Kumar will do a revolution in India or even JNU in the future.
He could well do one in the Left Front and topple the old guard there! Right now the CPM is only surviving in Kerala and Tripura, but the writing is already on the wall.
The Aam Aadmi Party has been seeing fights from Day 1. You had people like Madhu Bhandari and Captain Gopinath quitting earlier on and Shazia Ilmi later. The most high-profile fight was the ousters of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav.
21 MLAs are facing disqualification over a petition related to them being private secretaries. Many others (including New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal) face cases and are out on bail. Many court verdicts will come by 2019 and it’s anyone’s guess what will be the condition of the AAP at the time of the next general elections.
Every party is riddled with contradictions and it will be interesting to see how their politics play out in the years to come!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here