Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Growing old but not wiser

By Dilip Awasthi

1934, 1936, 1941 and 45 are not the participating models of a vintage car rally. In a world obsessed with youth, these are the entries in the year column of the frontline state BJP leaders.

Like in case of women, never ask the age of a BJP state leader. It will be a waste of time as a truthful answer is unlikely to come. In this age of information, it took a collective effort of three days to figure out the dates of birth of senior BJP state leaders. The reactions in the party office ranged from a confused “but what has happened….?” or a panicky “Is everthing allright?..” to the lame execuse “we don’t maintain such records…”.

At a stage when the Congress is celeberating the rise of 1971 born Rahul Gandhi and even Mulayam Singh Yadav is pinning hopes of his party’s future on his son Akhilesh (1973), who has been made the state party chief , the BJP seems to have run out of young blood in its ranks. Its playing eleven has proved infirm and incapable and the benches in the dugout are empty.

It all starts at the top with 1927 born LK Advani, who certainly would not like tobe referred to as prime minsietr still-in-waiting in 2012. It percolates down to Uttar Pradesh, the state which brought the BJP in political limelight in the late 1990s. The age list of party’s torch-bearers reads Keshari Nath Tripathi (1934), Lalji Tandon (1936), Kalraj Misra (1941), Om Prakash Singh (1945), national president Rajnath Singh and state president Dr Ramapati Ram Tripathi (both 1951) and Vinay Katiyar (both 1959). The list of state-level leaders virtually ends here.

They all are having a slippery relationship with time. Some of them are already puffing and panting. The rest would be knocking 55-60 and will join the superannuated club by 2012 when the state will have Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections together. The party office will be reminiscent of a geriatric ward by then. “An old head doesn’t always mean a wise one”, reflects a BJP well-wisher.

What is sad is that no one in the party seems to admit this. In a stock-talking meeting to analyse the Lok Sabha debacle, the state leaders concluded that the party had increased its voteshare. Just look at the figures to appreciate this audacity. The party could win just 10 seats and polled 17.5%, which is 0.5% more than 2007 Vidhan Sabha elections. They are celebrating this but convieniently choose to forget that the party polled 22.1% in 2004 Lok Sabha elections for a similar number of seats.

The party’s dismal performance is also proved by the fact that only 11 of its candidates finished as runners up and 30 were at number three whereas as many as 32 forfeited their deposit. In 2004 as many as 21 BJP candidates were runners up and 31 finished at number three whereas just 20 lost their security money.

That the party has run out of ideas and young state level leaders is proved by the decisions which it has been taking at crucial junctures. In 1999 when it had to replace towering Kalyan Singh as the chief minister, the best they could manage was 1923 born late Ram Prakash Gupta, who was 76 then. Yet again after the 2007 Vidhan Sabha humiliation when the party wanted to replace Keshari Nath Tripathi (1934) as the state president, the saffron archives could only yield Dr Ramapati Tam Tripathi, a 1951 born homeopathic doctor, who had been an unsung party general secretary for 11 years.

Now again a reshuffle is said to be in offing. In the absence of a second line, how many candles will be on the cake is anyone’s guess.