Nitin Gadkari has finally arrived. The success of the Bharatiya Janata Party rally against rising prices in New Delhi on April 21 has stamped a nod of approval on his acumen and leadership. BJP cadres agree that he has brought a whiff of fresh air into the party. A new life is being injected into the organisation.
Quite an achievement for someone who was being mocked at a couple of months ago with withering smiles and comments like, 'Will he be able to get votes for the party in Bihar or Jharkhand?'
Thousands of workers converging from far-off places like Okha and Port Blair, mingling with activists from Haryana, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, can't be a matter of just collecting heads. It needs inspiration and a call from the heart. They travelled for days in the scorching heat. The participants outnumbered the earlier estimated figures. Gadkari has shaken the confidence of the ruling United Progressive Alliance.
It is extraordinary for someone who till recently was considered a stranger on the national scene and was no more than a regional leader. The headcount at the rally has made sceptics in the BJP accept that Nitin Gadkari has mobilised his team and infused new confidence among the workers.
Politics is but a matter of moral authority and perception. Now is the time where the not-so-easy journey begins. The journey begins with great expectations, hopes and challenges within the party and the country.
With finesse, the organisational restructuring mission needs attention especially in areas where the electoral battle means a lot for the future.
Like Uttar Pradesh which has always been a strong base for the BJP since the days of its parent, the Jan Sangh. It has produced stalwarts like Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Nanaji Deshmukh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Why did the party lose it? Fresh initiatives and a paradigm shift are called for as that is too significant an issue to be taken lightly. Can a ruthless analysis be undertaken keeping the organisational prospects in focus?
UP presents a portrait of regional and petty community-based politics with enormous flow of money in building statues and road show combat as a disenchanted public watch helplessly. Poverty, backwardness, caste-based polity, acute water and power shortages, a hopeless rural economy and an anarchical state where the nexus between the corrupt politician and an equally compromising administration has made life difficult for the common person.
Should it be just a matter of enhancing party prospects or is there some social responsibility too going beyond the immediate gains to provide succour to the masses?
Political parties' ideologies should not be at the stake of their leaders who run organisation as their personal fiefdoms.
The issues of security, public health, education at affordable cost, ensuring water and power supply to the rural and urban populace, and, above all, building confidence in public institutions, have to be taken up at a priority. People are losing faith in political leaders and institutions. Fossilised organisations like the khap panchayats are taking the law in their hands reminding us of the old medieval barbarism while a new India is emerging on the world horizon that is bright and willing to conquer the world.
Is there a connect in these seemingly two ages?
Is there any party trying to capture their imagination and help them spread their wings further?
The communalisation of vote bank politics is another issue, which has a direct bearing on national security and the social fabric. It is only the BJP that speaks out boldly on such points advocating an equality of all Indian citizens before the law.
And to top it all the external threats from neighbouring countries, the Af-Pak geo-political scene and the foreign pressures on governance make the task more formidable for any national leader. The road for the BJP, hence, is not just to increase its organisational prowess north of the Vindhyas immediately and towards the south with new and out of box initiatives, it has also to power a pan-India vision.
India needs new enthusiasm, and a bold youthful energy unburdened with the prejudices of the past that takes Bharat beyond the faultlines of religious bigotry and caste-based discrimination. A tall order? Seemingly impossible? But then who says leaders must have a cakewalk.
Except the Congress and the BJP there are hardly any parties that have a pan-Indian outlook and presence. Ironically the Congress has become shackled in the family-controlled conglomerate so it is the BJP that has to succeed to nurture the roots of parliamentary democracy. It has shown that even a small boy from Nagpur who used to paste posters during elections can become its national president.
Nitin Gadkari's arrival on the national political scene must see new paradigms emerging, hopefully.
Tarun Vijay is also director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi.
Image: Nitin Gadkari with L K Advani and Rajnath Singh at the rally in Delhi on Wednesday.