IN THE ELECTION of the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman on Thursday, the Akali Dal of Sukhbir Singh Badal lost rather badly, without even a consolation prize. That's the political result of the joust.
As for the electoral joust, Harivansh Narayan Singh of the Janata Dal (United) who was the NDA's pick, defeated opposition candidate B K Hariprasad of the Congress with a 125-105 votes.
Even at a time when Bihar CM Nitish Kumar was caught up in a storm over the shelter home scandal in which young girl children were molested and a crescendo was on for the resignation of one of his ministers, the BJP could not ignore his grouse.
Nitish was miffed that while he had given full representation to the BJP in his government, the Modi-Amit Shah team had failed to reciprocate it at the Centre.
But Nitish Kumar did not utter a word in public.
On the other hand, Sukhbir Singh Badal and his coterie of Akali leaders went to town, making it clear that they were claimants for the post. Naresh Gujral's name was openly bandied about.
But then, Modi and Amit Shah are politically suave enough to know how much damage potential an ally can have if he is wedded to the idea of unconditional support.
Unlike Shiv Sena, the Akali Dal has been the meekest ally of the BJP. It does not squeak on national issues. It has no stand on national anthem in cinema houses. It has no stand on trussing up innocent citizens on the bonnets of jeeps to be used as human shields. It has no stand on love jihad, ghar vapsi or widespread culture of public lynchings. It basically does not have a stand on anything.
Sukhbir Singh Badal and his coterie of Akali leaders went to town, making it clear that they were claimants for the post. Naresh Gujral's name was openly bandied about.
When not taking a stand becomes your most consistent stand, then you do not get an increment. "Kya karenge, usi tankhah par kaam karenge," said an Akali leader to a friendly reporter on Wednesday in Delhi as he walked out of a book launch event.
Among others present at the event was Naresh Gujral, the Akali Dal MP whose dream of cornering a plum position had been dashed.
But the Akali Dal is hoping against hope, as was clear from Naresh Gujral's observation at the event: "Narendra Modi will change with the times and the BJP must learn to deal with its allies and not to interfere in their turf."
Gaurav Bhatia was the only one from the BJP who was present, and even if someone was repeatedly referring to him as Gautam Bhatia, surely a message was being conveyed.
"It is important that they (the BJP leaders) do not try to get into the allies' territory. The allies must be given their space," Gujral said, and then seemed to lean on the Shiv Sena for some support.
Addressing Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena, who was sitting next to Arun Purie, the editor-in-chief of India Today and chief executive of the India Today Group, Gujral said, "I am sure Shiv Sena will stay with the BJP provided the BJP does not start demanding more seats from them. These are the issues which are going to be very important."
"Narendra Modi will change with the times and the BJP must learn to deal with its allies and not to interfere in their turf.” — Naresh Gujral, 24 hours before RS election.
"This is where a Vajpayee touch is required...I am sure Modi will be the prime minister again and I am sure he will change with the times," Gujral concluded.
While Sanjay Raut said he agreed with what Naresh Gujral has said, the fact is that Shiv Sena's capacity to take the BJP by its neck and give it a rude shake is well known. Already, the Shiv Sena has announced its readiness to fight the elections alone. It is a thought that scares Akali Dal right to their marrow.
After just 48 hours of shadow posturing and the farce of a core committee meeting, Sukhbir Singh Badal rushed to the media not just to say that its three MPs will vote for the NDA candidate for the post of Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, but to add that there was "no question of not supporting the NDA's official candidate." Also, he said there was "no question of abstaining".
"The Akali Dal is standing rock solid with the BJP. It would support any candidate the NDA fields for the post," he said. So this was Sukhbir Singh Badal's complete capitulation: we will support Nitish Kumar's man Harivansh Narayan Singh because you say so. We will support anyone you say. We are saying so even without asking who else it could be.
So while NDA’s pick Harivansh Narayan Singh chose journalism over bank officer’s job, and ended up becoming a politician and now the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the entire episode exposed the Akali Dal as an even weaker ally of the BJP than its weakest, which was Akali Dal itself till before this election.
Rajdeep Sardesai's "Newsman: Tracking India in the Modi Era" would have been a better volume if it also had an annexure of leaders and parties whose motto has always been: "Ussi tankhwa par kaam karenge."
The Akali Dal will stay in the NDA, unconditionally. That's the only condition it knows.
At the book launch event just hours before the Rajya Sabha joust, Gujral said: "The success of the NDA will depend on the kind of a pre-election coalition that they are able to stitch up...on whether they are able to carry along their existing partners and some more."
Mr Gujral can rest assured as his own party is incapable of not being carried along. No one leaves a confused kid lost in the wilderness. Even without a Vajpayee, the BJP is not that heartless, or imbecile. The Akali Dal will stay in the NDA, unconditionally. That's the only condition it knows.
"I am sure we will refuse (to go with the BJP) if they ask us (SAD) even one more seat,” Gujral said. Bravo. How many hours before a clarification is issued by the unconditional leader?
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