The return of MLA Pranav Singh ‘Champion’ to the BJP fold in Uttarakhand is an example of the kind of cold-blooded realpolitik that has been associated with Amit Shah’s leadership of the party. It is all about winning elections, which has much to do with caste calculations in India, like it or not. Many among the party’s supporters are embarrassed by the move, because it does seem like compromising on values. Otherwise how does one criticise Uddhav Thackeray’s abandonment of Hindutva in Maharashtra? In defence of the move, the BJP state President, Bansidhar Bhagat, has argued that ‘Champion’ has behaved in exemplary fashion while in exile – supporting the party during local elections, thereby earning an early recall to the fold. The MLA has also apologised profusely and promised to behave in accordance with the party’s principles in the future. Only time will tell whether this ‘habitual offender’ has changed his ways; till then the jury will remain out on the correctness of the act.
The decision on the ‘home-coming’ is also being attributed to a general sense of panic within the party regarding the coming state elections, which in political terms are not so distant. One section claims the alarm bells have been set ringing by the announcement by the Aam Aadmi Party that it would contest all seventy assembly seats in the state. Having failed in Delhi to counter the AAP’s methods, the party is said to be unwilling to leave any loose ends that could be exploited. Haridwar, for instance, is a district that could change its voting profile should someone like ‘Champion’ join AAP. The district has always been a happy hunting ground for ‘out of state’ parties such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Although ‘Champion’ was troublesome, he could not be described as a rebel. The potential for that is more represented by Deshraj Karnwal, the MLA from Jhabreda, whose actions are dictated by political reasons rather than temperamental ones. It is the MLAs who want a greater role for themselves in the government and party that the BJP needs to manage. There has been resentment from the time the present government took office among long time BJP leaders that the ‘Johnny come latelys’ had been given the cream of the ministerial posts. Their noses have been further rubbed in the dirt by keeping three cabinet posts empty. Dealing with that may prove more difficult than handling Champion’s shenanigans.