Arun Jaitley’s enemies are out to scuttle his projection as a PM probable ahead of 2014 polls. His detractors in the BJP and the RSS have seized upon a WikiLeaks disclosure of US diplomatic cables, which was accessed by The Hindu, that he did not think much of Hindutva — other than being an “opportunistic” issue for the saffron party in times of elections.
The cables had quoted Jaitely as telling Robert Blake, then Charge d Affaires at the US embassy in New Delhi, as saying that the Hindutva was an issue to woo voters—and not a serious obsession with his party.
Jaitley’s assertion was no surprise because of the disenchantment in the BJP over the issue since they lost the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. Many BJP candidates had, in fact, blamed the shrill campaign by Varun Gandhi and other leaders on Hindutva for their defeat—as it pushed many Muslim voters enbloc to back the Congress.
In fact, in June 2009 after despair gripped the BJP following the results, Jaitely wrote a newspaper article calling for a debate within the BJP on fine tuning its ideological position and presenting a modernist face for its re-invention.
Now, Jaitley’s enemies think that he should not be let off the hook now. They have mounted a silent campaign in the RSS for action against him in the near future– though he has officially denied that he ever used the word “opportunistic” to describe the BJP’s ideological quotient to the US diplomat six years ago.
A known-Jaitley baiter, S Gurumurthy, is said to have written a letter to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, asking how could a senior leader like Jaitley be so causal about the core belief of the BJP and the Sangh. And whether he was worthy of the position he held in the BJP and before the eyes of the Sangh’s top brass.
Other Sangh functionaries who have never liked Jaitely have also joined hands. They are wondering sufficiently loud as to how the the Sangh could condone or allow such a remark when it had acted against L K Advani for his pro-Jinnah remarks made during a visit to Pakistan. That remark cost Advani his job as BJP chief.
Interestingly, Gurumurthy and Jaitley were once friends — because of their common association with Indian Express founder and proprietor Ramnath Goenka and their crusade against Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
Subsequently, they fell out when Jaitley became industry minister in the Vajpayee government and rubbished Gurumurthy’s swadeshi ideas.
A month ago, Jaitley targeted Gurumurthy, dubbing him as the Shankaracharya of Mylapore, for “misleading” Advani on the issue of black money.
Advani had to apologise to Congress president Sonia Gandhi after she strongly objected to him in writing about references to her as holder of foreign bank accounts in a report authored by Gurumurthy.
Jaitley’s predicament in the wake of WikiLeaks disclosure is being relished by Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and his bitter rival, former BJP president Rajnath Singh.
Swaraj and Rajnath Singh see Jaitley as a huge stumbling block to their rise as undisputed leaders.
Though they are maintaining a careful silence, their backers in the BJP want to kick start a whisper campaign, which can eventually force the RSS to seek his removal from the post of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha. They want to install Venkaiah Naidu in his place.
That way, they think that they would be able scuttle his bid for the top slot as BJP prime minister candidate ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
Till date, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, however, has refused to play into the hands of Jaitley’s detractors and backed him to the hilt. He says he cannot believe Jaitley would have ever said such a thing. But many BJP insiders believe “ooportunistic” could not have been invented by the US diplomat, who was only transmitting to his bosses in Washington about his interaction with the senior BJP leader.