Rebellions by popular BJP leaders have proved mutually injurious

Amid a whiff of assertion to the chief minister’s chair by regional party satraps of BJP in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it is pertinent to look at how rebellions by popular leaders of the party played out in the past. Prominent among the names who walked out of the party are Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati and BS Yeddyurappa. While they regretted their decision later on, the party also suffered electorally.

Though the process of appointing Vishnu Deo Sai as chief minister in Chhattisgarh was smooth as Raman Singh, who was touted by some as a claimant to the post as he had served as CM for 15 years, himself willingly performed the role of announcing Sai’s name. He had not fallen out of line even when the party high command had decided not to field his son in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh some dissenting voices may be heard.

Vasundhara Raje, who has served as chief minister of Rajasthan twice in the past, met over 45 newly elected BJP MLAs at her residence last Tuesday. These lawmakers expressed their support to her for the CM post even as the party high command is said to be mulling over appointing a new face. Her son and Jhalawar MP Dushyant Singh had reportedly tried to keep some of her loyal MLAs at a resort. She has a record of trying to have her way despite pressures from the central leadership.

In Madhya Pradesh, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said he is not aspiring for any post and is willing to perform any responsibility entrusted to him. However, he has claimed his Ladli Behna scheme got BJP the 2/3rd majority and is meeting supporters in Chhindwara and other parts of the state, creating an impression that he is keen on a fifth term as CM.

For the record, none of these three leaders has spoken against the party till now. Meanwhile, as expected some of the MPs who contested and won the Vidhan Sabha election are cautiously pitching their candidature for the CM post.

Rebellions in the past
Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh enjoyed huge popularity in the wake of the Babri Mosque demolition of 1992 which led to the dismissal of his government. The Lodh OBC leader’s presence would drive the crowd of supporters into a frenzy those days.

Singh became chief minister for the second time in 1997 but had to step down a couple of years later, reportedly due to his differences with Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He walked out of the party and floated Rashtriya Kranti Party. However, he soon realised it had not made much difference to the cadre-based BJP and returned to the saffron fold in 2004. He was elected MP from Bulandshahr.

He quit BJP again in 2009 before the general elections and joined hands with Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party. Though Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha from Etah as an Independent, he fell out with Yadav as the two realised it was an alliance that was not acceptable to neither Muslims nor Hindutva followers. Congress gained in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from his unlikely partnership and won 21 seats out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh.

Singh returned to the BJP for the third time in 2014 and said it was his wish that his body be folded in the party flag when he dies. Realising his clout among the electorally significant Lodh community, BJP broke its unwritten rule of giving posts to two members of a family. While he became Governor of Rajasthan, his son Rajbir became a Lok Sabha MP and his grandson Sandeep is a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government in UP.

Uma Bharti is another example of a leader rebelling against the BJP and paying dearly for it. She led BJP to an impressive victory in the 2003 Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha elections but had to step down after just eight months and 14 days due to differences with the BJP central leadership. Like Kalyan Singh, she also formed her own party- Bharatiya Janashakti Party in April 2006.

Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti Prahlad Patel who has won the recent Assembly polls from Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh, had quit BJP with Bharti then.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa is another example of a leader who left the BJP, leading to a downfall in his fortunes as well as causing a dent in the BJP’s prospects in the only southern state where it has been in power.

Yeddyurappa had to quit as chief minister in 2011 after the BJP high command insisted he step down in the wake of charges of corruption against him. He left BJP on November 30, 2012 and launched Karnataka Janata Paksh. In the 2013 elections, though KJP won only six seats, it pulled down BJP from 110 seats in 2008 to a mere 40 seats.

Both sides realised they needed each other and Yeddyurappa merged his party with BJP on January 2, 2014 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Though BJP again asked Yeddyurappa to step down as CM in July 2021 and appointed Basavaraj Bommai, the central leadership had to bow to his hold over the crucial Lingayat votes and make his son BY Vijayendra the state unit chief in November, months after losing the Assembly polls.

The exit of Shankersinh Vaghela and Keshubhai Patel also had some impact on BJP’s prospects though the Congress has been in such a weak state in Gujarat that their expulsion from the party did not affect its prospects significantly. Vaghela had formed Rashtriya Janata Party which did not create any ripples.

BJP leaders who enjoy a mass following do cause substantial damage to the party when they move out but they are also like fish out of water once they are on their own. Attempts to float their own party have come a cropper in all cases but BJP has also suffered, albeit in the short term.


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