ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Politics : Changes in BJP

of the organisational and cadre support as possible of outfits such as the RSS. So there will be much backward and forward movements and contradictory statements in different contexts and for different audiences. But if the party is to remain a serious contender for political power the direction it has to take is clear. When Bangaru Laxman spoke, immediately after taking over as party president, of the need for the BJP to reach out to the Muslims, this was more than an attempt to allay the fears and reservations of the minority community. It was an effort as much to reassure sections of the majority community for whom the hindutva agenda holds little appeal or interest.

The developments in the BJP in the last few weeks the election of Bangaru Laxman as the party's new president, the first dalit to hold the post, the new president's widely publicised declaration that the party needs to reach out to the Muslim minority and the composition of the party's new roster of vice-presidents and general secretaries with the conspicuous omission of the high profile K N Govindacharya, considered close to the RSS have been interpreted as marking the consolidation of prime minister Vajpayee's hold over the party. This does indeed appear to be the case. Another way of looking at these developments is to see them as a big stride by the BJP to fit itself into the position of a centrist party in the country's political mainstream, filling some of the political space at the national level left vacant by the decline of the Congress. Since this is the direction in which, without a doubt, Vajpayee has been trying to take the party, the two viewpoints are in fact very congruent.

The rapidity with which the BJP has been evolving or Vajpayee's notable success in transforming it, whichever way one wants to put it, also says a good deal about the changes under way in the country's polity as a whole. The decisive end of the Congress's sway over national politics, unlike the one or two brief partial eclipses earlier, has opened up vistas of political growth and power hitherto unavailable to a party such as the BJP. Simultaneously, the emergence and consolidation of smaller parties with limited but resilient support based on regional or caste appeal or both has virtually ruled out any return of single party rule, not to mention hegemony, at the centre and has mandated coalitional politics grounded in compromise and consensus.

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