On April 24, a day after he was dropped as the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from the Ladakh Lok Sabha seat, the sitting MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal rallied his supporters in the Union Territory’s capital Leh in a show of strength. Namgyal told reporters that his supporters were shocked and unhappy about the party’s decision to bench him. He also expressed doubts about whether the BJP would be able to retain the seat.

Namgyal is the latest example of a slew of BJP leaders who have openly expressed their displeasure over Lok Sabha nominations. In some cases, the dissent has escalated to rift among rival factions of the party. Ironically, the most striking example is Gujarat – the BJP’s most formidable bastion. Matters escalated to a point where even Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat had to hold meetings in an attempt to quell factionalism.

Political observers told Scroll that such display of dissent was unusual in the BJP. But this was unlikely to hamper the BJP’s electoral prospects, at least in the immediate future.

Not all rosy in the BJP

Leh-based journalist Chewang Rigzin told Scroll that he saw the decision to drop Namgyal coming because of “lobbying within the BJP”.

“He [Namgyal] had become very arrogant after becoming MP,” Rigzin said. “Also, he could neither ensure that Ladakh is included in the Sixth Schedule [of Constitution], nor handle the protests making the demand for Sixth Schedule. So, he was unpopular among both Ladakhis and BJP leaders.”

The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 of the Constitution guarantees some protections for land and nominal autonomy for citizens in designated tribal areas. Many Ladakhi civil society groups are demanding that the provision be implemented in the Union Territory.

Ladakah, though, would be much less of a headache for the BJP as it is having to firefight in its stronghold of Gujarat. So much so that following protests from local leaders, two candidates, Ranjan Bhatt in Vadodara and Bhikhaji Thakor in Sabarkantha, had to withdraw their nominations in March. In Sabarkantha, announcing Shobhna Baraiya, the wife of a former Congress MLA, as the new candidate fueled another round of protests. A local leader even wrote a letter to the central leadership claiming that Baraiya was not a member of the party and the ticket should have been given to a BJP women’s wing member.

In another Gujarat constituency, Amreli, a brawl broke out a few weeks ago between supporters of sitting MP Naran Kachchdiya and the party’s nominee for this elections, Bharat Sutariya.

The BJP is also facing significant outrage from the Kshatriya community over comments made by the party’s Rajkot candidate Parshottam Rupala. In a speech in March, Rupala had said that Kshatriya kings had forged family ties with foreign rulers like the British. In April, Raj Shekhawat of the prominent Kshatriya group Karni Sena resigned from the BJP, criticising the party for failing to take action against Rupala.

Ahmedabad-based journalist Rakesh Shukla told Scroll that many other Kshatriya BJP leaders were also unhappy with the party for not replacing Rupala as a candidate in spite of repeated demands from the community. “But in Gujarat, Modi is the last word.” he said. “After his visits to the state last month, the rumblings within the party across the state have more or less quietened.”

In West Bengal too, Modi had to convince sitting Alipurduar sitting MP John Barla to campaign for this election’s candidate Manoj Tigga. In March, Barla had publicly claimed that he had been denied nomination due to a conspiracy by Tigga and other state leaders. He even refused to share stage with Tigga.

But Modi’s clout has not proved to be enough in all places. In Karnataka, the party’s Bidar candidate Bhagwanth Khuba is facing rebellion from MLAs Sharanu Salagar and Prabhu Chauhan. The two MLAs who represent constituencies that fall under Bidar Lok Sabha, have opposed Khuba’s nomination and have been largely absent from Khuba’s campaigning. In another instance, the party had to nominate Shobha Karandlaje from the Bengaluru North constituency after party workers in her present constituency Udupi-Chikkamagalur held protests.

Elsewhere in the country, at least three more sitting MPs – Unmesh Patil from Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Ajay Kumar Nishad from Muzaffarpur in Bihar and Kunar Hembram, the representative from West Bengal’s Jhargram, have quit the BJP after being denied tickets.

‘A deeper malaise?’

Discontent over ticket distribution during elections is nothing extraordinary, but leaders going to the extent of quitting the BJP or campaigning against the party over that matter was surprising, political observers told Scroll.

“When a party becomes as big as the BJP is now, factions do emerge but that still does not explain why a leader would quit a party that is better placed to win the elections,” said Rahul Verma, a fellow at Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research.

Verma said that at the national level, there was no identifiable trend in the reasons for which dissent could foment within the BJP. “At the local level, a leader could feel insulted or sidelined, but the BJP today is so centralised that at least in the Lok Sabha elections, such leaders would not be able to make any difference.”

Journalist Shukla gave the example of Gujarat which backs Verma’s analysis. “There is a lot of discontent among BJP ground-level workers over the party giving opportunities to those who have defected from the Congress,” Shukla told Scroll. “But the BJP is very confident that it will not impact the elections as everyone will fall in line with what Modi and the central leadership says.”

Journalist and biographer of Modi, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, however, said that it could not be said with certainty that the BJP would not face immediate electoral losses as the reports of infighting were symptomatic of “a deeper malaise” within the party.

Mukhopadhyay said that Modi, like other authoritarian leaders, does not have a great track record of building organisational structure within the party. “It can be seen in how the BJP has made low-key leaders chief ministers in various states,” he told Scroll. “The same was the case in the later stages of [former prime minister] Indira Gandhi’s regime. This creates a void in the party organisation.”

Mukhopadhyay added that the BJP’s organisational strength was limited to ensuring that the voters turn out to vote for the party.

“Several other things need to be done in an organisational network,” he said. “We cannot say whether the mood within the party is as positive as it is being made out to be through the media. If there are worries and anxieties within the party ranks, it could mean that even if the BJP wins the elections, it might get fewer than 303 seats [BJP’s tally in 2019 Lok Sabha polls] and that would dent Modi’s image after setting a target of winning 370 seats.”