Rajnath Moves Right
The BJJP conclave in Panji, Goa had one critical agenda – the declaration of Narendra Modi as their chief of election campaign for the 2014 elections. This was a very clever ploy adopted by the BJP top brass to declare Narendra Modi as their de facto Prime Ministerial candidate. They have had their cake and eaten it too. But the anointment of Narendra Modi as their chief of election campaign was predictably not without drama. The protagonist –in-chief of this drama was none other than their mentor and the man who built the party from scratch – Mr. L.K. Advani. The patriarch of the BJP and the NDA refused to attend the Panji conclave on the first day. Rajnath Singh, the president of the BJP said that Advani was unwell and would attend the conclave on the second day. The man did not show up on the second day either. Narendra Modi was declared chief of the election committee amidst much fanfare and hoopla – Indian style. Some over enthusiastic Modi supporters had in the meanwhile demonstrated in front of Advani’s house much to the embarrassment of the party and Mr. Modi in person. Modi distanced himself from these demonstrations.
The culmination of Modi’e elevation as the chief of election committee was the resignation by Avani from all posts of the BJP. He had refrained from resigning as the Convener of the NDA, which was the clue that the man was not serious about his resignation. Voices from all over, especially from the NDA partners urged the grand old man of Indian politics to take back his resignation. It is believed that when Mr. Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS talked to Advani did he back down. It was needless posturing and definitely an avoidable move. Advani knew the die had been cast and it is Modi time now – the RSS had made it very clear, yet he behaved like a petulant child only to come around later. The RSS had again shown their clout. Not that anyone had any doubts about it.
It is the Congress and their paid media that has played a very comical role in the whole drama that unfolded within the BJP. Congress spokespersons like Renuka Chaudhry and unofficial spokespersons like Digvijay Singh ranted copiously how Advani had been wronged and how ‘communal forces’ had taken over the BJP. Advani was being portrayed as the secular face of the BJP by the Congress. Omar Abdullah tweeted about this unexpected summersault by the media and the Congress. The man who was compared to Sardar Patel and had led Rathyatras was being feted as a martyr by the Congress. It was mischievous of the Congress, as they usually are, but the irony of the situation did not escape many. They would begin by saying that it was the internal matter of the BJP and go on to voice their concern for the way Mr. Advani was being treated! It was chicanery at its best or maybe it’s worst because people could understand Congress’s naughty barbs. It always helps to create schisms in the rival camp, right Mr. Digvijay Singh?
There has been a clamor in the media as regards BJP/NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. Again and again the ‘secular’ media has been asking the BJP leaders as to who would be their PM candidate for 2014 general elections. They refrain from asking the same question to the Congress leaders. Congress has been trying hard to wean away the JD(U) from the NDA. They therefore want the BJP to name Modi as their PM candidate which will then make the position of the JD(U) untenable within the NDA. It is a mischievous question to make life difficult for the BJP and to split the NDA. They have been using other methods too. A magnanimous Rs 15000cr package for Bihar was accepted by the Center. Then they asked for their pound of flesh but the retort they got from Nitish Kumar was that this was Bihar’s right and the Center had done them no favors.
It was the BJP president Rajnath Singh’s resolve that was most surprising. He understood that Modi is the most popular leader in the country as of now. He also knew that Modi at the helm of the campaign trail would be a vote catcher. It was also clear to him that Modi could make some allies uncomfortable. But Rajnath had to take a gamble and take a gamble he did. By anointing Modi as the chief of the campaign committee he has in effect thrown the dice for the 2014 polls. Rajnath Singh reckons that the first challenge for the BJP is to emerge as the single largest party in the 2014 elections. If the BJP can manage to win 30-40 seats more than the Congress, political parties will automatically converge towards the BJP. He knows that getting a complete majority is well nigh impossible, what he is aiming at is to emerge as the single largest party in 2014. That will be a decisive step towards forming the government. He understands that soft Hindutva reduces the BJP as the ‘B’ team of the Congress nullifying any chances of beating the grand old party of Indian politics. He accepts the charisma of Modi and wants to cash in on it, and understandably so. Modi of today is quiet on the lines of Vajpayee of years past, the eloquence perceptible. Rajnath insisted that Modi speak last at the Panji conclave – which was magnanimous on his part.
Rajnath Singh, the wily Thakur from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh is banking on a wave that will be Modi in 2014. The recent sweep by the BJP in the bye elections in Gujarat where they won two parliamentary and four assembly seats by huge margins in constituencies that were traditionally Congress bastions reinforced his conviction that he had to give Modi the charge of leading the campaign. Remarkably and perhaps luckily for him the JD(U) lost the Maharjganj seat to Lalu’s RJD. That gave Lalu a chance to brag and Nitish was forced to explain the defeat. That put the JD(U) on the back foot and gave Modi breathing space while giving Rajnath a chance to justify Modi’s elevation as the chief of the election committee.
While Rajnath Singh must be given credit for the elevation of Modi it would be naïve to believe that it was his decision alone. Clearly the Thakur from Jaunpur had taken a cue from Nagpur and it was the backing of the RSS that gave him the strength to make this decision. Modi’s elevation as the chief of the election committee was a collective decision of the Sangh parivar with such organizations as the VHP and the Bjarang Dal chipping in with their inputs. The elevation of Modi had been decided in principle during the Kumbh at Prayag. Panaji was a culmination of a process that had started almost a year ago. The anti-Modi camp tried hard to deflect the issue and marginalize Modi but the back channel confabulations among the Parviar big-wigs saw Narendra Modi as the clear choice.
Narendra Modi is the face of hard Hindutva. In his speeches he seldom mentions religion, yet the image of the man is one of extreme right. Remarkably, the man who challenged him is not of the secular kind either, but there is a constituency that sees Modi as a hurdle in their larger game plan. Modi mentioned in his speech the constituency that dominates the NAC and those who have been at the forefront against him in Gujarat. These are the people that have hijacked the UPAII not allowing the government to function. The rightist Modi has found support from the Muslims in Gujarat. Rajnath hopes to replicate the Gujarat formula on the national scene. It is true that people tend to vote for the one who they perceive can win – they back the winning candidate. The by-poll sweep by Modi in Gujarat was a testimony to the fact, as was the success of Samajwadi Party in UP and the failure of Yeddyurappa in Karataka where he lost despite being popular just because people did not believe he could win. People do not want to waste votes, so they vote for the one whom they perceive is winning. Modi is riding a wave as of now. Congress’s job is to dispel the notion that Modi is going to be the next PM or that the BJP/NDA is winning anyway. Words will not be enough. they will have to give something tangible to the people. Food Security Bill and MNREGA may not past muster in today’s age of information boom. There is still time, they need to perform. As for Rajnath and the BJP Modi is the answer to Congress misrule. Perhaps rightly so!