Why is Narendra Modi in such a tearing hurry?
‘Beware of endeavouring to become a great man in a hurry...’— Benjamin Disraeli.
There is no doubt within the Bharatiya Janata Party, the extended sangh parivar and outside: Narendra Modi will be the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
This has been clear since the party’s Goa conclave a few months ago where he was declared chairman of the party’s campaign committee for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Why then the agonising over the timing of the official declaration? Why the public spectacle?
Is it that party leaders opposed to Modi’s elevation to the number one party position are buying time, postponing the inevitable signal of their own reduced importance? Why is Modi in a hurry even at the cost of party divisions on his candidature coming out into the open? Why is it he has himself not suggested his prime ministerial candidature be postponed till after the Assembly elections if that will buy unity and peace in the party? Will and early announcement, which seems likely, make much difference to the BJP’s poll prospects in 2014?
It is absolutely certain that over the last weekend when the RSS held consultations with its various affiliates preceded by one-on-one meetings between top leaders of the BJP and the RSS, the view that emerged favoured Modi as the undisputed party leader. The differences were more about timing of the official announcement.
The consultations also focused on strategy to maximise BJP Lok Sabha seats in 2014. The current communal situation in Uttar Pradesh should suit the BJP fine. The RSS has also emphasised that the days when its agenda — Ram temple, abrogation of article 370, uniform civil code, protection of cows and so on – could be sacrificed by the BJP on the altar of coalition politics are over.
It must be unabashed Hindutva to the fore, riots et al, allies or no allies. That is the reason not many tears were shed when the Janata Dal (United) decided to walk out of what is left of the National Democratic Alliance, now shrunk to basically two partners, the Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena. And the latter has no problems with Hindutva while it does have reservations about Modi only because of his known proximity to rival MNS headed by Raj Thackeray.
Why is Modi then not trying to keep the party divisions under cover by being more accommodative? The BJP believes – and so does Modi – the electoral lay of the land in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and even Rajasthan favours the party. If the BJP were to win Madhya Pradesh again, Shivraj Singh Chauhan would also be three-time chief minister in a state with three more Lok Sabha seats than Gujarat. Could that open the debate on who should be the BJP’s face in the Lok Sabha elections to follow? This is one factor at play in the charade going on in the main opposition party.
With the state Assembly elections due later this year, five months ahead of the battle for the Lok Sabha, Modi would like to get the credit for the expected BJP victories in these states, although the party’s senior leadership does know very well that whether Chauhan and Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) win or lose in their states, it would be entirely due to their own efforts and record of governance. But clearly Modi supporters want to create the atmosphere in which they can claim the expected wins as the result of Modi magic.
Remember, barring a few sporadic excursions, Modi mostly kept away from the election scene in Karnataka earlier this year. He knew that the party was in a mess and he could make not an iota of difference. Why campaign and then be seen as a loser? For the very same reason Modi was mostly absent from the BJP’s campaign efforts in Uttar Pradesh 2012.
The third factor that has brought into the open differences over Modi in the top echelons of the party is the aggressive, even abusive, style adopted by his supporters. In every party barring none personal rivalries and differences do exist, it is almost the norm.
The BJP is no different. In the past, known differences between Pramod Mahajan and Govind Acharya, even Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani, never spilled on to the streets. The animosity between Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley has never spiralled out of control. But, when Advani failed to turn up at the Goa conclave of the party a few months ago, promptly Modi supporters organised a loud and vicious demonstration outside his residence.
Over the last few weeks, with reports suggesting Swaraj had made common cause with Advani in wanting a formal announcement to wait till after the Assembly elections are over, Modi fans started a ‘Sushma leave BJP’ campaign on Twitter and Facebook. One could argue that Modi possibly cannot control what his fans are saying or doing. But, why was he silent. Did he make any statement – or did he Tweet -- condemning the attack on Advani and later Swaraj? His silence, in fact, was a signal of his approval and encouragement.
Chauhan has apparently also conveyed to the RSS that with 40 state Assembly constituencies with a sizeable minority population in Madhya Pradesh, he would prefer the Modi announcement to be pushed till after the election. His view: the BJP as represented by him is not hated by the minorities, but if Modi were to be projected, it could be different.
Of course, the fear of Modi is so palpable in the party that even Chauhan has denied conveying this to the RSS. Not many have forgotten what happened to the powerful former Gujarat minister Haren Pandya. After serious differences with Modi, he was found murdered while out on a morning walk. The jury on that one is still out. The RSS, of course, is backing Modi all the way as the one who will unfold Hindutva on the national scene, a la Gujarat.