A calculated risk

The appointment by the BJP of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as chairman of the party’s  campaign committee for the 2014 elections was not unexpected. 

Support for Modi has been increasing in the party and the recent selection of the party’s core team had shown that Modi was the most influential factor in the party now.  Modi has not been named the prime ministerial candidate.  But there is no doubt that he will be the most visible and commanding face of the party before the elections and will be the candidate for the top post if the BJP is placed in a position to claim it after the elections.  However, it was not an easy decision  for the party to take.  A major section of the leadership, including its seniormost leader,  L K Advani,  has staunchly opposed the elevation of Modi.  Advani and some other leaders also stayed away from the national executive meeting  where the decision was taken.

 It cannot be taken for granted that this section will completely accept Modi’s leadership.  But the party leadership  has taken a deliberate  risk by pushing the polarising figure of Modi to the forefront of its electoral plans.  He has alternately projected himself as a development person and a Hindutva leader.  The two images can be used suitably to appeal to different sections of voters.  The ground level support and enthusiasm for Modi in the party  has been overwhelming.  This must have persuaded the leadership to  ignore the opposition  of some leaders and reservations of the RSS leadership about Modi.  There is no doubt that Modi, more than any other leader, will enthuse the party workers in the election campaign.

 But the support of allies in the NDA will be crucial for Modi’s Prime Ministership because the BJP cannot be  expected to win a majority on its own.  Some key allies have already made it clear that Modi is not acceptable to them.  This may be a reason for the party not naming  Modi for the  prime minister’s post.  But it is an important turn for the  BJP now. It is for the first time that the party is going into a crucial political campaign away from the shadow of its founding leaders. And it is the first time a regional leader is making a claim at the national level.  It may mark a new era for the party.

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