As veterans shown the door, balance in party tilts Modi way

As veterans shown the door, balance in party tilts Modi way

Completing 100 days in office might bring a sense of achievement in the Narendra Modi government as it does to a batsman who scores a century, but for the BJP it is just the beginning of a long innings.

Amit Shah, newly crowned as party chief, has walked into political turf that would offer sharp turns as well as bounces at the same time.
 At the time of endorsement of his BJP premiership during the national executive early this month, Shah acknowledged that the challenges before the party was mainly two-fold. The immediate test of Shah’s organisational skills and his uncanny ability to pull off successful electoral strategy would be the ensuing assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.

And the long-term objective is “re-capturing” Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and wresting Bihar, Odisha, Arunanchal Pradesh and Meghalaya, whenever elections in these states are held. Countering emerging alliances among parties such as between arch rivals Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar in Bihar that halted repeat of their parliamentary polls performance in assembly byelections. 

Narendra Modi came to power on a sweeping mandate and high expectations. The massive victory helped Modi execute his blueprint in government formation. He enforced the “75-plus age” formula to ease out uncomfortable seniors, including patriarch L K Advani and M M Joshi from the government. 

It helped him to have a complete grip over the party too by installing his close aide since 1980s from Gujarat and eminence grise Amit Shah, still to get out of fake encounter charges. Shah’s baptism happened by fire. Weeks into office, he was greeted with bad news of the party losing all the three assembly seats in bypolls in Uttarakhand, including the ones held by the BJP.

And the latest was the resurgent BJP losing out 4-6 to the “secular alliance” of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress in Bihar byelections which the opposition interpreted as thinning out of the popularity of Modi. The party fared badly in Karnataka too. 

Another round of byelections results that would be interpreted by media and opposition as having a bearing on Shah will be in Uttar Pradesh since the BJP chief is credited with turning the script around since saffron candidates won 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in May under his stewardship as party in-charge for the state.  The September 13 elections to 11 assembly and lone Lok Sabha seat in UP will be crucial since the party’s vote share had jumped to 42 per cent in May elections and due to the fact that 10 out of 11 seats were won by the BJP in the 2012 assembly elections. 

Polls in 4 states key

In the coming assembly elections to four states, recent poll surveys have kept the mood of the party buoyant in Maharashtra and Haryana indicating that it would do well. In Maharashtra, though BJP is contesting in alliance with its old partner Shiv Sena, it has to sort out its seat-sharing formula that is pitched in favour of regional ally. 

In Haryana, it has parted ways with the Haryana Janhit Congress to go it alone but the Jat land may see a repeat of the Bihar experiment of non-NDA partners coming together to checkmate the saffron surge. And, perhaps, for the first time, the Modi and Shah duo will have their eyes set on “mission 44” in J&K (out of total 87 assembly seats). That’s the electoral landscape Shah has to weather out. 

Internally the battle is far from over. Modi and Shah together scripted a young team of BJP office-bearers where more than 60 per cent is around age 50  – which is the age of the youngest president Shah himself.

  The plot subsequently unfolded in retiring first generation troika of indisposed A B Vajpayee, Advani, and Joshi from active politics by dropping them from the highest decision-making parliamentary board. Advani and Joshi are still to publicly react - people do not know whether they have wilfully accepted this decision or it was forced on them. However, some leaders in the party felt that putting them in advisory group or “Margdarshak Mandal”, especially for a leader like Advani, was undoing his contribution to the party.

The party faced another episode of what appears to be a possible rift among the leaders with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh calling it a bluff rumours floating in the corridors of power on Modi ticking him and his son off for the youngster’s supposed inappropriate behaviour. With Singh deciding to publicly denounce the rumour-mongering that reportedly emanated from another minister, coerced PMO and BJP president Shah to condemn it and vouch for Singh’s integrity.

Intriguingly, there appears to be a concerted effort to peddle gossip and embarrass other ministers. At the receiving end, more directly was Union Transport minister Nitin Gadkari whose house was reportedly bugged.