Modi’s Delhi shift: BJP will fall in line, but timing is uncertain
“Narendra Modi is like an internal Walmart to BJP. Just as the entry of Walmart is feared to be a threat to local kirana shops, Modi’s arrival in Delhi could do the same for many in the party….That notwithstanding, his onward march to Delhi is now unstoppable. The question is when and in what form”, a BJP leader told Firstpostafter all exit polls showed Modi winning a thumping majority in the recently held assembly polls.
If the BJP equals or breaches its performance of 117 seats in 2007, as many exit polls are suggesting, Modi’s position will be even stronger vis-a-vis BJP and the RSS. The results are due on 20 December, but party insiders say even if the actual numbers are lower than 117, it will not make much of a difference to Modi’s future role in national politics. The pressure for Modi comes from the grassroots.
Despite recent media comments on the Modi-RSS relationship, especially over the Sanjay Joshi affair, the Sangh sees Modi as a strong and successful mascot of the Parivar’s ideology.
The victory will take him to Delhi but will the other BJP leaders make space for Modi? PTI
In the recent elections, BJP leaders of all hues spent time campaigning in Gujarat – just as the Gujarat Tourism ad suggests, Kuch din toh gujaro Gujarat mein. This is indicative of widespread acceptance of Modi’s first-among-equals place in the BJP leadership. The same thing happened during last year’s Sadbhavna fasts, where not only BJP leaders, but also some of the allies made their presence felt.
“Gujarat is political tourism. You have to be here if you want to connect with the changing climatic conditions within the party”, another BJP leader said. Those visiting Gujarat as star campaigners or otherwise included Modi’s in-house critics, but nobody took any chances with Modi.
“Modi neither forgets nor forgives”, noted one BJP insider.
As things stand, nobody in the party has any idea about the timing of Modi’s eventual shift from Gandhinagar to Delhi, but there is unanimity that the first changes will be felt in the BJP organisation and administration.
It was not without reason that Modi had turned the state election into a national election, constantly targeting only the three top UPA leaders – Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh andRahul Gandhi. He turned around Congress’s Gujarat election slogan, Disha Bhi Badlo, Dasha Bhi Badlo (Change the path and change the course) to “Congress Ki Dasha, Desh Ki Durdasha” (the Congress’s path is disastrous for the nation).
Some BJP leaders believe that Modi’s thumping victory will make the Congress and its allies, both within and outside, conscious of their potential vulnerability in the next parliamentary elections. They may thus avoid creating a situation where the UPA has to go for an early election. Moreover, since Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi failed to make any impact in Gujarat, and even drew criticism for failing to take on Modi, the party may be wary of setting up the stage for a Modi versus Rahul battle in 2014.
If the anointment of Rahul as future PM is delayed, the BJP too can delay taking a call on its prime ministerial candidate.
The reasoning behind these arguments is that Modi himself would not like to vacate his chief ministerial position in Gandhinagar any time soon, especially if he does not have anything substantive to do in Delhi right now. Moreover, he has promises to fulfil in Gujarat, and make foolproof arrangements for his succession. His journey to achieve his final ambition ofBada Pradhan (Prime Minister), as they say in his home state, will take some time to unfold.
A more important short-term issue is whether Modi’s mandate will impact BJP President Nitin Gandkari’s prospects for remaining in his post. BJP sources says even though Gadkari has been targeted for his Purti shenanigans, he continues to enjoy the unflinching support of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Gadkari’s “re-election” has been delayed by a few weeks. It was to take place by 20 December but this has now been postponed to the third week of January. The official reason is that organisational elections in at least half the total states will have to be completed before the national president can be elected.
Sources say both Gadkari and the RSS brass have indicated that the party president’s position could be vacated for Modi if he is agreeable to holding it. The position of other in-house aspirants to this post is the same. But Modi has not spoken of his preferences yet. Would he want to become party president or he would want to be named as leader and PM candidate and anoint a pliable president of his choice?
A recent organisational change in Madhya Pradesh can provide an interesting parallel for the future at the national level. The BJP’s Madhya Pradesh state unit President Prabhat Jha, who had strong RSS backing, had to make way for Narendra Singh Tomar last Sunday. The argument was that in an election year the party president has to be in alignment with the Chief Minister. The rank and file of the BJP would like to see a similar thing happen at the national level. Modi, after all, has an image and is expected to live by that when he moves to Delhi over the next few months. The Walmart parallel would then come into play in the BJP.