Those who have been waiting for the ‘Narendra Modi Vs Rahul Gandhi’ battle may be bewildered by the internal drama unfolding in the BJP. It began with JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar challenging Rahul’s challenger, unleashing a Mexican wave of disapproval for Modi’s credentials to be a PM candidate. By this act, Nitish busted the myth that Modi’s march was beyond challenge and his projection as the ‘counter to Rahul’ a fait accompli for BJP and NDA constituents.
With Shiv Sena warning that a ‘wrong lead horse’ could result in a ‘Mahabharat in NDA,’ the limits of Modi magic – even within NDA – has become public.
Whether Nitish means business, or is merely bargaining, only time will tell, but the JD (U)-Sena stand has helped anti-Modi leaders in BJP. No top BJP leader launched a counter attack on Kumar, leaving the task to spokespersons, even as Yashwant Sinha and Shivraj Singh Chouhan turned nostaligic about LK Advani. By refusing to go beyond hailing Modi’s popularity (and not his PM credentials), party chief Rajnath Singh too advertised the central leadership’s preference for NDA unity and resolve not to force anally to break away.
It’s up to the Modi camp to sustain the tempo now. It believes, the sooner dissenting allies are driven out, and rivals in the party suppressed, the better. The camp’s warning of unleashing ‘groundswell of cadre support for Modi’ on BJP leaders resisting his elevation has to be seen in this context.
For the Modi camp, trying to force the issue, there are three models to choose from: It can take a leaf out of Mao Tse-tung’s tactic of ‘bombarding the headquarters’ during the Cultural Revolution to purge every perceived dissenter/competitor in the Chinese Communist Party. Or, if that is too alien, it may fancy doing to BJP’s organisational leaders what Indira Gandhi did to her Syndicate ! Never mind that she was then a popular PM (unlike BJP’s aspiring PM with an image issue) when she nationalised banks, abolished privy purses and ensured VV Giri’s victory in the presidential polls to crush the Congress Syndicate. Again, if the Indira model is anathema, the Modi camp can ape VS Achuthanandan, who unleashed the ‘cadre rage’ to force the CPM polit bureau to name him the chief ministerial candidate.
The risk here would be to presume that BJP-RSS leaders would cave in. As the Modi camp grows impatient with rivals, an encounter looks inevitable.
Incidentally, Sharad Pawar poseda tricky question: “If you can name a galaxy of capable leaders Modi has developed for Gujarat, it will add to my political knowledge,” Pawar said. Was it Pawar’s style of alerting BJP leaders of how each tall leader in Gujarat BJP – Keshubhai, Kashiram Rana, Suresh Mehta, Zadaphia, Haren Pandya etc – were cut down to size by Modi ?
One can never be sure what the crafty Pawar was driving at. As one of my business associates phews and says, “Modi has become Mungeri, always lives in the non-existant world of fantasy.
Do you also think like this? Or do you think otherwise?
(author writes guest columns in some prominent business journals)