The election bugle has been sounded by the Bharatiya Janata Party which recently promoted its senior leader Narendra Modi (following a clean sweep in Gujarat elections) to the post of Head of Election Campaign Committee for 2014 polls. The elevation, announced at the Goa National Executive meet in June, made it amply clear that the Gujarat chief minister will probably lead the party in 2014 General Elections.
The stage was set for the next elections but even the sound of poll bugle could not quell the noise of BJP’s infighting that had erupted within the party after Modi was made the poll panel chief. A string of party honchos like LK Advani, Varun Gandhi, Jaswant Singh, Shatrughan Sinha and Uma Bharati expressed their inability to attend the meet in Goa, some citing ill-health, when Modi was anointed for the top post.
These differences kept on cropping up now and then, which also dented BJP’s image.
It is widely considered that a large number of people want to see Modi rise to the post of next prime minister who can deliver growth and development. After almost a decade of UPA’s rule, people of India are now fed-up with the ever-rising inflation, corruption aided by an incompetent government, and want a new party to take over the reins. However, at the same time, there are a few who view Narendra Modi’s ‘model of growth’ with a deep sense of suspicion.
After the BJP’s phenomenal success in Gujarat, all eyes are now on Modi who may be anointed the BJP’s PM candidate in the party’s bid to oust the ruling UPA government in 2014 General Elections. But for this to happen, BJP needs to first win the trust of voters of every section. The point to ponder over here is - will Modi be able to gain votes from every section of the society without the involvement of his party stalwarts? Can a virtually divided team that does not have faith in its path-bearer win the 2014 elections?
Further, the prospects of BJP to win the upcoming polls will become stronger only when the top leadership sits together and does a brainstorming session on some recent incidents which have proved to be a setback for the party.
A day after the BJP appointed Modi to lead it in the next Lok Sabha elections, Advani quit major party posts after accusing most of its leaders of pursuing "personal agendas". However, after Mohan Bhagwat’s (RSS chief) intervention, Advani withdrew his resignation. He accepted the decision of the parliamentary board and stated his continued support to guide the party in national interest. But it was quite evident that the party patriarch, even better the mentor of Modi, was somehow miffed with the sudden ascent of him on the national stage. Advani, of course, is with the party but is he there with his whole heart and soul? No doubt Modi, with his development work in Gujarat, has earned his present position in the party but he should also remember that a true leader is one who is naturally accepted by all without any pressure.
In another loss to the party, the 17-year-old alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (United), which had ended Lalu Prasad Yadav’s reign in Bihar, broke. Nitish Kumar defiantly refused to accept Modi as the probable prime ministerial candidate for 2014 elections.
Following the incident, rather than strengthening his stand within the party and with alliances, without naming the Bihar Chief Minister, Modi said, “There is a 1974-like anti-Congress wave prevailing in the country now. The mandate of the people of Bihar was for NDA. Like then (in 1974), those who betrayed the people`s mandate in Bihar will be taught a lesson.”
This was not the end of the saga of the ‘disagreement’ as recently, while reiterating party patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee`s words, BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha said, "Vajpayee ji used to say that rivals were no problem but the problem for the party was from within."
Sinha was upset, again for the same reason that stalwarts and long serving leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaswant Singh are being sidelined in the process of elevating Narendra Modi in the party.
“Do not sideline party stalwarts; they have been in the party since its formation. You (Narendra Modi) cannot become Prime Minister without their ‘blessings’ and ‘support’,” Sinha said.
But on the very next day, Sinha, a Lok Sabha member from Patna Saheb, clarified and said, “It is wrong to see my statement as anti-Narendra Modi or pro-Modi...It is pro-BJP."
Isn’t it strange that various BJP leaders are first showing displeasure over Modi and then they appear to be falling in line? This clearly indicates that some unknown forces are at work to silence the critics. It is true that Modi has become the most popular leader but can a ‘King’ rule without the trust of his council and courtiers?
Though senior leaders like Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, LK Advani, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi have not expressed their angst publicly, but it is no secret that there is a strong anti-Modi wave within the party. Modi`s detractors have already accused him of being a divisive and communal figure, while within the BJP too there are opponents who may take opportunity out of this ‘acceptance crisis’ period of Modi.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is one amongst them, who is known to be a pro-Advani leader and supposedly thinks himself equally capable as Narendra Modi of becoming the PM candidate of BJP. Chouhan thinks that he had inherited an already under-developed state while Modi had the advantage of getting a developing state.
Recently when Shivraj Singh Chouhan launched his ‘Jan Aashirwad Yatra’ in Madhya Pradesh keeping in view the ensuing Vidhan Sabha polls, which are scheduled to be held by the end of this year, he completely ignored the BJP’s poll panel chief by not carrying a picture of him on the posters put-up during the rally. However, on the contrary, the MP CM has regularly praised senior party leaders like LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj.
However, the very next day Chouhan clarified and called Modi as his elder brother. But one cannot again ignore the ‘acceptance crisis’ of the Gujarat CM within the party.
After the recent divorce with its ally JD(U), BJP in Bihar is also in disarray. Quite a few MLAs have openly revolted against state BJP chief Sushil Modi, who was some time back the deputy CM of the state. Once again, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had to intervene to set the house in order.
With the RSS consistently having to come forward to mediate in the affairs of BJP, it seems that the RSS is controlling the party rather than its own leaders. It’s quite likely now that the party will need the intervention of the RSS to set things right till 2014 elections get over.
Modi might be proclaimed as the front-runner for the post of prime minister in the near future, but till then the RSS will have to be on guard to keep the ‘entire Sangh Parivar’ united and put up a brave fight in 2014.
One could conclude that Narendra Modi’s dream of becoming the prime minister might become very hard to achieve unless he and the BJP find a path to win not only the trust of the voters but also the whole-hearted endorsement of the senior party leaders and the NDA allies.