BJP’s Hindutva poster boy and Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi is smiling at the moment. And he has obvious reasons to be happy. Saffron brigade’s beleaguered president Nitin Gadkari, considered to be RSS’ appointee to counter Modi, is cornered and his days as party chief appear to be numbered.
As it is famously said ‘one person’s loss is another person’s gain,’ the firebrand leader of Gujarat is likely to gain the most from the Gadkari controversy, which is a blessing in disguise for him. Modi is aware that Gadkari might have got a temporary reprieve due to the RSS’ intervention, a second term for him, which was almost given to him on a platter till he got embroiled in a controversy over his business dealings, now appears to be a distant dream.
The gradual weakening and the possible exit of Gadkari will certainly strengthen Modi’s stature and his clout within the party. For many, Modi might be busy campaigning in his home state, with an aim to deliver Gujarat for the third time to BJP, he is said to be closely monitoring the developments in the national capital.
Despite public posturing by the two leaders, both Modi and Gadkari have not been on good terms ever since the Sanjay Joshi episode. Joshi, believed to be a Gadkari confidant, was forced to resign from the BJP National Executive sometimes back, apparently under pressure from Modi in the backdrop of a poster war between the two.
That was the second time when Gadkari used his influence and brought Joshi, his key man, into the National Executive ahead of the UP polls. However, Joshi’s faceoff with Modi led to his dramatic ouster and Gadkari had to painfully accept his resignation. Modi and Joshi had worked together in the state unit since 1988 but fell apart in 1998 when the hardline leader wanted to return to Gujarat but faced opposition from others, including Joshi.
Inarguably, the Gadkari episode has brought the internal feud of the party to the fore, triggering a bitter war of succession, and divided the BJP into two camps. There are some leaders who have thrown their weight behind Gadkari, believing that it will arrest Modi`s ascension to the national stage.
However, there is another camp of front-row leaders, which wants Gadkari to be sacked at the earliest even before his term expires in December - a prospect that was shot down by the BJP core group at the behest of the RSS.
Interestingly, those who are opposing Gadkari want to position themselves as his likely successor, and thus seize control of the party by allocating important portfolios among themselves.
It may not be totally wrong to perceive that in the backdrop of the Gadkari row, leaders like Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and even Shatrughan Sinha want to throw themselves as front-runners for the top job and they may not have anything to do with Modi.
But whatever one says, Gujarat’s ferocious leader is undeniably at the centre of this high-octane churning inside the saffron party. With celestial omens clearly in his favour, Modi is set to comfortably retain power in Gujarat - a victory that will force the BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS, to reward him by making him the official candidate for prime minister’s post in the 2014 General Elections.
He is currently seen by many as the tallest of BJP`s `gen-next` leaders and thus the biggest contender for the party president’s job, but he would not like to stake claim to it till the time he delivers Gujarat to the party, again.
Hence, he would not like Gadkari to be fired or asked to leave till the Assembly Elections are over in Gujarat. Modi’s ambition to become the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP is no longer a secret and he is nurturing it carefully.
Modi, who is also a good orator, is said to be very close to Arun Jaitley, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and may propose his name for the party president’s post. For those close to Modi, including BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalni, the time is opportune for them to sharpen attack on Gadkari for his irresponsible statements and the controversies, involving him.
The Modi camp is also irked at Gadkari’s bizarre comparison of Swami Vivekananda and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s IQ levels. Gadkari’s loose talk has embarrassed Modi, who had kicked off his election campaign with a month-long Vivekananda Yatra across Gujarat in September.
The firebrand Hindutva leader also regularly tweets motivational quotes from Swami Vivekanada’s writings and speeches. Despite the RSS breather - not to remove Gadkari "as the result of any sort of conspiracy" - it is highly unlikely that it will endorse him for a second term as the BJP chief. Under these circumstances, Modi’s influence and stature as a mass leader, which no BJP leader can match at the moment, will rise giving him a bigger say in the party affairs.
He just needs to remain calm, focused, quell the dissidence against him within the party and outside and seek the blessings of the Sangh Parivar to fulfill his bigger goal of becoming the PM - something which has eluded party veteran LK Advani. Yet, Modi can relax as he is all set for a hat-trick in Gujarat, if the pre-poll predictions are to be believed, although a worried Congress is determined to knock him out of power this time.