Narendra Modi’s extensive and efficient PR machinery has created the impression that there is a “wave” running across the country in his support. Well, we’ll have to wait and see if that is true. But in the meantime, while Rajnath Singh and his bosses at RSS push ahead to make Modi the party’s PM candidate, a quick check at the top leadership of the party shows just how much support Modi has.
Take the five seniormost leaders of the party. There is the tallest of them all, Advani. Tallest, because even today, he is the one leader in the party who can unify the entire party. He’s the one – and not Vajpayee- who made the party what it is today, even though by pursuing a Hindutva agenda (read: Babri demolition) that he cannot be too proud of. That’s why partymen still refer to the time gone by as the “Advani-Vajpayee” era. Well, Advani is the biggest opponent of Modi. As per a story breaking now on ndtv.com, Advani has apparently cautioned his party that Modi will be a “disaster” if made the PM nominee.
Take the 2nd seniormost leader of the party, Sushma Swaraj. I am rating her ahead of Arun Jaitley, because she is an “elected” leader, elected by the people directly…..And of course because she is the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha. I am also pitching her way ahead of Rajnath Singh, who everyone knows is a lightweight, a paper-pusher for the RSS. Well, Sushma is clearly opposed to Modi as well, going as far as to say that she wont be able to even perform her duties as the Leader of Opposition.
Both Advani and Sushma Swaraj fancy their chances at becoming the PM in case the BJP/NDA were to get even a half-decent score in 2014. Well, they are right. Both have a better chance of attracting allies, including importantly JD(U), than Modi has. And besides, for Advani, this surely has to be the last time he can take a shot at the top job. Besides, its not as if Advani is in frail health. He is alert physically and mentally, and capable of taking on many younger than him in the party!
Then take Yashwant Sinha, Finance Minister in the NDA government, head of the Standing Committee on Financial matters, and a strong voice in the party. For reasons which look specious (Modi’s appointment will take attention away from Congress’s corruption problmems etc), Yashwant Sinha also doesn’t want Modi’s candidate pre-announced. Why? Is he just being prescient about his party’s prospects if that were to happen, or is he also in the running in the PM’s race?
Then there is Murli Manohar Joshi, the veteran Parliamentarian and the head of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Given his stature in UP, Joshi has to be taken as one of the five seniormost leaders of the party. Given his aggressive Hindutva stand, its surprising he is opposing Modi. But the reason could well be a matter as simple as Modi wanting to contest from Varanasi, Joshi’s constituency. It could also be that Joshi looks at Modi as someone who’s out to usurp his Ayodhya and Babri credentials. Whatever the reason, Joshi is reportedly not keen to have Modi’s elevation announced now.
The only leader from the top five who supports Modi to the hilt is Arun Jaitley. But lets be honest here. Jaitley is a Rajya Sabha member, and whatever one may say, a Rajya Sabha leader has only that much power in the party.
Most of the leaders supporting Modi vociferously are lightweights like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Venkaiah Naidu (the party doesn’t even have a chance in his home state of AP), Nitin Gadkari and the likes. But they really don’t matter politically.
The real support for Modi comes from the RSS. Had it not been for the RSS, there would have been far more visisble opposition to Modi. But once the RSS passes a diktat, its pretty much considered done. We know what the RSS’s ideology is. Aggressive Hindutva, front opposition to the minorities, an exclusivist agenda, a focus on Brahmins and other upper castes, and an urban bias…..fits in perfectly with Modi’s persona.
So Rajnath may well ride roughshod over his seniormost colleagues, at the behest of the RSS, but he runs the risk of splitting the party. Think that’s not possible? Think again. Remember even the Congress, the party unified by a single family as the BJP alleges, has split several times in the past. Whether the party splits or not remains to be seen, but it has to be taken as a possibility. Suddenly, the “galaxy of leaders” that the BJP was so proud of, looks instead like just a bunch of self-serving power brokers. Suddenly the internal competition looks like an internal civil war. A split is eminently possible.
The real truth is that Modi will surely be appointed his party’s PM candidate. And soon at that. But this will be only done to tow the RSS’s line. It’s surely not reflective of the mood of the party….