Advani’s Modi Allergy Might Scuttle BJP’S Poll Chances
The BJP will live if Advani dies! If Advani lives, BJP dies! Though not in good taste this is exactly how these two sentences appeared in the online site, politicsparty.com on the eve of BJP’s three-day national executive meet in Goa. But they exposed the state of the party fragmented by the fierce jockeying among a number of prime minister aspirants, back room plots and intrigues. At the meet most of the 200 delegates demanded that Narendra Modi be declared prime ministerial nominee but the leadership dithered. It was symptomatic of a divided house, of leaders who do not care if the party loses third consecutive chance to regain power!
As general election approaches, the positioning for advantage and jostling for leverage have become fierce. Rival camps are readying for a decisive phase of battle, unconcerned about how much damage it all could cause to the party’s credibility and electability. The case of B.S. Yeddyurappa is an apt instance. The ouster of the most powerful Lingayat leader from the BJP was initially justified on the ground that he was charged with corruption. But before the recent assembly election in Karnataka when it became clear that the BJP would lose because of division of votes, leaders like Uma Bharti and reportedly Modi too suggested that Yeddyurappa should be brought back so that in joint fight, BJP could retain power. But the group close to Advani, it is said opposed the move. The result of that was Karnataka considered a gateway for South for BJP was lost.
The most serious roadblock for Modi is the Advani faction (read Advani). His loyalists have been voicing their demand for him to head the next government if BJP gets enough seats to even stitch together a coalition. Both Sushma Swaraj—herself an aspirant for the prime minister chair—and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh now compared to Atal Behari Vajpayee by Advani had also said when cry for Modi was getting louder that Advani is the tallest leader and a BJP government should be headed by him.
His supporters, Swaraj and Chouhan have conveniently forgotten, apparently for political reasons, that this ‘tallest leader’ while prime minister-nominee in 2009 election brought down the number of MPs to 116 from 138 in the outgoing Lok Sabha. But as said earlier in the anxiety to keep Modi out, his detractors are seemingly quite willing to sacrifice the party. An insider who is unhappy at the recent expulsion of Ram Jethmalani from the party alleged that some central leaders would rather sit in the opposition as they enjoy special treatment under the dispensation of the Congress Party than be denied everything under Modi. These leaders feel that apart from being despotic Modi could go after any and everyone whom he suspects of not being ‘straight’ in their dealings or conduct.
The state of confusion is compounded by various proposals, some outlandish. Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s name was added to the already existing four aspirants for prime minister by Advani. The proposers know very well that Chouhan would hardly garner votes anywhere except his own state. But to reiterate such elements are ready to ruin their party’s chances rather than let Modi run for the top gaddi.
Advani because of RSS’s reluctance to back him for prime minister post, proposed Chouhan’s name. But at the same time he sought to puncture the hype around Modi ranking him lower than Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Chouhan on performance, and went to the extent of comparing the latter with Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Advani reportedly told a BJP workers’ conclave in Gwalior that while Modi chanted continuously as the “most popular” leader of the party had improved the situation in an “economically healthy state”, the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had actually turned around states that were very poor. “I tell Narendrabhai Modi that Gujarat was healthy earlier also (Means under Congress rule). You have made it the best and you deserve congratulations for that. But what Chouhan and the Chhattisgarh chief minister did was wonderful.” He added that Madhya Pradesh was now recognised as a model of development.
Advani most probably intentionally praised Chouhan over achievements that Modi has always claimed for himself so that at the party’s national executive in Goa, where Modi’s supporters were expected to press for him to be projected as the candidate for prime minister, a bit of confusion and doubt could be created.
But what shocks one is the fact that Advani dared compare Chouhan to Vajpayee. He even compared Chouhan’s development record and interpersonal skills with those of Vajpayee, the BJP’s icon and the only BJP leader who acquired the true status of a national leader. “Atal Bihari Vajpayee implemented several developmental schemes including road network but he always remained very humble and was far away from arrogance. Similarly, Chouhan has also formulated a large number of development and welfare schemes like Ladli Laxmi scheme and Mukhya Mantri Teerth Darshan Yojana and implemented them successfully. Despite so many achievements, Chouhan never had any ego. I found Chouhan very humble, like Vajpayee.”
Thank God that Vajpayee is in no position to read Advani’s unique thesis comparing him to Chouhan. Vajpayee was a national leader and BJP depended on him. In contrast, how much is Chouhan known outside MP, what is his contribution to BJP? Vajpayee became an international figure, respected and welcomed. Can Advani put his hand on his heart and say with any degree of sincerity that Chouhan has the ability to be a world leader?
Mercy be that Vajpayee will not know what blasphemy Advani has been committing, only to keep out Modi whom he apparently hates and fears.
Another recent proposal by Advani that Nitin Gadkari be made head of the election campaign committee is also seen as a clever ploy to stop Rajnath Singh, president of BJP, and a few others from choosing Modi as chair of the election campaign committee. Since Gadkari is close to RSS, Advani could hope to come near RSS through Gadkari and persuade it not to back Modi.
But the Central leaders opposed to Modi could face a blast of menacing revelations by the expelled Jethmalani. At 89, he hardly bothers what happens to him but being one of the best criminal lawyers and presently like a bull which has been shown red rag, he has sworn to expose the “undesirable elements” within BJP. He suggested that his expulsion from the party’s primary membership was done because of his campaign against black money.
He is expected to pop out skeletons from the party’s cupboard. Notably he refused to find fault with Modi, who is also part of the BJP’s Parliamentary Board that took the decision to expel him for six years on charges of “breach of discipline”. But in that particular meeting Modi was not present.
Jethamalani describing the action against him as stupidity told a T Channel, “There are undesirable elements in the party, who are out to demolish the party from within. They are in league with the corrupt rulers, whom I want to displace. And the cause of my expulsion is the presence of those undesirable elements in the party. I will not rest content untill I expose them.”
“I have no doubt that they are ashamed of the campaign against black money that I have started… the leadership of this party refused to support me in my demands (regarding repatriation of black money) against the Congress party.” He also said BJP was on a “suicidal course”. “My confidence in the stupidity of these leaders stands confirmed…They are going to lose millions of votes due to this stupid action.”
Such statements surely incensed a few Central leaders. As such also his expulsion was expected. Some time earlier he gate-crashed into a top leaders meeting and accused the leaders sitting there of being soft on the Congress, and reportedly hinting that some were accepting gifts’ and other favours from the government.
Amid all this, Modi has maintained a discreet silence which sources say is upsetting his opponents. But quietly he is moving his pawns. The appointment of his trusted aide Amit Shah as observer in Uttar Pradesh is seen as a clever move by Modi. In case due to negative voting BJP gets a substantial number of seats the credit would not go to Rajnath Singh and make him a strong contender to prime minister’s post but be shared with Amit Shah representative of Modi.
Modi’s strategists have reportedly chalked out plans for 3D projection of his speeches to cover maximum number of rural areas, where Modi is not very well known. He is also reportedly ready to persuade Yeddyurappa to rejoin BJP and fight the general election united with his old party.
The NaMo wave amongst the youth, new middle class of comparatively younger people like executives, cadres and some state units like that of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has kept Modi ahead of all other aspirants. Advani and his colleagues would hardly matter in the ultimate push. But ultimately it would be RSS call as to who would be BJP’s nominee! One thing is sure if there is too much delay in announcing the name and that of Modi, the fractious party is doomed. But in that event you could go to some select BJP leaders’ homes and find that sweets are being distributed. Of course discreetly!
By Vijay Dutt
(The author is former London-Correspondent, Hindustan Times)