The Siege Within
Can the inner conflicts within the Bharatiya Janata Party prove insurmountable hurdle for Narendra Modi?
BJP Prime Minister nominee Narendra Modi has been criss-crossing the country to campaign for the 2014 general elections. With an amazing stamina and endurance he has been travelling almost daily. Recently he addressed rallies in Manipur, Gauwhati, and then in Chennai, all in one day and the following day again in Chennai and two rallies in Kerala. It takes a man of strong physique and determination to fulfil such strenuous schedules. His time-table is so tight that he would be living off his suitcase. No one else in the contemporary Indian political history has campaigned like him.
Could such taxing time-table have been followed by the aspirants within the BJP of the Prime Minister gaddi and whose avarice has got better of them? They now see in Modi a hostile ogre, who threatens to force them out from power and prominence. They have swept out from their memory both their past bleak record in leading campaigns in earlier elections. Those who have not bothered to introspect and recall that they have always won their Lok Sabha seats through the help of other leaders, do not care to think of it. But these ‘rivals’ are bitter opponents of Modi and his trusted associates, and they believe in the old Hindi saying that if we drown, we will take the others along with us. Can these in a bout of anger, despair and frustration trip Modi, even if it means the defeat of the Party for the third consecutive time?
Many now feel so and we hear discussions at social meets and in drawing rooms theories that Modi would be pushed out of the gaddi, even if BJP secures victory. “Modi can never become Prime Minister. He would not be allowed by seniors and their loyalists within the BJP.” The discussion had, with the evening getting on and with good dry martinis and scotch downed liberally, heated up but as there was a near unanimity among them, it had not turned into fierce arguments. The small but an elite group included ‘intellectuals’, writers, editors, head of a media group, diplomats and their wives or partners. They were guests the other evening at a dinner hosted by an NRI who has been here for some business. The guest of honour was a husband and wife who had flown in the same morning from Europe.
The small talk initially, not surprisingly, veered round to discussing various poll surveys. Most have given a clear lead to NDA, so the question arose as to who would be Prime Minister. Narendra Modi, said some one. A chorus of voices in protest shut up the two who named Modi. The activist lady had got angry, “How do you see Modi as Prime Minister? Do you think Advani (LK), Rajnath Singh (BJP president) or Jaitley (Arun) let it happen? In case, the BJP does not get absolute majority or crosses 200-mark in winning Lok Sabha seats, Advani’s name would be proposed as a candidate who would be acceptable to other parties willing to join in a BJP-led coalition. Most would never agree on Modi. If the RSS does not agree to Advani’s candidature, Rajnath Singh would be Prime Minister. “But, I feel the BJP would not get more than 175 to 185 seats. In that case, Jayalalithaa would be Prime Minister.”
One or two agreed. But the gentleman who had drowned three large pegs of scotch within 40 minutes was garrulously vocal: “I agree that the BJP would not cross 175. In that case, the Congress Party would be the next party to have more seats than the others. It will lead the coalition again.” It was discovered that he was an old loyalist of the Congress and often advised it on strategy. There was near unanimity on his views except some said that Sharad Pawar or Mamata Banerjee could be also-rans.
What is the reality? True, there are reports of inside attempts to sabotage Modi through various stratagem. First, an attempt would be to contest the list of candidates finalised by Modi and to infiltrate with persons who owe loyalty to the old guard. This is why, a source said, the first list of candidates expected on February 9, could not be published. “Bitter wrangling is going-on.” Meanwhile, Modi continues to fulfil his packed schedule for addressing rallies spread over the entire country. The BJP’s UP unit has said the biggest ever rally, of nearly 15 lakh, would be held on March2 at Lucknow. Would such mammoth rallies have any impact on the anti-Modi schemers? Not really. His seniors believe that with a bit of ‘help’ from them, Modi would not get more than 185 seats. Then no party would support Modi so either LK Advani or Rajnath Singh would be Prime Minister.
The question is that whether Modi could be tripped. The present wave which is building up slowly could gather momentum just before elections. There is perceptible polarisation in UP and Bihar. Both Amit Shah in UP and Sushil Kumar Modi, leader of the Bihar BJP unit, have laid firm foundation in UP and Bihar respectively, for voters’ support for BJP. The party is expected to do extremely well in these two states, apart from in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Karnataka, it would recover some of the lost ground with the return of BS Yeddyurappa. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it is likely to win seats which it never did. So the pollsters give clear majority to NDA. The BJP according to surveys could get on its own around 231.
Many others predict around 270. Anything between 230 and 270 would be enough to seal the gaddi of Prime Minister for Modi. His seniors or other baiters would have to swallow their over-powering ambition and wait for another five years. The crucial problem is that Modi is fighting everyone including a powerful element in his own party, the media and the seasoned Modi-baiters for whom anti-Modi activities are a cottage industry with lucrative returns, sans income-tax. But the likes of Bhatts and Teestas have got embroiled in serious criminal charges and could shortly lose all steam to chug on with anti-Modi scheming.
The Congress’ dirty tricks department has tried to pin on him various scandals including an allegation of involvement with a woman. It all failed. Presently, it seems better sense has prevailed on Rahul Gandhi. He has put a stop to too much Modi-baiting. He has realised or made to realise that all attempts to defame or to pin him with some scandals has ricocheted. So for the present one expects a wave for BJP fanned by Modi. Unless there is divine interception, May 2014 could see him anointed as Prime Minister of India.
That will open an unforgettable and historic chapter in political history. Fall of former stalwarts, of the corrupt both in politics and bureaucracy and a new era for the media, security for women through extreme threat of sure punishment, development and job opportunities. Ideas, unlike in the case of Manmohan Singh, would be implemented. That would be a good beginning.
By Vijay Dutt