Rasheeda Bhagat

Modi fires first salvo

RASHEEDA BHAGAT | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 28, 2012

Mr Narendra Modi would first have to annihilate competition from within the BJP

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, is too shrewd a politician not to know that all the cues are right for him to take centre-stage now. His decisive style of governance stands out in sharp contrast to the state of affairs in Delhi.

Now that the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, has managed to oust RSS Pracharak, Sanjay Joshi, from the BJP's national executive, and proven to all and sundry within the BJP who the real boss is, the saffron party has taken the first decisive step towards the 2014 general election. In the process, if several egos have been hurt, including those of party president, Nitin Gadkari, patriarch, L. K. Advani, and Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, so be it.

One-time confidante, Sanjay Joshi, had fallen out with the Gujarat strongman for a few years, but being close to Mr Gadkari, he could neither be nudged out nor wished away. But now he's had to step down. In return for this favour, the BJP constitution had to be rewritten, despite frowns from several senior leaders, to give Mr Gadkari a second term as party president. It is another matter that, come 2014, the BJP President wants to make some political space for himself by contesting the Lok Sabha election, most probably from Nagpur.

But, what is of consequence right now is not the future of a political lightweight, but that of a stalwart of the ilk of Mr Modi. Initially, he had kept away from last week's BJP national executive in Mumbai, but the moment the Joshi resignation was announced, he air-dashed to the BJP venue to receive a hero's welcome. Former Karnataka Chief Minister, B. S. Yeddyurappa, was the first to extol Mr Modi's leadership qualities and demand that he be named the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the next general election.

Advani, Sushma sulk

Two other aspirants for the post — Mr Advani and Ms Swaraj — made their displeasure known by skipping the rally after the national executive. But this caused more ripples in the media than at the ground level. BJP enthusiasts in Mumbai, which has a sizeable and influential Gujarati population, made it clear who their hero was at the rally. As several people in the audience chanted: Dekho, dekho kaun aaya, Bharat ka sher aaya (India's tiger is here), Mr Modi was at his vituperative best when he took on the UPA Government at a time when the entire nation is disenchanted with the economic scenario.

The hike in petrol price, the plunging rupee, the tepid economy, the lukewarm business climate and, above all, the sinking confidence in the Manmohan Singh Government, were the perfect backdrop for strong jibes. With eyes blazing, hands flying dramatically, a derisive smile curling his lips, and his trademark, unflinching gaze, engaging the audience, the Gujarat CM thundered: “ Dilli ki sarkar, Nirmal Baba ka darbar.” The reference was to a godman who is being charged with a huge fraud.

He then moved on to launch a blistering attack on the Congress-led UPA. Pointing out that the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defence Minister are from India's oldest party, he said, forget problems like terrorism and the naxalite menace, thanks to the UPA's mismanagement and mega scams, the country was yet again facing the pre-1991 economic situation when it was close to bankruptcy. He reserved some of his harshest words for government bungling resulting in despondency within the Indian Army; worse, it could not procure for the Army the vital arms required for defending the country.

BJP's face saving

On relentless media questions on senior leaders such as Mr Advani and Ms Swaraj staying away from the rally, party spokespersons tied themselves in knots by saying that Mr Advani was not scheduled to address the rally anyway. But they had no tangible excuse to offer, as Ms Swaraj was one of the listed speakers at the rally.

The fact that Mr Modi was clearly the only star at the rally sends out some very strong messages. The strongest one is that he has decided it is time to call the shots publicly within the BJP. The confidence that he showed at the rally, where he easily slipped into his carefully crafted role of being the only saviour of the country from the BJP ranks, spoke volumes about the shape of things to come.

But if Mr Modi is fast replacing Mr Advani as the Loh Purush (Iron man) of India, a la Sardar Patel, there is a reason for this. You may find fault with his arrogance, his total lack of humility and his I-know-best attitude, but what cannot be questioned is his decisive-style of governance in Gujarat, which includes quick decisions at all levels, something that has had Corporate India eating out of Mr Modi's hands. This stands out in sharp contrast to the near-total breakdown of governance in Delhi.

Let's look at the Dilli scenario. Mr Pranab Mukherjee is the front-runner for the Rashtrapati Bhavan from the Congress ranks. The hitherto assertive and articulate Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, is maintaining a low profile with people like Janata Party president, Subramaniam Swamy, pressing corruption charges against him and his family members.

Team Anna is once again getting its ammunition ready to target the government on corruption. But, worse, India is rapidly falling off the investment radar of outsiders, from the impressive heights it had managed to scale barely a couple of years ago. One industrialist after another is coming out in the open to say so, as the rupee, along with the stock market, is in a tailspin.

Mr Modi is too shrewd a politician not to know that all the cues are right for him to take centre-stage now, even as the country, through his smart media managers, is talking about the Gujarat model of governance against the UPA's dismal performance. But before tackling the NDA allies, who will have reservations against him being named the NDA prime ministerial candidate, he has to annihilate competition from within the BJP. What is not being discussed in public, but said openly behind closed doors, is the money required for the polls and who will be able to put it on the table. Looking within the NDA stables, even a political novice can tell you which State can spin up the moolah required.

To use a slightly crude and rustic Hindi expression with multiple connotations — jiski laathi uski bhains (one who has the muscle owns the buffalo) — in the Opposition ranks, it is only Mr Modi who has both the muscle and the moolah, the authority and the public aura, to take a shy at the country's topmost post. He has fired the first salvo and met with roaring success. Of course, this development will send shivers down the spines of allies such as Nitish Kumar. Aage aage dekhtey hain hota hai kya!

> rasheeda@thehindu.co.in and >blfeedback@thehindu.co.in

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on May 28, 2012
null
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor