Rasheeda Bhagat

Modi in makeover mode

RASHEEDA BHAGAT | Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on August 12, 2013

Narendra Modi…Projecting a conciliatory side. - PTI

At the Hyderabad rally, Narendra Modi has made a concerted attempt to take along with him other BJP leaders and expand the National Democratic Alliance.

Gujarat Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prospective prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha polls, Narendra Modi, covered substantial ground during his first major electoral rally in Hyderabad on Sunday. He projected a conciliatory and inclusive side for the first time.

Reportedly, Modi’s Hyderabad meet was planned before the Congress upped the ante and announced the decision to carve out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. Apparently, there was speculation that, at this meet, Modi would have promised the creation of Telangana to attract votes. So, even though he was upstaged by the Congress, an undeterred and confident Modi spoke the language of a potential winner. His central theme, while addressing a huge young and urban audience, was predictable enough — rid the country of the Congress.

Hunt for allies

But in this journey towards the seat of power, it is only too clear that no one party can make it. The single largest party — the Congress or the BJP — will still need seats and allies. So in Telugu land, where N. T. Rama Rao had once woven his magic so effectively, Modi reached out to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the name of NTR, and said it had the huge responsibility of fulfilling its founder’s dreams.

Incidentally, the TDP, which had supported the Vajpayee Government from outside for six years, was later disenchanted with the BJP. Its leader, Chandrababu Naidu, had become increasingly uncomfortable with Modi after the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat and had finally parted company with the NDA in 2004.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalaithaa, who has always been a close friend of Modi, was singled out for praise, and the Congress Government in Andhra Pradesh was advised by the BJP strongman to learn from Jaya’s Government how to create jobs and man them with skilled talent. It must be noted that the AIADMK is not a part of the NDA, nor is it likely to have a pre-poll alliance with the BJP for the general elections. Of course, post-elections, the Party is likely to join either the NDA or the Third Front depending on the results.

But in an obvious dig at Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (United), which recently quit the NDA over Modi’s elevation as the BJP’s poll panel chief, Modi thundered: “Some may come today, some may come tomorrow”. But one thing was certain; the nation had decided to overthrow the corrupt UPA regime.

A team player

Modi also took care of the constant criticism he faces of being a one-man brigade, who can’t take others along with him. So even while hitting out at the Congress for its Food Security Bill, he said that much before the Party’s attempt to ensure food to the poor, Raman Singh, the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, had ensured this in his State.

In an obvious reference to the Congress’ claims of “inclusive growth”, Modi singled out for praise another BJP Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, for introducing the Ladli Laxmi Yojana, a scheme for the girl child. Not only is Chouhan L. K. Advani’s protégé, he is also cited by many who are allergic to Modi as the possible prime ministerial candidate if the NDA comes close to government formation.

At an Id-ul-Fitr celebration in Bhopal, which Chouhan makes it a point to attend every year, the Chief Minister was seen donning a colourful skull cap. Bollywood actor Raza Murad, who shared the space with him, quipped that Modi should take a leaf out of Chouhan’s book and shed his “aversion for skull caps”.

As it often happens, when deliberate attempts are made to point out that Modi isn’t the only “tall leader” of the BJP, on this occasion too, Chouhan had little scope to counter this in any way.

Chouhan, the dark horse?

Incidentally, Chouhan is becoming more active on Twitter with tweets about not only his State’s great development story but other issues as well. For instance, on Monday, by mid-afternoon, he had already clocked four tweets; congratulating the Indian Navy on the induction of INS Vikrant; welcoming Subramaniam Swamy into the BJP fold; remembering Vikram Sarabhai on his birth anniversary; and exhorting MP youth to join him on International Youth Day to “build a greater state, a greater nation”.

Modi faces the constant threat of his MP counterpart emerging as the dark horse, as he is much more acceptable to BJP’s former allies.

Returning to the Hyderabad rally, Modi also took care of placating Advani by praising him for his planned yatra against corruption and black money. Advani had openly revolted against Modi’s elevation as the BJP poll panel chief and now his blessings will be required before the latter can be named the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

Meanwhile, the Congress is pulling out all the stops to upset the BJP’s aspirations, in general, and Modi’s, in particular, to force a change in Government in Delhi. The announcement of a Telangana State was an effort to save Andhra Pradesh, which is slipping out of the party’s grasp. The Congress High Command will do all it can to make a deal with Jagan Reddy who has resigned as MP over the Telangana issue, and bring his party (YSR Congress) back. With the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the YSR Congress back, the Congress has a good chance of repeating the YSR magic/feat of 2009.

The BJP knows that Andhra Pradesh, with its 42 seats, is extremely important, and so does the Congress. Particularly when Uttar Pradesh is likely to shun the latter.

It is now reported that the Congress had indeed played a role in the suspension of the young IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal in UP. Within an hour or two of the demolition of the masjid wall in Kadalpur, the Congress MLA had appeared on the scene, issued press statements and there were plans of some senior leaders descending on the spot from Delhi the next morning. They would have “exposed” the Samajwadi Party’s claim to be a saviour of Muslims, and promised the villagers to fight for their right to worship.

But, apparently, the SP leadership got wind of this and acted at midnight to suspend the IAS officer and reiterate its image as a “champion” of Muslims. Small wonder that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi so touchingly asked the Prime Minister to intervene in this matter!

But in this unholy political war, the career of a young woman has been sacrificed. Against this one case which has been exposed, who knows how many dreams and journeys will end, while our politicians play their dirty games to garner votes?

Responses to Rasheeda.bhagat@thehindu.co.in and blfeedback@thehindu.co.in

Published on August 12, 2013
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