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Millennium Post

Anointment of Narendra Modi

No one can question L K Advani’s contribution to the growth of the BJP from two seats in 1984 to 182 seats in 1999. He should, therefore, had been taken seriously when he stressed that Narendra Modi’s name as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, should be announced after coming assembly elections. In the event of BJP losing in assembly poll or putting up a poor performance, this may have impact on May 2014 Lok Sabha election. Advani does not want to lose when the Congress appears to be sliding down and BJP’s prospects look bright. The BJP’s tallest leader feels that winning the Lok Sabha election is of far more importance than losing or winning few states.  Therefore, picking the prime ministerial candidate before hand is of little importance. Once the BJP gets majority or little short of a majority, the prime ministerial candidate can be chosen by consensus and it could be Modi, he (Advani himself) or anybody else from the elected MPs.

This was the reason that Advani had dug in his heels and refused to dilute his opposition to Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial nominee. The party President, Rajnath Singh, had ultimately his way; having isolated the BJP patriarch, and then bulldozed him. He had met Advani many times, and told him that decision to declare Modi’s candidature had backing of the RSS and it was a closed chapter but Advani insisted that the timing was not right for such an announcement. Advani’s adamant position forced Rajnath to get the party’s Parliamentary Board to endorse Modi’s candidature by a majority vote. Besides Advani, senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi initially opposed Modi but later reluctantly fell in line. Parliamentary Board has 11 members, excluding ailing Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Advani had earlier objected Modi as the saffron party’s choice for the top job on the plea that an announcement now would shift the focus from Congress’s failure to Gujarat chief minister’s controversial persona. Highly placed BJP sources felt a decision on Modi, even in face of resistance, will reflect what has been seen as overwhelming mood of the cadre. Rajnath also met Murli Manohar Joshi, a Parliamentary Board member, who had also argued for announcement to be put off until after the assembly polls. But Joshi finally did not come in the way of majority view. Rajnath’s last-ditch effort to get Advani to relent had stemmed from his anxiety to avoid a growing perception that the party is a divided house. He went on repeating lie after lie to newsmen that there were no differences in the BJP and it was a united house.

However, as the quest for unanimity proved to be elusive, the party chief doggedly went ahead pressing his plan for the big announcement before Modi’s birthday on 17 September. The announcement came on Friday evening. Rajnath Singh has demonstrated that his trail by fire has yielded results and that   he was not a gutless party president but a man who meant business.
Eventually, Modi won and Advani lost. But in a country where political parties are ruled by families and genuine contests for leadership are rare, the squalling within the BJP over Modi’s elevation has been a remarkable event. It is a refreshing departure from the terrible placidness and compliance that generally accompanies the anointment of leaders. It could have been more forthright, but too much of it happened behind closed doors. But even so, Modi versus Advani has been a gripping experience.

Modi is doubtless the most the most polarising figure with a serious prime ministerial claim this country has seen. Conventional wisdom has it that PM aspirants in a country as diverse as India would have to engage with the serious question about his role in 2002 violence in Gujarat, Modi has been an exception here to. Then Modi is an outsider – to the high command in his own party and, in a wider sense, to the national leadership club and arena.

A chief minister of not-so-large, a non-north Indian state, someone who has not held office or position at the centre, and yet forced his way into India-wide contest and imagination. He has done this not in a presidential system, but in a parliamentary one, in which crafting of a wider appeal is fraught with so many obstacles and constraints. He has done it, further, while being accosted every step of the way by fierce criticism and sustained hostility from within his own party and outside it.
Modi will now be tested in elections. But for Advani, this has been an honourable defeat against the man who was once his protégé. By holding up this end of the argument against Modi to the very end, the BJP veteran has shown once again that especially in a country that continues to remake itself through its policies – win or lose – the contest of ideals is important. It must go on.

Modi has his strong and weak points. His strength is unity to theme. Modi stands for uncompromising
Hindutva and business friendly policies. He is also tough on corruption and that has broadened his appeal in the middle-class. Disciplined and hard-working, Modi is a first rate campaigner. Modi’s weakness is that he is feared within his own party. He does not tolerate rivals. Modi also conducts a highly personalised politics that leaves no room for a strong number two; he wants the BJP to be subservient to him. He also frightens minorities. IPA
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