BJP bets on Modi
The clearly visible ground swell of support for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi sent the BJP top brass into night-long discussions with their RSS mentors to anoint the Gujarat strong man as the chairman of the election campaign committee on Sunday.
The announcement, which came at 2 pm on Sunday, was preceded on the one hand by several rounds of discussion between the BJP leadership and RSS emissaries and on the other with delegates of national executive keeping up the pressure to name Modi as the chairman of campaign committee.
It became apparent on Sunday morning itself that the Gujarat chief minister’s name has been decided for the post as the chant for Modi’s name grew louder and louder over the first two days of the three-day conclave. BJP leaders gave hints in the morning that a much anticipated decision ‘that would please the cadre and the country’ would be announced later in the day.
RSS joint general secretary Suresh Soni, who arrived on Saturday evening in Goa, held night-long deliberations with the BJP leadership on the issue before giving their green signal. While Soni was sent to Goa, RSS general secretary Bhaiiyaji Joshi met BJP leader LK Advani on Sunday to persuade him to accept the decision.
‘I want to give you a significant information,’ said BJP president Rajnath Singh as he delivered his much-awaited address. ‘Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi would be the Chairman of the BJP election campaign committee keeping in mind the challenge of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and to achieve victory in the polls,’ added the BJP president amidst deafening applause. Rajnath Singh added that the decision has been taken on the basis of consensus and that ‘he did not hesitate even once before announcing Modi’s name.’ The national executive thus saw Modi’s stature rising within the party. It also witnessed Advani entering the twilight phase of his political innings. This was the first time that the veteran leader missed a national executive since the inception of the BJP.
Endorsing Modi’s candidature, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said that the Gujarat chief minister was the apt choice as he is the most popular leader within the party and this is what the cadre wanted. The party, which has been plagued by divisions, tried to portray a united front at the time of the announcement with party president Rajnath Singh being flanked by Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, former party presidents M Venkaiah Naidu, Murli Manohar Joshi and Nitin Gadkari and general secretary Ananth Kumar.
Soon after, signs of divisions again surfaced with Sushma Swaraj not attending the party workers’ rally later in the day, despite her name on the list as one of the speakers. As it became clear that Modi was going to have his way, some of his opponents courted the Gujarat leader with much haste. While party vice-president Uma Bharti expressed her support on Saturday, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha did so on Sunday claiming that he was one of the first leaders to demand Modi be given a larger role in the party. Sinha had earlier supported Advani, and clarified that he had done that because of the support of elders.