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In bitter turf war with Modi

In this coalition era of Indian politics, some unusual things are going on between JD(U) and BJP, the alliance partners of National Democratic Alliance (NDA). It is true that two alliance partners do not need to agree on all matters, because they are two different parties, but at least it is expected of a partner not to indulge in personal attacks on the leaders of another partner party. But what we are witnessing here is the consistent and persistent attack on Gujarat CM Narendra Modi by JD(U) leaders. Narendra Modi is not an ordinary leader of his party. He is heading a state government for more than 11 years and under his leadership his party has won three state assembly elections in a row.

Moreover, he is the most popular leader of the country as claimed by almost all surveys and his party president has made an almost a daily routine to declare about his popularity. Naturally his party would like to make use of his popularity and would like to protect him from any attack, which is meant to demean him in the eyes of voters. But here we find that Modi is being attacked and his party is not defending him in befitting manner.

The most scathing criticism of Modi was made by Nitish Kumar last week. He not only criticised him for the riots of Gujarat, which had taken place after the Godhara train burning, in which around 70 VHP activists were burnt alive, but almost on all issues consisting of his Gujarat Model of development. After such criticism, the party formally dismissed his utterances, but is still continuing with the alliance of JD(U). On the other hand, despite having harsh opinion about Modi and watching his emergence as the tallest leader of BJP, Nitish Kumar is still continuing with his alliance partners. His ministers are criticising him, but he is still tolerating them in his Council of Ministers. JD(U) leaders, while spiting venom on Modi, are quite confidant that nothing would happen to them and the alliance would continue.

All this raises the doubt that these all wrangling between these two parties might be fixed. It is a known fact that Modi is facing tough competition in his race for prime ministership, if his party comes to power after elections, not withstanding his popularity within and outside his party. L K Advani still nourishes the ambition of becoming the prime minister of the country, though he had been asked to move away from the center stage of the party and give way to other leaders almost four years ago after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. He had heeded the advice then and had nominated Sushma Swaraj as party leader in Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha. At that time he was forced to accept the dictate of RSS and accepted his guardian status in the party.

RSS does not like him yet as demonstrated by the episode related to Nitin Gadkari. In spite of his non acceptability by RSS and BJP workers, Advani has made it amply clear that he has not buried his ambition to become the prime minister of India. To achieve his ambition he is depending on Nitish Kumar and his Dal and at times, he continues to praise Nitish, despite the fact that the Bihar CM and his men are insulting Modi again and again. He never thought it to be his duty to ask Nitish to refrain from criticising a leader of his alliance partner. It has been seen that Advani has praised Nitish the very next day, when Modi was insulted by him.

Does it mean what Nitish is doing is the result of infighting within BJP? Is Nitish confidant that Advani will make it sure that the alliance does not break, no matter how much he criticises Modi? An affirmative answer of this is problematic, because L K Advani is not in a very strong position in his party, though he is the most senior leader and Nitish Kumar knows it well. The catch here is that Advani is not the only other aspirant for the PM post. Rajnath Singh, too, may be expected to harbouring his ambition to become the PM. He has clearly stated that he does not have such ambition and he would be happy to serve the party as its president, but in politics all are for power and position. No one was expecting Rajnath Singh to become the party president for the second time, but he got this post because of the circumstances. If circumstances give him opportunity to become the PM, he would be happy to accept it. So it is in his interest to have the scene within his party and NDA confusing, so that he may be chosen for the post as a consensus candidate. Tussle between Modi and Advani for the PM post and Nitish interference may help him to achieve his undeclared dream.

It is true that Nitish does not like Modi to become prime minister, because it may finish his political life. He is enjoying the present political position because of BJP and the caste politics of Bihar. BJP was unable to solicit the support of caste conscious OBCs of Bihar even after their growing alienation from Lalu, because of its stiff opposition to Mandal recommendations. Many OBCs leaders had deserted it (BJP) during the early years of 1990s. It was forced to promote Nitish to get OBCs votes and defeat Lalu. Nitish took maximum advantage of the inability of BJP to garner support of OBCs, but Modi as PM would end the dependence of BJP on Bihar CM for OBCs votes, because Modi himself hails from an OBC community.

This fear of Nitish is genuine. That is why to prevent the emergence of Modi as the tallest leader of BJP is a matter of life and death for him, but what he is doing is not possible without the firm assurance from within BJP or its mentor RSS. Lalu Yadav thinks that this fixing has happened between RSS and Nitish. According to him, Modi will not be projected as PM candidate and Nitish will take credit for it and it will help the Bihar CM to win away a part of Muslim votes from him (Lalu Yadav). Ram Vilas Paswan is also of the same view. These two leaders are firm in their belief that Nitish cannot afford to loose alliance of BJP. But he is still making a selective attack on his ally and this only gives credence to the view that Nitish is playing a fixed match by attacking his Gujarat counterpart. (IPA)
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