Millennium Post

New Rambo of BJP wolfpack

When the Shiv Sena speaks sense, it is time to take note. The attention is called for all the more when the abrasive outfit talks of the BJP because it understands its longstanding saffron partner much better than anyone else. The Shiv Sena’s observation, therefore, that while the Narendra Modi era may have started, the L K Advani era has not yet ended is one of the first expressions of unease over the Gujarat strong man’s rising profile.

There have been other voices of dissent, too, over Modi’s functioning such as Sushma Swaraj’s objection to the induction of ‘tainted’ leaders like B S Yeddyurappa and B Sriramulu in the party at Modi’s behest and the pain which she expressed over the denial of the ticket to Jaswant Singh. But, it is the ‘humiliating’ treatment of Advani which, the Shiv Sena thinks, can have ‘serious ramifications’.

Considering how those believed to be close to Advani have been shabbily treated, notably Jaswant Singh and Harin Pathak, who has also been denied a ticket from Ahmedabad East, what these specific targeting emphasises is Modi’s intolerance of critics within the party. While this small-mindedness is known in Gujarat, where Modi has succeeded in marginalising all important leaders like Keshubhai Patel, Suresh Mehta and others, this unsavoury trait is now on display at the national level.

It is evident that Modi is using his clout within the BJP to hit out at those who, he expects, can stand up to him in the coming days. Not surprisingly, Advani is the first to feel the heat considering that the patriarch has been something of a thorn in his flesh from the time he opposed the Gujarat chief minister’s elevation to be the prime ministerial candidate.

Modi realised, of course, that Advani was too senior a leader to be  pushed around like Murli Manohar Joshi and Lalji Tandon, whose status within the organisation comes from their long years of membership rather than any notable contribution. But, by taking his time via the pliant election committee to announce the name of his constituency, Modi let his displeasure be known. As the Shiv Sena has said, ‘someone who nurtured the party … was kept hanging till the last moment’. On his part, Advani, too, was not above playing his own games. Knowing that he is not Modi’s favourite and that the latter can adversely influence the outcome of the Gandhinagar seat in Gujarat from where Advani has won before, the idea that he may contest from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh was floated.

It may be recalled that at the time of Modi’s anointment, Advani had argued that Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s record can be said to be better than Modi’s since the former has raised the development profile of a backward state whereas Modi has only added some gloss to an already advanced province like Gujarat. It is also worth noting that at the time of the assembly elections, Chauhan’s rath yatras in Madhya Pradesh displayed the portraits of all senior BJP leaders except that of Modi. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that if the BJP falls short of the half-way mark in the Lok Sabha and is unable to woo regional parties to its side because of Modi’s anti-minority image, the far moderate Chauhan, who is not averse to wearing the Muslim skull cap, can be the BJP’s nominee for the top post, if not Advani himself.

Considering how Modi has been imposing his writ on the party by evicting octogenarians like Joshi and Lalji Tandon and a relatively young 50-year-old like Navjot Singh Sidhu from their preferred seats, planting camp followers like BJP president Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley in constituencies of their choice and admitting the tainted and the riot-accused, his authoritarian style of functioning is already in full display.

Jaitley and other supporters of Modi are not unaware of this disturbing trait. But, their argument is that in a ‘structured’ party like the BJP, no one can go beyond a point. Besides, it is obvious that if the party is in a position to form a government at the centre, it will be a coalition where no single individual will be able to have his way. The RSS, too, is expected to exert moral pressure as its advice to followers not to chant ‘NaMo, NaMo’ shows.

For the present, however, Modi apparently wants to ensure that he has the party totally in his control. For one, having the entire organisation in his grip is probably the only way he knows how to operate. The attitude is in keeping with the assessment of an American diplomat, as revealed by Wikileaks, that he is ‘insular’ and ‘distrustful’. For another, any dominance of this nature will at least ensure that it will not be easy to dislodge him if the BJP comes to believe that such a step is necessary to attain power.

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