Millennium Post


After the ouster of Ram Jethmalani from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress spokesman Shakil Ahmad was quick to react that it was the first move against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi by the parliamentary board of the party. Is he right or he is just enjoying the infighting of the saffron party? This is an important development when we look at the fact that whenever the issue of the candidature of prime minister of the party comes, the President Rajnath Singh swiftly replies that only the Parliamentary Board of the party can decide about it and the decision would be taken at an appropriate time. In the same vein he speaks that Narendra Modi is the most popular leader of the country. Recently, one of the general secretaries of the party, Thawar Chand Gehlot, declared that while taking the decision on PM candidate, the parliamentary board will take into account the public sentiment. It is no secret what the public sentiment is. All surveys conducted by marketing research agencies and media houses show that Modi is the most popular political leader of India and the second to him is far behind.

Some surveys indicate Rahul Gandhi as the second most popular leader while some conclude Manmohan Singh on the second position. No BJP leader stands anywhere near Modi, as far as public surveys are concerned. Modi may be the most popular leader of the country, but within the BJP he does not command the support of senior national leaders. Many national leaders have their own ambition to become the prime minister of the country, if BJP gets a chance to form the next government. Modi is facing a stiff challenge from his mentor Lal Krishna Advani, who had even saved him from the aftermath of the Godhra riots in Gujarat by  removing the then Vajpayee government.

Advani is the senior most leader of the party. Despite his age, he is physically, psychologically, mentally and emotionally fit to remain active in politics and discharge all his assignments as a leader and administrator. As the senior most leader of the party and also as the architect of the Ram Temple movement, he considers himself a natural choice for the post of the prime minister. He could not become the prime minister, when BJP first formed government in 1996, because of the Hawala case pending against him and also because at that time Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the senior most leader of the party.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also among the most popular leader at that time. But, after his departure from the political scene, Advani considers himself to be the best choice of the party for the top most position in the government, if it is headed by BJP. Advani has the support of some senior leaders as well. In fact many senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitely and Venkaiya Naidu owe their present position in party and politics only because of Advani.

One interesting thing about Ram Jethmalani is that he has been close to both Advani and Modi. Advani and Jethmalani are very old associates. They both entry into politics at the same time in 1977. Both of them have common background and originally hailed from Sindh, which is now in Pakistan. Both were displaced during the partition of India. Jethmalani played the role of Advani’s lawyer in the famous Hawala case. But of late Modi has become his choice man for the candidature of prime minister. Obviously he must have fallen from the grace of Advani.

The composition of the parliamentary board of the party is such that the number of Advani supporters are higher. The board has 12 members and Vajpayee is one of them. Since he is out of the political scene because of his poor health, the effective number is 11. If Modi and Advani together would have stood by Jethmalani, it would have been impossible for the board to expel him. His expulsion only suggests that Jethmalani no longer commands the support of Advani. Modi alone could not have saved him. So he went with the majority view.

Rajnath Singh says that the parliamntary board of the party will take the final call as far as the prime minister candidature is concerned. The parliamentary board consists of many members, who are not known as supporters of Modi. It has five former presidents namely, Vajpayee, Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Venkaiya Naidu and Nitin Gadkari. The present President Rajnath Singh is the 6th one. Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely, are also in the board. Thavar Chand Gehlot, Ram Lal and Anant Kumar are the remaining three members other than Modi himself.

It is obvious that in number count, Modi will face the opposition of the majority whenever his name will come for consideration. The only factor in his favor would be his popularity among the voters as reflected by the surveys. Second factor may be the support he gets from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). But RSS, too, is not said to be very conducive for the Gujarat chief minister. The fact that even RSS is not well disposed in favour of Advani can be his only solace, but politics is not always run by likings and disliking.

We have seen Advani, who was against the continuation of Gadkari as the party president, recommending his name for the post of chairman of the election campaign committee of the party during the Lok Sabha poll. If Gadkari was not fit to head the party before elections, because of corruption charges against him, how can he be fit to head the election campaign committee. It is obvious that Advani is trying to buy peace with the RSS leaders, who are not well oriented towards Modi.

The expulsion of Ram Jethmalani from BJP is significant in the sense that Modi has lost a leader, who was vocal in his support to him. In the past, BJP had allowed Jethmalani to hold his independent opinion and make them public despite it being against the party line. Jethmalani was against Gadkari continuing as the party president. Gadkari no longer holds that post. So what was the need to expel him? Naturally, this decision has something to do with the prime minister candidature and it is definitely against Modi. IPA
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