BJP shadow-boxing over Narendra Modi

BJP shadow-boxing  over Narendra Modi

R Jagannathan At Karan Thapar's TV show on CNN-IBN on Friday, senior journalist Vinod Mehta speculated on the possibility of a split in the BJP in...

R Jagannathan At Karan Thapar's TV show on CNN-IBN on Friday, senior journalist Vinod Mehta speculated on the possibility of a split in the BJP in case the Modi groupies bamboozle the party into nominating their leader as chief of the campaign committee for 2014. bjpFrom all accounts, it appears that Narendra Modi will, in fact, be anointed chief of the committee are we are unlikely to see the party splitting. LK Advani may sulk, and people not entirely happy with Modi's rise may feign illness, but the party won't split. All the skullduggery and backroom manoeuvres are intended to give Modi less power than he would like, not to stop him completely. There are several reasons why. Let us look at potential splitters, and why they cannot raise the banner of revolt beyond a point. One group is the party's central leadership � people like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Yashwant Sinha and, of course, Advani himself. Of them, Jaitley will not oppose Modi for his own reasons, though he does not lack ambition. In any Modi administration, he would be a power to reckon with. And if Modi does not make it, he could well be in with a chance for prime ministership, perhaps backed by Modi. Sushma Swaraj would also be disappointed with Modi's rise to near absolute power in the party, but it is unlikely she will leave the party for this reason. She is not a magnet around whom others will congregate. As for Yashwant Sinha, he was the one who first called for Modi's elevation in January and then backtracked. So he is hardly a powerhouse who can attract a following inside the party.
As for Rajnath Singh, he has painted himself into a corner by being friendly to Modi, but he knows that if at all the BJP has to come to power, it must do better in Uttar Pradesh. Modi's induction could change political voting patterns in this most populous state, and Singh, who is from UP, would not want to ruin the chances. In fact, his politics would be better served if Modi heads the party and still fails to make inroads in UP: the loss can be blamed on Modi; the win can be shared. The only real threat of a split could theoretically come from Advani himself � it would be a psychological blow to the party � but he is the one least likely to do it. He may fret, fume, sulk and berate, but he will not leave the party. At age 86, he knows his authority is only moral, not real. In fact, he also has good reason to remain in the party. If the BJP gets, say, around 160 seats and wants to form a government, he could well become an NDA consensus candidate. For this reason alone, it would not make any sense for him to oppose Modi beyond a point. Moreover, he has to stay in the party to have an outside chance of becoming PM � in case the BJP needs allies like Nitish Kumar in 2014. The other group that can split the party � and this group is more important � is the one headed by BJP chief ministers. They are the ones who can split the party at the state level. But will they? Shivraj Singh, Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje face assembly elections before the 2014 general elections. Of the three, Raman Singh and Raje seem to have reasonable equations with Modi, and, in any case, will not want a split before their electoral tests are over. This means they will not oppose Modi right now, even if they are privately wary about his rise. As for Shivraj Singh, he knows he could be a potential candidate for PM in case the BJP falls short of 180-200 seats � which is certainly a possibility. In this scenario, it makes no sense for him to play rebel right now, for he would need everyone's support inside the BJP � including Modi's � if he had to stake a claim post-2014 elections. Shivraj's natural temperament is not confrontational, and for that reason alone he will not play his hand for quite some time. Counter-factually, one should also note that if at all anyone can split the party, and create a viable alternative to the BJP over time, it is Narendra Modi himself. He is the one person who can split the party and probably get around 50 MPs elected in Gujarat and one or two more states, making him the single largest player after the Congress (and possibly the BJP). But Modi also knows his limitations on acceptability outside the BJP. He knows his best chances lie within the BJP and not outside it. He, therefore, will have the lowest stake in splitting the BJP. Three arguments should clinch the argument against the suggestion that the BJP will split due to Modi. One, every BJP leader knows that past splitters have been left on the dungheap. In previous splits � one involving Balraj Madhok, for example � those who left the party for ideological reasons became irrelevant. Two, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has given its blessings to Modi's elevation despite reservations about his independence. This suggests that on pragmatic calculations, the Sangh sees Modi as their best bet for 2014. After two defeats, in 2004 and 2009, the Sangh badly wants to see the BJP in government. This is why it has backed Modi. Three, the fact is nobody � Modi or his rivals in the party � want to see a BJP defeat at a time when the party thinks it is in with a chance. Not after 10 years out of power. The difference is about how the party should win: Modi's backers would want to see the party win over 180 seats, so that Modi has a good chance of becoming PM. His detractors would want the party to win with a lower margin � say 150-160 seats � where their own chances improve. This, ultimately, is what the shadow-boxing is all about. There will be no split after Goa. -- From
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