All the old warhorses have either capitulated to BJP’s champion charioteer Narendra Modi or, like the tearful Jaswant Singh have been put to pasture.
The party’s sullen paterfamilias L K Advani, after throwing a tantrum over standing from Bhopal and embarrassing the leadership, has tamely agreed to go back to Gandhinagar in Modi’s fiefdom, Gujarat. Murli Manohar Joshi vacated his habitual seat Varanasi after kicking up an unholy fuss and proceeded to Kanpur to take on the veteran, well-entrenched Congress minister Sriprakash Jaiswal. Yashwant Sinha was kept on tenterhooks until his son Jayant was cleared from his father’s traditional seat, Hazaribagh in Jharkhand. Feudal lord of Barmer Jaswant was bested by an erstwhile queen who belongs to Modi’s coterie — Rajasthan CM Vasundhararaje Scindia, who preferred turncoat Congress leader Sona Ram Chaudhary who had incidentally lost the 2013 Assembly election to the BJP, as the man to replace the colonel. Angry over the humiliation meted out to him, Jaswant indicated that he might resign from the party he had represented in Parliament since the 1980s. “My honour can’t be subject to trading. There has been encroachment upon the BJP’s principles and ideologies,” he told a TV channel.
One Man Committee
Apart from the eclipse of the old guard, the preference given to defectors — especially in UP — over loyalists is causing unrest in the ranks. The BJP’s formal candidate selection meetings have been on for four weeks. During these occasions, the practice is for the State leaderships to present the names and reasons for their choice of candidates.
While the other 18 members, including seniors like
L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, go by the arguments presented by State leaders, Modi is already in possession of his own feedback. “Few have noticed that during the meetings, Modi is the only one with a tablet to access data and feedback on constituencies and candidates. In any discussion on names, he has information collected independently on each constituency and candidate at his fingertips,” said.
It’s only Narendra Modi’s word that matters in the BJP.
As the BJP next week prepares to unleash its next round of election power and launch a whirlwind of rallies, the plethora of mega promises in its manifesto and vision document would all bear its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s stamp. The posters of A B Vajpayee and L K Advani have been replaced by
Modi’s in a similar setting for easy recall. The BJP has made its own prediction come true: Narendra Modi is BJP, BJP is Narendra Modi. From picking up Aaya Rams who are considered winnable over party loyalists and choreographing the entire poll campaign around him, the Gujarat strongman has tightened his grip overriding all opposition to hispre-eminent position. Loyalties and probity records have been thrown to the wind. The Advani-Sushma Swaraj duo may have cried foul over the inclusion of tainted leaders like B S Yeddyurappa and former BSR Congress chief B Sriramulu, but both have been given tickets, as they openly professed their loyalty to Modi. Yeddyurappa was even able to get his long time aide Shobha Karandlaje a ticket.
Similarly, opportunistic alliances have been formed keeping only realpolitik in mind; Ram Vilas Paswan and RJD’s Ram Kripal Yadav who made their names by touting their secular credentials and opposing Modi were welcomed and given seats of their choice in Bihar, after they professed their loyalty to Modi.
During the recent Advani kerfuffle, the BJP led by Rajnath Singh went into fire-fighting mode, firmly backed by RSS. Party insiders revealed a compromise formula was being tested whether Advani could contest from both Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. However, it was nixed in the bud, as voters may feel that there were two claimants for premiership, since Modi is also contesting from two constituencies.
Advani loyalists Harin Pathak has been replaced by actor Paresh Rawal in Ahmedabad.
Party leaders too keen to switch sides only bracket Advani’s role with empty encomiums. “Advaniji is our tallest leader. We respect him. But the country wants Modi, he generates enthusiasm,” a senior party leader said. If the other senior leaders have been made to stick to their old seats, the current power troika within the party -Rajnath-Modi-Arun Jaitley - have picked up electorally significant seats. Winning an election from political epicentre Lucknow, or in religious cities like Varanasi and Amritsar gives a halo to the win, not associated with cities like Gandhinagar or Vidisha (Sushma Swaraj’s seat).
Two states which could help the 63-year-old former pracharak realise his PM dream are Bihar and UP where the party is expecting to raise its tally to 60-80 seats of 120. The party gave tickets to “winnable” candidates with current or former MPs who have crossed over to the BJP being beneficiaries. In UP, which is considered the most crucial battlefield of 2014, Modi loyalist and strategist Amit Shah built up a network of his own, sidelining Kalraj
Mishra, Lalji Tandon and Surya Pratap Shahi by choosing candidates for various
seats. After Shahi was denied the ticket from Deoria after Mishra was shifted from Kanpur, his supporters went on the rampage and burnt Rajnath’s effigies.
Modi who is contesting from Varanasi is pinning his hopes on these turncoats who have been given tickets in UP. The decision has upset the local cadre threatening to derail BJP’s poll plans. Defectors from Samajwadi Party have been rewarded over loyalists. Brijbhushan Sharan Singh got the Kaiserganj ticket.