Poll Mantra: Modi is BJP and BJP is Modi
By Pratul Sharma - NEW DELHI
Published: 23rd Mar 2014 09:53:44 AM
It’s only Narendra Modi’s word that matters in the BJP. Dejected by the humiliation meted out to him of not being given a ticket for his traditional Barmer seat, Jaswant Singh indicated that he might resign from the party he has represented in Parliament since 1980s. “My honour cannot be subject to trading. There has been encroachment upon the principles and ideologies of the BJP,” he told a TV channel.
ONE-MAN COMMITTEE: Apart from the eclipse of the old guard and their adherents, the preference given to defectors—especially in Uttar Pradesh from the Samajwadi Party and the Congress—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 the reasons for their choice of particular candidates. While the other 18 members including 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. “Very few have noticed that during the selection meetings, Modi is the only holding a tablet to access data and feedback on key constituencies and candidates. Whenever any discussion over names came up, he already has information collected independently on each constituency and candidate at his fingertips. The data is collected through IT volunteers and cadre spread over various constituencies and even surveys conducted,” a senior leader revealed.
TAINTED WELCOME: 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 Modi’s stamp. The posters of Vajpayee and Advani have been replaced by Modi’s in a similar setting for easy recall.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 his pre-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.
OLD GUARD FADES: 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).
THE UP CROSSOVERS: 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. S P Singh Bhagel the nod from Firozabad. S C Gupta will represent Banda. Dharmendra Kashyap who joined BJP last year has been allotted Aonla. Congress crossover Jagadambika Pal was allotted his current constituency Domariyaganj within an hour of his joining the BJP. Interestingly, the BJP even fielded Rashtravadi Communist Party chief Kaushal Kishore from Mohanlalgunj after he took the ideological leap to the right last month. While Hema Malini and former army Chief General V K Singh may not come from other political parties, their nominations from Mathura and Ghaziabad respectively led to protests by disgruntled workers. It’s a season of saffron protests—Haryana BJP general secretary Pradeep Sangwan quit the party and his supporters held a protest in Delhi as the Sonepat ticket was given to Congress defector Ramesh Kaushik.
LOYALTY IS TICKET: It was a foregone conclusion that Delhi BJP president Harsh Vardhan would be nominated for Lok Sabha fight, newbie Meenakshi Lekhi, too, has a got a ticket given her proximity to Modi. Chandigarh candidate Kirron Kher was given preference over three strong local leaders. With her boisterous Punjabi auntie persona, she has been pitching strongly for Modi in TV debates.
Almost considered an untouchable when he started his campaign, Modi has been steadily attracting sitting MPs and smaller parties to rally behind him. Explaining the raison d'etre behind preferring outsiders over natives, a senior leader said, “The message that goes to the public is that there is a Modi wave and leaders from other parties are eager to join him. Moreover, Modi has a point to prove that he is no longer untouchable as was claimed by his opponents.”
Modi-ites in the BJP fear derailment of their leader’s campaign days ahead of the POLLS. Conspiracy theories abound at the party’s head office. “We have to move fast to contain the rebellion which usually happens before elections. The dissidents will be won over or warned to fall in line,” a leader said.
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