New Delhi, May 4: Pramod Mahajan’s death and Narendra Modi’s handling of the Vadodara violence, though unrelated events, point towards a central role for the Gujarat chief minister in the BJP.
With Mahajan the fund-raiser and efficient manager no more, the party needs another man of resource at the top. Modi knows his claim is strong and has positioned himself for the job.
“The need for someone like him was never felt so strongly before. It is early days yet, but it is becoming increasingly clearer that the leadership crisis in the party will not get firmly resolved unless he takes command,” a BJP source said.
Although Modi’s handling of the communal clashes in Vadodara ' unlike in 2002, he asked for the army and promised action against rioters ' was almost entirely forced by the Centre’s firm intervention, he has used the occasion to re-assert his newly-acquired credentials as the “development man”.
While the clashes again showed that the minorities can expect little protection from the police and the administration, Modi ensured that he was on air talking peace for a larger audience. His pictures with the injured riot victims, mostly Muslims, and the warning to rioters are of a piece with the statesman-like stance he has struck of late.
Modi had shown the same political deftness last month at the peak of the Narmada crisis. He arrived in Delhi for a meeting of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority with two other BJP chief ministers ' Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chauhan ' and immediately took charge.
While the Congress hemmed and hawed, Modi announced his fast, threatened the Centre with “dire consequences” if they stopped construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam and overnight became the champion of development through big projects.
The only obstacle now to his rise to the BJP’s top is the widespread antipathy he has evoked in Gujarat alone. The violence in Vadodara, sources said, has a lot to do with the desire in the state unit of the BJP and the VHP to expose the truth about his makeover from Hindu Hriday Samrat to development messiah.
BJP workers close to Keshubhai Patel, such as former MLA Nalin Bhat, were said to be involved in the demolition of the dargah that sparked the clashes. Nalin and councillors close to him 'Rakesh Patel, Arvind Patel, Chandrakant Thakkar, Lalit Raj, Harish Shevani and Yogesh Patel ' were with the municipal corporation team when it started the demolition.
But a sign of which way the wind is blowing comes from a statement by Surat MP Kashiram Rana. No friend of Modi’s, he said: “Violence has been put down firmly. The government has acted as it should have.”