BJP chief Rajnath Singh with a pagri at the party office in Delhi on Sunday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Dec. 23: At the BJP headquarters, a voice rose above the din of celebrations. Its been great going under Modi; he should be brought here, an office-bearer was shouting.
Which is exactly why Narendra Modis spectacular win has almost created a feeling of isolation among the partys official central leadership, overpowering its sense of achievement.
Party president Rajnath Singh was quick to claim the victory for the party as a whole, and though he had to give much of the credit to Modi, he cautioned: Nobody is bigger than the party.
Yet, even as the central leaders laboured to insert the BJPs name in the subtext, the realisation that it was Modi who had conceived and crafted the triumph overrode every shade of emotion or opinion expressed.
As evident from the office-bearers shout, the lower ranks who danced and burst crackers at the BJP headquarters wanted the truth to be told aloud: Yes, Modi has done it!
The senior leaders who want Modi restricted to Gujarat might, therefore, have loved to have received less than what the states voters gave to the party.
Modi has grown far bigger than anybody expected him to, even within the saffron family. The parivar didnt toil for the chief minister and some in the BJP, too, were unhappy at the presidential-style campaign that focused on Modi alone.
The Sangh abhors the personality cult although it has had to live with Atal Bihari Vajpayees larger-than-life image. Now it will have to suffer Modi, who isnt only articulate but has shown political shrewdness and administrative acumen, too.
The taint of the 2002 pogrom hasnt diminished his charisma in Gujarat and now he has another opportunity to refurbish his image. It was little wonder then that Rajnath felt compelled to praise the chief minister.
The party president, who represents the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh point of view, said the BJP had shown that the development plank could deliver but conceded that Modi was the partys star campaigner.
L.K. Advani, too, called the win a turning point for the BJP, but acknowledged that Modis single-minded focus on good governance, development, security and fight against corruption were the main reasons for the victory.
Modis win could actually boost Advanis efforts to free the party from the Sanghs iron grip. As he listed the lessons for the polity as a whole from the Gujarat polls, Advanis theme revolved round Modi. He said the chief minister had refuted the belief that good governance does not make for good politics.
Modi has proved that voters support a leader who delivers, and disproved the theory that caste equations and not development planks win elections, he added.
The other lessons Advani drew were: that you can win elections without methodical rigging Ś as he accused the CPM of doing in Bengal; that the people dont like defections and indiscipline; and that slander campaigns dont pay at the booths.