Varun Gandhi arrives at the BJPs national executive meeting in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Sept. 30: Narendra Modi is fasting, the BJP feasting.
The title of Anita Desais novel, Fasting, Feasting, was unwittingly quoted by a Gujarat MP, who is also close to the chief minister, to explain his absence from the BJPs national executive session that began here today.
He nearly used it as a metaphor to explain the disconnect in the party.
Let the big leaders in Delhi feast to their hearts content, eat, make merry. Modiji is living on water. He cannot and will not relate to whats happening there, he said.
Some in the gathering at the convention hall of the New Delhi Municipal Councils central office fasted, others feasted. But those who fasted didnt just sip water like Modi purportedly did: they tucked into a Navratra repast of puri made of buckwheat flour, vegetables cooked without masala and a kheer of puffed lotus seeds.
In absentia, Modi was spoken about more animatedly inside and outside the gathering than he might have been if he was present.
Rajya Sabha MP Balbir Punj, who is close to L.K. Advani, publicly stated that given a chance, Modi would be one of the best Prime Minister India has had.
Nobody put B.S. Yeddyurappa or Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in the same league. But the absence of the recently ousted chief ministers was also a talking point. The only saving grace was that protocol-conscious Yeddyurappa informed BJP president Nitin Gadkari in advance that he would not show up.
The absence of Modi, Yeddyurappa and Pokhriyal has deeper implications for the BJPs internal power dynamics than our leaders care to think, said a national executive member.
The most portentous was the feeling among state leaders and office-bearers that critical policy and strategy decisions were still taken by a Delhi cabal that Gadkari was unable to rein in despite a clear mandate from the RSS.
Some blamed the RSS for loosening its grip on the BJP because of its preoccupation with fighting terror cases that have implicated a few of its activists.
But a more important reason, a BJP source said, was that the Sangh was split over the extent of control it should enforce over its political progeny.
This is because individual RSS leaders have their favourites in the BJP and speak up for them in the chiefs presence. They also feel that only the BJP can help them with the terror cases. If the Sangh ends up playing politics, how can it expect its writ to run over the BJP? a source asked.
What particularly rankled the regional chiefs was that most of those who were of consequence in Delhi owed their political positions, tangentially and directly, to them.
A Yeddyurappa loyalist said: Lets take Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj as examples. Their traditional political turfs supposedly are Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. The BJP is out of power in Delhi for 15 years. We are insignificant in Haryana and in Punjab, we are the Akali Dals junior partner.
Unlike Jaitley, who has so far stuck to the safe and narrow Rajya Sabha path to ensconce himself in Parliament, Sushma has fought Lok Sabha elections: but, a source pointed out, when she won from Delhi, it was thanks to the then reigning satrap Madanlal Khurana, and in Madhya Pradesh, it was courtesy of Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the chief minister.
Advani, said sources, could not hope to keep the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat without Modis blessings, while M. Venkaiah Naidu got into the Upper House thanks to Yeddyurappa.
Ditto for the high-profile third-rank leaders.
Prakash Javadekar, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Rajiv Pratap Rudy are from the Rajya Sabha although Rudy has won from Chhapra once and Prasad evinced his desire to foray into the Lok Sabha battlefield a few times in the past.
Privately, the regional elements in the BJP applauded the recalcitrant trio for taking on the Delhi brass in their own ways.
Nobody contested Modis hegemony over Gujarat. Sources said Yeddyurappa and Pokhriyal were not pushovers either, although they departed under a cloud.
Yeddyurappa proved his mettle when he won for his candidate, Karadi Sanganna, a hard-fought by-poll in Koppal this week.
Pokhriyal has his share of adherents and the BJPs worst nightmare was if they acted up, Uttarakhand was as good as lost in the February election.