New Delhi, Sept. 2: Suresh “Bhaiyaji” Joshi, the RSS second-in-command, has stepped in to forge a consensus in the BJP over Narendra Modi’s “formal” anointment as Prime Minister candidate for the 2014 elections.
Joshi has embarked on the “penultimate” part of the long-drawn exercise to convince the BJP’s sceptics that an early declaration on Modi was in the party’s “best interests” and that the longer it dawdled, the more “dispirited” the cadre would get.
“Ours is a cadre-based party. The cadre’s mind on Modi is made up. If for the sake of a couple of obdurate leaders the rest are forced to dilly-dally, it is most unfortunate. We will lose whatever momentum we have gained so far in the build-up to the next Lok Sabha polls,” a general secretary said.
A source said Rajnath Singh too felt that an early announcement was in order. The BJP president, the source said, did not buy the argument that he should wait until the high-stake Assembly polls, due in November-December.
Rajnath felt Modi’s foregrounding might enhance the BJP’s prospects in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi where it is locked in straight fights with the Congress.
Joshi was tasked by RSS sarsanghachalak Mohanrao Bhagwat to ensure that the persistent dissatisfaction over Modi’s candidacy was addressed before his name was publicly declared by the party’s parliamentary board.
Suresh Soni, the Sangh point person to liaise with the BJP, was kept out of the process because L.K. Advani allegedly raised issues over Soni’s “neutrality” and concluded he weighed in “excessively” on Modi’s side.
Advani and Sushma Swaraj were among the 11 board members who still contended that Modi’s projection might deprive the BJP of the “advantages” it is “gaining” over the Congress in the Lok Sabha sweepstakes.
But the majority felt it was time the BJP unveiled Modi as its 2014 face like in Goa last June when he was appointed head of the central campaign committee, despite Advani and Sushma’s reservations.
Soni was instrumental in making up Rajnath’s mind in Goa. Advani has since made it clear he wanted to have nothing to do with him.
On Sunday, Joshi called on Advani at his home and spent close to an hour with him. Later, Rajnath and Sushma joined in.
An Advani aide said: “Their views were heard out. It is not as though Advani is against Modi, it’s just that he has his own doubts. There are two schools of thought on Modi’s projection: one is a drummed-up one that is peddled day after day in the media on how the projection is the only recipe for a success. The other is a realistic view. We have to see which one ultimately prevails.”
The “naysayers” (Advani and Sushma) reckoned that Modi’s prominence would blur the BJP’s focus on the UPA’s “malgovernance” and “corruption”, highlight the “communal-secular” breach and push the Muslims into the Congress’s arms without consolidating the Hindus.
In fact, they contended that Modi’s projection before the Assembly elections might cost the BJP a win in the four states. “This is why (Shivraj Singh) Chouhan has already gone out of his way to reassure Muslims that they are safe under him,” a source said.
Modi votaries, on the other hand, suspected there were deeper undercurrents inspiring such arguments. “First they will say let us wait for the Assembly elections. Once we give in, they will find another alibi to delay an announcement. In the end, they will say let’s fight under a collective leadership. We should not fall into their trap,” a source said.
Despite the “will-they-won’t they” conundrum, Modi is embarking on a national campaign, starting with a meeting in Jaipur on September 10, in Rewari in Haryana on the 15th and in Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu on the 26th.
The RSS and the BJP are sitting together for a co-ordination meet on September 8 and 9 in New Delhi. The meeting is expected to seal and sign a decision on Modi to facilitate an announcement before the inauspicious period of pitrapaksha sets in towards end-September.