New Delhi, Sept. 5: Gujarat police officer D.G. Vanzara’s letter has come as fresh ammo to Narendra Modi’s BJP detractors to make a case for postponing the announcement on his prime ministerial candidacy.
The anti-Modi camp, consisting of L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and a wavering Ananth Kumar, has reportedly impressed on the RSS top guns that now is an “inopportune” time to unveil Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee.
Their contention was Vanzara’s resignation missive could become the basis for the CBI to unearth evidence against Modi and his aide Amit Shah and eventually make the Gujarat chief minister an accused in the encounter deaths.
But the BJP’s overwhelming majority determinedly maintained that the Vanzara episode was a “political conspiracy” hatched against Modi by the “Congress” and contended that the parliamentary board should go ahead and announce Modi’s name without ado.
“Any sign that we are defensive and stepping back will quash our prospects,” a BJP official said.
Modi deployed an out-of-character tactic to answer his internal detractors today. Interacting with schoolchildren at a Teachers’ Day function in Gandhinagar over a Q&A session, he was asked if he would meet them on the same date in 2014 as the Prime Minister.
Modi’s answer was: “Those people who dream of becoming someone, for them everything gets destructed. One should not dream of becoming someone, one should always dream of doing something. I want to tell you all, one shouldn’t dream of being someone. I don’t dream of being anybody. I don’t want to dream of being someone. People of Gujarat have given me the responsibility of serving them till 2017, I have to do only that, I will focus all my energy in doing that.”
The snap analyses on TV projected Modi’s statements as an “act of withdrawal” from the joust for the Prime Minister’s post because the Vanzara controversy had become “too hot” even for him.
In the BJP, his claims lent themselves to multiple meanings: from a funny remark on how Modi had finally discovered the “virtue of modesty” to regarding them as a “pressure stratagem” for the consumption of his internal rivals and for the party at large to force an early announcement of his candidacy.
The emphasis on “doing something” and “being someone” — a leitmotif he frequently uses in other contexts — was read as a message for Advani and Sushma, both of who have refused to reconcile themselves to Modi’s elevation because they see themselves as prospective and equally, if not more, qualified contenders for the country’s top job.
To begin with, Sushma’s grouse was she was looped out of the process of decision-making by the RSS and the BJP. So RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat last Sunday deputed his second-in-command Suresh “Bhaiya” Joshi to speak with Sushma.
Sources said Sushma vociferously argued with Joshi for over an hour against Modi’s projection, saying her own status as the Lok Sabha Opposition leader would be “grievously undermined” because the incumbent is regarded as a “shadow PM” according to the Westminster template adopted by India.
She insisted that if Modi was to be foregrounded, he should quit as chief minister, relocate to Delhi and control affairs directly instead of “operating through proxies”.
It is learnt that the RSS — that never ever countenances being challenged by the BJP — did not take kindly to Sushma’s position. But sources said Modi wanted her on board before an announcement was made. Today, Nitin Gadkari called on her to try and persuade but was reportedly “unsuccessful”.
Arun Shourie, a former BJP minister who is in and out of the party, recently dubbed Advani and Sushma as “stateless leaders” in a TV interview while eulogising Modi’s qualities. Sources said the comment on the dangers of constantly dreaming and seeing them smashed was meant for Advani who apparently refuses to come to terms with the loss of his status as the BJP’s presiding deity after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The RSS and the BJP had initially calculated that Modi’s anointment as the central campaign committee chief would settle the ambiguity over his standing as the first among equals in the party’s uneven hierarchy.
That didn’t happen when Advani publicly displayed his pique and Sushma sustained an impression that she too wouldn’t accept a Modi regime willingly.
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, among Modi’s first drum-beaters, in a lengthy interview to a US paper today alluded to the 2002 pogrom and iterated that it was a “blot” on Modi’s career although he was “not personally part of it”.
His ambivalent submissions on the riots gave an impression that the BJP, or at least some leaders, continued to be tentative about defending Modi.
It is learnt that Parrikar was pulled up for the remarks and told to focus on winning the two Lok Sabha seats in his state.
“This is why we are clamouring for an early announcement on Modi, to end the claims and counter-claims and make us battle-ready,” a source said.