New Delhi, Oct. 16: Narendra Modi has impacted the BJP’s prominent “deserters” in different ways. The most vocal, Arun Shourie, is gravitating towards Modi, B.S. Yeddyurappa is waiting for an invite from Gandhinagar to return, while Jharkhand’s Babulal Marandi has made it clear his fate is tied with that of the “secular” forces.
Shourie distanced himself from the BJP after the party’s 2009 rout. His most acerbic remarks then were directed at Rajnath Singh, who had helmed the party before Nitin Gadkari took over. The disinvestment, communication and information technology minister in the NDA government, who was an Atal Bihari Vajpayee favourite, stopped attending the national executive meetings.
However, Shourie’s self-enforced alienation did not deter him from pursuing an independent relationship with Modi even before he was named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. When Modi was sworn in Gujarat chief minister for a third term, Shourie showed up and was seated on the dais.
On October 18, Modi will be in Chennai to launch Shourie’s book Self-deception: India’s China policies. Modi will also speak on his vision of “India and the world” at an event hosted by the Nani Palkhivala Foundation where another well-known BJP sympathiser and Modi admirer, Cho Ramaswamy, will be present.
Last month, after addressing a BJP rally in Delhi, Modi went with Shourie to a classical dance performance organised by a culture foundation. The foundation is presided by a relative of Shourie.
While Shourie has refrained from speaking about the BJP or its candidate for Prime Minister, a party source said: “Modi respects Shourie’s scholarship, his understanding of history and of contemporary events and his pragmatic approach towards running the economy.”
As disinvestment minister, Shourie oversaw the sale of Maruti, VSNL, Balco, Centaur Hotel and Hindustan Zinc. The record was a mixed bag because the Opposition had raised questions over the alleged under-valuation of Balco and Centaur.
Modi, the source said, had to start thinking of his “dream cabinet” for 2014. Given the perceived “paucity of talent” in the BJP — Vajpayee’s other “stellar” performers like Jaswant Singh are out of favour — some believe Shourie could be an “asset”.
By contrast, Yeddyurappa is seen less as a value addition in governance and more of a vote multiplier in Karnataka.
Sources said the party was awaiting the return of Arun Jaitley from the US to restart talks with the former Karnataka chief minister who floated his party before the state elections and destructed the BJP’s prospects.
Yesterday morning, former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP rebel Purno A. Sangma called on Yeddyurappa in Bangalore. Sources close to Yeddyurappa said Sangma impressed on him to maintain a separate identity and not merge his Karnataka Janata Paksha with the BJP.
“Sangma said he and Yeddyurappa had one thing in common and that was their unqualified backing for Modi. But it was important to keep his party afloat so that with Sangma’s group, they could function like a pressure group. Yeddyurappa heard him out and said he would think over the proposal,” a source said.
The BJP’s third “apostate”, Marandi, has signalled loud and clear that he has no intention of coming “home”. Marandi, a former Jharkhand chief minister, is set to be part of an anti-Modi convention slated to take place in Delhi on October 30 with the Left, the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United).
Although rooted in the RSS, Marandi, said a source close to him, “now swears by secularism and will not compromise on his belief”. BJP sources, on the other hand, claimed his real peeve was with party president Rajnath Singh whom he has blamed for marginalising him and promoting his successor, Arjun Munda. “As long as Rajnath is at the helm, Marandi won’t dream of returning,” a source said.