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Rajnath reads between lines

New Delhi, Feb. 25: Rajnath Singh has book-marked those who see a meal ticket in Narendra Modi.

Launching a book on “Moditva” in Delhi today, the BJP president let out what is probably one of the worst-kept secrets in the capital.

“When I first heard of the book, I was certain it was authored by a politician or someone wanting to get to the Rajya Sabha or acquire a post when our government is formed,” deadpanned Rajnath who confessed to not having read the book or even a summary that the publishers offered.

Therefore, the BJP president said, he was surprised to learn that it was authored by a young person called Siddharth Mazumdar, a graduate in public policy from Columbia University.

The author of Moditva: The Idea behind the Man briefly worked with the UN and as a policy analyst with the Canadian government. On a sabbatical, Mazumdar is part of Citizens for Accountable Governance, one of the resource outfits soft-packaging and hard-selling Modi.

“I was amazed to know that this young man was not a politician or a political aspirant,” added Rajnath, before looking long and hard at a group of panellists who had taken their seats for a discussion.

The line-up included Bibek Debroy, a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, who warmed Modi’s heart when he described Gujarat as the “best governed state” in a research paper he co-authored for the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

Another panellist was Kiran Bedi, who had written one of the forewords to the book and who has been taking swipes at erstwhile co-activist Arvind Kejriwal. Her name occasionally crops up as a likely candidate from a Delhi constituency against the desire of local BJP leaders.

Subramanian Swamy, who also wrote a foreword and is a recent entrant to the BJP after tormenting the UPA and Manmohan Singh in courts, was there too.

So were columnist Swapan Dasgupta and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Piyush Goyal. Columnist M.J. Akbar anchored the discussion.

The third foreword was written by Jaswant Singh. Singh, a former external affairs and finance minister who was not present at the event today, had found himself on the BJP’s fringes ever since he wrote what is considered as an objective account of Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s place in history. L.K. Advani, who was out on a limb for taking a broader view of Jinnah than the RSS would like to, tried to salvage Singh’s position but was not of much help.

Rajnath’s expression of certitude about fair-weather friends hunting for spoils came against the backdrop of multiple surveys suggesting that the Modi-led coalition could emerge as the largest alliance after the general election.

The one journalist Rajnath mentioned approvingly today is resented by Modi’s Twitter army. “In 2002, when Modi emerged victorious in the Gujarat elections, Rajdeep Sardesai (of CNN-IBN) claimed it was not a victory of Hindutva but of Moditva, although I do not know what prompted him to make that remark,” the BJP chief said.

Modi’s equation with his loyalists, fans and cheerleaders is a subject of intense speculation in the BJP. Nobody has a measure of who Modi likes and dislikes. “The only thing that can be said with certainty is that he trusts few, if any, and keeps a safe distance from most,” an insider said.

Indeed, the source added, Modi has created his own apparatuses, distinct from the party’s structures, to conceptualise and execute his campaign.


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