|Advani speaks to supporters at the party headquarters in New Delhi; family members welcome Sushma Swaraj in Bhopal on Friday. (AFP and PTI)
New Delhi, May 16: L.K. Advani’s reluctance to tip his hat to Narenda Modi today and Sushma Swaraj’s apparent slighting of Modi’s role in the election victory could cost them when plum posts are handed out, party sources suggested today.
Although the BJP isn’t bothered about their remarks — Modi’s huge win has insured him against internal friction — the ranks were furious with the “killjoy” duo on a day the party headquarters resonated with the “Modi, Modi” chant.
Sushma termed the mandate a “pure BJP victory” before journalists in Bhopal, from where she was monitoring the results in her constituency, Vidisha.
“It was as though she was driving home her pet point that Modiji hardly mattered in these elections,” a BJP source fumed.
Advani, who won from Gujarat’s Gandhinagar, then dropped by at the party headquarters, looking chuffed but short on praise for Modi.
“In this victory, the contribution of Modi’s leadership (and those of the) RSS and other organisations like the BJP have to be analysed. But the result mainly is against corruption, misgovernance and dynastic rule,” he told reporters.
Party sources said that if the Congress had blundered in reading the nation’s mood, Advani and Sushma had “committed their biggest blunders” by undermining Modi “on a day he was the nation’s mantra”.
“Modi is the (soon-to-be) Prime Minister; this is his mandate; nobody can hijack it or divide the glory. For those who are sulking and hoping their protests would get them ministerships and Speakerships, the workers’ answer is, ‘enough is enough’,” a senior BJP official said.
He was alluding to the alleged attempts by Advani and Sushma over the past two days to leverage their “sulk” and wangle positions in a Modi-led dispensation.
Advani is keen on retaining his post as chairperson of the NDA parliamentary party, sources said, failing which he is willing to accept the Lok Sabha Speaker’s job.
Sources said Sushma was miffed at her exclusion from the new “elite” cabal that includes Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath Singh, apart from Modi. They said she feared for her chances of getting a ministry from the “creamy layer” of finance, defence and external affairs.
“But by making such remarks, both have shot themselves even deeper in the foot. There’s little room for power play and manipulations in a situation where the BJP has a commanding majority,” a source said.
“Modi might possibly have relented and let Advani continue as NDA parliamentary party chairperson (a position Modi is believed to be eyeing for himself). He might also have agreed to give Sushma a ministry befitting her status as the BJP’s first important woman leader. Now, Advani and Sushma have ruined their own cases,” a source said.
He said that if Modi decided to become “generous” and indulge the duo, BJP workers might take that “badly”.
The source said that two days ago, while Modi was watching TV with party workers in a north Indian town, they were so infuriated on watching reports of Advani’s and Sushma’s “wish list” for the next government that they threatened to smash the set.
Sushma today dismissed as “hypothetical” the question whether she might join Modi’s cabinet.
“Such questions are hypothetical. It is the prerogative of the PM to form his cabinet,” she said, adding: “Certain decisions are collectively taken by the parliamentary board.”
Ostensibly to contain the damage she may have inflicted on herself with her responses, Sushma later tweeted: “This victory is the result of hard work of BJP ‘karyakartas’ (workers), blessings of Sangha (RSS) and able leadership of Shri Narendra Modi.”
The results have left Modi in a position of strength the kind of which Atal Bihari Vajpayee had never enjoyed.
Modi has won enough seats for the BJP to minimise, if not eliminate, his dependence on allies. Vajpayee, on the other hand, was often at the mercy of mercurial allies such as Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee.
By establishing his pre-eminence in the BJP over the past year or so, Modi has nipped the chances of the growth of a ginger group in his party, something Vajpayee had to contend with in his vulnerable moments.
It is learnt that the Sangh, which apparently feels “thoroughly vindicated” in its choice of Modi to lead the BJP into the elections, has conveyed to the party that every decision on governance and policy would bear Modi’s imprint.
The Sangh has also asked its front organisations such as the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh to allow the new government time to settle down and not badger it with demands from day one.
“For a year or so, we will not disturb them,” said Prabhakar Kelkar, the general secretary of the Sangh’s farmers’ front.
Congratulating the “newly elected government”, Sangh general secretary Suresh Joshi said in a statement: “We are hopeful that the newly elected government will be successful in fulfilling the people’s aspirations.”
He added: “By setting aside the ideological, religious and social differences, we expect the new government to create an environment where the nation stays united, there is total social inclusiveness and no one ever feels exploited.”