| Keshubhai Patel (left) with Narendra Modi (centre) during the opening ceremony of the chief minister’s election office at Maninagar. (PTI)
New Delhi, Nov. 25: As the last date of filing nominations passed without Haren Pandya getting a ticket, it was clear that for the BJP high command Narendra Modi is much too valuable for December 12 when Gujarat goes to polls.
It’s the aftermath that a section of the leadership — this time the Sangh is in agreement — is worried about. The “Chhote Sardar” of Gujarat has become too “bade” for even Delhi to handle.
Modi filed his papers this afternoon, only after making sure Pandya was not given the ticket for the Ellis Bridge seat in Ahmedabad but only got to nominate his own man, Bhavin Sheth. The filing of Modi’s nomination for the Maninagar seat, also in Ahmedabad, was described as the “vijay muhurat”.
Unhappy as the RSS and a section of the BJP were, they also felt that because the election had become Modi-centred, it was too late to marginalise or risk annoying him.
The Sangh is upset because Modi has become “larger than the BJP” and this is a repudiation of its basic philosophy that the “mission” comes first and the individual later. The BJP fears it is a “precursor” of worse things to come, not only in Gujarat but at the Centre, too.
“Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s remark that the real Mahabharat would be played out after the Gujarat elections would have to be read in the context of Modi’s personality and actions,” said a BJP leader, referring to the Prime Minister’s response, made half in jest, at a luncheon he hosted for the media on November 16. Vajpayee was asked what he thought of the “infighting” in the Sangh parivar.
According to BJP and RSS sources, who were either involved in trying to strike a rapprochement between Modi and Pandya or observing the Gujarat events, the caretaker chief minister virtually served an ultimatum on the mediators, warning that if Pandya were given a ticket, he would opt out. “It was too late to do anything to Modi. So he was obliged,” said BJP sources.
They claimed that he refused to listen to his mentor, L.K. Advani — something “unthinkable” before Godhra. But a couple of senior BJP functionaries, reportedly close to Modi, went along partially with him. They empathised with his view that as Pandya had deposed on the communal violence before an independent tribunal, he should not be given a ticket.
Their backing helped shape the high command’s decision that between Modi and Pandya, Modi is more “valuable” if the BJP has to play its Hindutva card “convincingly”.
Sangh sources said: “Sometimes in politics we have to push our principles to the background and allow an individual to have his way.”
But the BJP is apprehensive that a “pampered” Modi may spring worse shocks if he wins the election. “He will be hailed as the party’s new messiah, Hindutva’s new mascot and what not. Winning the election would be good news for us, winning them under Modi’s leadership will not be,” the sources added.
If the high command is afraid that Modi would ignore them completely in such a scenario, second-rung leaders, some of who are prime ministerial aspirants, fear quick death of their ambition.