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A win too hot for Rajnath

New Delhi, Dec. 23: At the BJP headquarters, a voice rose above the din of celebrations. “It’s been great going under Modi; he should be brought here,” an office-bearer was shouting.

Which is exactly why Narendra Modi’s spectacular win has almost created a feeling of isolation among the party’s official central leadership, overpowering its sense of achievement.

Party president Rajnath Singh was quick to claim the victory for the party as a whole, and though he had to give much of the credit to Modi, he cautioned: “Nobody is bigger than the party.”

Yet, even as the central leaders laboured to insert the BJP’s name in the subtext, the realisation that it was Modi who had conceived and crafted the triumph overrode every shade of emotion or opinion expressed.

As evident from the office-bearer’s shout, the lower ranks who danced and burst crackers at the BJP headquarters wanted the truth to be told aloud: Yes, Modi has done it!

The senior leaders who want Modi restricted to Gujarat might, therefore, have loved to have received less than what the state’s voters gave to the party.

Modi has grown far bigger than anybody expected him to, even within the saffron family. The parivar didn’t toil for the chief minister and some in the BJP, too, were unhappy at the presidential-style campaign that focused on Modi alone.

The Sangh abhors the personality cult although it has had to live with Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s larger-than-life image. Now it will have to suffer Modi, who isn’t only articulate but has shown political shrewdness and administrative acumen, too.

The taint of the 2002 pogrom hasn’t diminished his charisma in Gujarat and now he has another opportunity to refurbish his image. It was little wonder then that Rajnath felt compelled to praise the chief minister.

The party president, who represents the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh point of view, said the BJP had shown that the development plank could deliver but conceded that Modi was the party’s star campaigner.

L.K. Advani, too, called the win a turning point for the BJP, but acknowledged that “Modi’s single-minded focus on good governance, development, security and fight against corruption” were the main reasons for the victory.

Modi’s win could actually boost Advani’s efforts to free the party from the Sangh’s iron grip. As he listed the lessons for the “polity as a whole” from the Gujarat polls, Advani’s theme revolved round Modi. He said the chief minister had refuted the belief that good governance does not make for good politics.

Modi has proved that voters support a leader who delivers, and disproved the theory that caste equations and not development planks win elections, he added.

The other lessons Advani drew were: that you can win elections without methodical rigging — as he accused the CPM of doing in Bengal; that the people don’t like defections and indiscipline; and that slander campaigns don’t pay at the booths.

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