| Sushil Kumar Modi |
Patna, Aug. 31: One poor series, his captaincy is in question.
Sushil Kumar Modi may find himself in a tight spot much like captains of sports teams across the world. His arena might be different but the party members, and the leadership, reposed so much faith in him that unexpected results in the August 21 byelections have almost made him a virtual “villain”.
Yesterday, agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh opened the Pandora’s box by declaring that the next Assembly polls would be fought under the leadership of Sushil.
Several BJP leaders came out in the open against the idea. Former minister and senior BJP leader Chandramohan Rai said Sushil had ensured that all leaders of the upper caste had been sidelined. “Now there is no leader in Bihar except Sushil. But the BJP will not be able to win under his leadership,” he said.
However, the BJP’s veteran parliamentarian, C.P. Thakur, said: “The issue of leadership is not discussed on the streets. It will be decided by the party’s central leadership.”
When the BJP achieved a spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar nobody credited Sushil — the party’s poster boy in the state for almost two decades. However, just three months later when the party won 4 of the 10 Assembly seats in the bypolls, the former deputy chief minister’s leadership is being questioned not only inside his party but also by his allies. “The BJP lost because of the ‘feel good’ factor. It did not seek our help even when we offered that,” said Arun Kumar, the RLSP MP from Jehanabad.
“It is my opinion that the Assembly elections should be fought under a collective leadership. Let leaders like Sushil, Nand Kishore Yadav, Ashwini Choubey be included in the committee. The committee could include leaders from our allies — Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha — and work for the NDA victory in the next Assembly polls. It will be beneficial for Bihar,” former minister and senior BJP leader Prem Kumar said. Prem Kumar is not alone in expressing his reservation about Sushil’s leadership.
A hardcore RSS man who married to a Christian, Modi was one of the leading lights of the students’ movement led by JP Narayan in the 1970s in Bihar and was general secretary of Patna University Students’ Union at the time when Lalu Prasad was its president. He became MLA from Patna Central for the first time in 1990 and remained undefeated till he became an MP from Bhagalpur in 2004. As leader of the Opposition, he was in the forefront on attacking the RJD, including during fodder scam. He became deputy chief minister in the NDA government in 2005 till the alliance with the JDU broke last year. “During the alliance, he was one of the strongest defenders of Nitish Kumar and there were speculations that he may go with the JDU once the alliance breaks. But Sushil made it clear that he would remain with the BJP till death. After the alliance broke, he has taken on Nitish. Clearly, he is the tallest leader in the BJP in Bihar,” said a Sushil supporter.
Sushil never reacts to criticism against him by his own party leaders but this is not the first time he is facing a revolt. In 2007, he survived a revolt when several BJP leaders were demanding his ouster — with the strong backing of L.K. Advani and Arun Jaitley. “Now with the change of guards at the Centre, his status remains unchanged. Anything that happens in the Bihar BJP is not without the consent of Sushil,” said a senior BJP leader stressing that even the central leadership has no alternative, adding: “If there is any leader who can draw crowd in rallies is none other than Sushil.”
Sushil’s supporters feel the current outburst is due to personal grievances. “Thakur is disgruntled as his son was denied a ticket. Prem was not made leader of the Opposition and Chandramohan was not given a ticket in the Lok Sabha polls from Valmikinagar,” rattled out an MLA, who is also close to Sushil, insisting that the Sushil faction was not alarmed by the outburst and it is inappropriate to compare the Lok Sabha polls with the bypolls where local issues dominate.