Friday, July 6, 2012

modi & nda Split Wide Open

Who is wary of Modi?
NDA allies (Nitish Kumar, JD(U); Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena); Gujarat BJP leaders (Keshubhai Patel, Suresh Mehta); RSS pracharaks (Sanjay Joshi); former friends (Gordhan Zadaphia). Many BJP central leaders are also silently worried.
Do Modi, Nitish have a history?
In 2009, Nitish refused to let Modi campaign in Bihar. He returned a Rs 5-crore cheque Modi had sent for flood relief. He skipped a dinner in Patna where Modi was present after the local BJP unit ran a newspaper ad showing them holding hands.
Why the fresh flare-up?
To check Modi’s momentum after BJP’s national executive in Mumbai where he got Sanjay Joshi ejected. A third straight win in Gujarat could render Modi nearly unstoppable in his march to Delhi. Some BJP leaders are firing from Nitish’s shoulders.
Why is this so important now?
Neither Congress nor BJP will get a majority in the next poll. If Modi’s image is a problem for JD(U), it sends the signal to potential NDA allies like BJD, AIADMK, TMC, who are all wary of displeasing their votebanks.
Does Modi count for so much?
In public perception, yes. In reality, the jury is out. In 2009, Modi campaigned in 300 constituencies; the BJP won in only 25 of those. The constantly invoked “development” mantra was to have made Modi more acceptable; Nitish shows it has not.
Whose side is the RSS on?
The buzz is RSS did a deal with Modi on Joshi to secure a second term for Nitin Gadkari as president. Nitish’s attack on the Gujarat CM has seen RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat spring to Modi’s support, saying “India should have a PM who believes in Hindutva”.
Where does this leave Advani?
Improbably, Advani is now the BJP’s “moderate” face. Upstaged by Modi, Advani began his last yatra from Bihar, not Gujarat. There are whispers about whether he will stand from Gandhinagar again. Advani has led the NDA quest for a presidential candidate to show that he, not Modi, is still the boss.
Does he inspire fear and loathing or does he give inspirational leadership? Is he persona non grata or primus inter pares (first among equals), as one of his admirers describes Narendra Modi? What can be stated with certainty is that the Gujarat chief minister is the most polarising figure on the Indian national stage, and when such a personality aspires to the most powerful office in the land, there is bound to be a reaction that matches it in scale and sheer force. The first sputters came from within Modi’s own ideological family—the nasty episode with RSS’s Sanjay Joshi who had to leave the BJP’s national executive in Mumbai a month ago, the continued campaign by BJP dissidents in Gujarat, and the fact that a senior leader like L.K. Advani has also indicated a disagreement with a projection of Modi as the primary leader.
Modi’s supporters would possibly argue that all these are spent forces, the little people in a landscape where the Gujarat CM is a Gulliver-like figure. But they can hardly say that about Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who, like Modi, has won three assembly elections, is politically all-powerful in a state that sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha, 14 more than Gujarat’s 26. His JD(U) is the most significant regional player in the NDA, and in an interview last week Nitish made it crystal clear that he would not be part of the alliance if Modi is the PM candidate. He wanted a “secular” leader, he said. Most critically, as a source close to him says, “he has demanded in the interview that the BJP name a PM candidate now so that they do not imagine they can bluff its allies”.