BJP president does not want Modi to campaign in U.P Assembly polls
Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari has told party leaders that there may be no need for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to campaign in the high-stake Assembly elections due next year in Uttar Pradesh, BJP sources told The Hindu.
During consultations with them, Mr. Gadkari has been arguing that Mr. Modi's rallies in the past did little to benefit the party electorally outside Gujarat — a move that could widen the political divide between the two main leaders into a yawning political chasm.
The immediate provocation for the current standoff was Mr. Gadkari's decision in August to re-induct the former general secretary, Sanjay Joshi, as coordinator for the party's Uttar Pradesh election preparations. This has led to friction between him and Mr. Modi, who is against Mr. Joshi. Some party leaders said Mr. Gadkari and Mr. Modi had not even talked to each other on the phone for several months.
The rivalry between Mr. Modi and Mr. Joshi goes back to several decades. When Mr. Joshi was BJP general secretary in Gujarat during the chief ministership of Keshubhai Patel, Mr. Modi was shifted to the Delhi headquarters as general secretary and “ordered” not to step into the State. Later, when Mr. Modi was sent to the State as Chief Minister, Mr. Joshi was brought to Delhi and told not to interfere in the party affairs in Gujarat.
At the national executive committee meeting in Mumbai in 2005, a sleazy compact disc surfaced, featuring Mr. Joshi, who, however, maintained that his face had been “morphed” into the CD. Anyhow, that ended his career in the BJP.
Some in the party suspected Mr. Modi's hand in the affair, as Gujarat police inspector B.K. Chaubey has since reportedly told the CBI that he had carried the CDs for being distributed among BJP leaders in Mumbai at the instance of the the former Director-General of Police, Vanzara, who is now under arrest in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. Mr. Vanzara was suspected to have acted at the behest of Amit Shah, former Gujarat Home Minister, who himself is under arrest.
Following Mr. Joshi's re-induction for party work, Mr. Modi absented himself from the national executive committee meeting held in Delhi in September, leaving Mr. Gadkari furious. The reason offered by the Chief Minister — he does not travel outside Gujarat during the Navratri festival ahead of Dussehra — cut no ice with the party leadership
In the Bihar Assembly elections a year ago, it was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who had curtly told his ally, BJP, that he would not countenance Mr. Modi campaigning in his State. Mr. Kumar had made the public stand in Patna in the midst of a BJP national executive committee meeting, a few months ahead of the elections.
Though the BJP tried to wriggle out of the embarrassment, it finally succumbed. Mr. Modi did not campaign in Bihar. At that time, Mr. Gadkari unsuccessfully tried to convince Mr. Kumar of the need for allowing the BJP to bring Mr. Modi to Bihar for the campaign. Ironically, now the tables have turned, with Mr. Gadkari apparently not keen on Mr. Modi campaigning in Uttar Pradesh.
Mr. Gadkari has denied that he has prime ministerial ambitions, but there are several signs that he could be preparing to offer himself as a candidate to a divided party. Among other things, he has undergone a weight-control surgery, made efforts to appear more telegenic and started nursing potential Lok Sabha constituencies in Wardha and Nagpur.
Mr. Modi is also expected to try and jump onto the national stage after the 2012 Assembly polls in Gujarat. At his recent Sadbhawna Mission, he undertook a makeover as the new ‘development man.' Plenty of skull-cap wearing Muslim youths were present at the event to showcase his new “secular” credentials.
Of course, both have denied nursing prime ministerial ambition.