Narendra Modi’s elevation to prime ministerial nominee of the Bharatiya Janata Party was a story foretold given that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh would have it no other way. And yet for all the Sangh’s seeming authority, the mission wasn’t easily achieved. If BJP chief Rajnath Singh was hard put to deliver the deal despite spending the better part of two days hopping from one sulking leader to another, Mr. Modi himself had to be content with seeking Lal Krishna Advani’s blessings after the event. The veteran resisted the inevitable exactly as he had done at the June 2013 Goa national executive meet where part-I of Project Modi was put in place. It was an open secret that Mr. Modi’s appointment as the BJP’s campaign committee chief was a precursor to him getting the larger role. It is a measure of the misgivings within the BJP that this clear signal did not ensure automatic cooperation from party seniors such as Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi, not to mention Mr. Advani who till the end refused to budge. There is no doubt that the Gujarat Chief Minister enjoys huge cadre support, the reason why the RSS wanted him named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in the first place. However, for the existing party leadership, the biggest concern is its own future under Mr. Modi, who has so far shown himself to be unaccommodating of the smallest dissent.
Ms Swaraj is the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and therefore technically the BJP’s shadow Prime Minister. With Mr. Modi as presumptive Prime Minister, her journey all but comes to an end, and more so because she and the Gujarat Chief Minister are of the same vintage. She knows, as does Mr. Advani, that there is no stopping Mr. Modi’s ascendancy within the parivar. Which is why they wanted his promotion to the next level not to happen until after the November 2013 elections to the State Assemblies of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh. These are not just old BJP strongholds; the Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh run highly rated governments. A BJP victory in these States would unavoidably be attributed to Mr. Modi’s leadership, when in fact the ground work would have been done by Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh. The BJP has tried to project the deep differences over Mr. Modi’s appointment as democracy at its vibrant best. But the party has been spoilt by one angry warhorse who refused to attend the parliamentary board meeting and instead circulated a tartly worded letter of dissent, giving the impression that he would prefer the political oblivion which now surely awaits him to accepting Mr. Modi’s leadership.