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RSS mounts pressure on BJP leaders to fall in line

B. Muralidhar Reddy
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At a meeting with senior leaders on Sunday, an RSS leader told them that the party should lose no more time in naming its prime ministerial candidate

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi

Having made up its mind to back Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election, the RSS has stepped up its efforts to persuade senior BJP leaders to fall in line.

On Sunday night, Suresh (Bhaiyaji) Joshi, who is the RSS Sarkaryavah (general secretary), had a meeting with senior BJP leaders, including party patriarch L.K. Advani, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and the former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi.

According to sources, Mr. Joshi is believed to have told the senior leaders that the BJP should lose no further time in naming Mr. Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

Those opposed to the idea have been arguing for postponement of the decision till the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram are over in the next few weeks. Barring Mizoram, the BJP has high stakes in the other States, two of which are ruled by the party. The party fancies its chances in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh on the personal charisma of Chief Ministers Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh.

The BJP hopes to wrest Rajasthan from the Congress, cashing in on the “anti-incumbency” factor in the State and nationwide, as well as on the popularity of its chief ministerial candidate Vasundara Raje. BJP leaders concede that it is tough to win Delhi because of intense squabbling among State leaders. Making matters worse for the party is the popular image of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

Those opposed to Mr. Modi believe that naming him as prime ministerial candidate at this juncture will enable him to claim credit for victory of the party in three of the four States.

Besides the pro-Modi camp began building up the case for his candidature on the premise that he was the only Chief Minister to have secured a third successive victory for the BJP. If the party returns to power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the claim of the Modi supporters will be punctured as he will have to compete with both Mr. Chauhan and Mr. Singh.

Of course, the political truth is all the arguments advanced by the critics of Mr. Modi have little to do with content, but only intent.

Sources say a determined RSS is not going to go back on its stand for immediate announcement of Mr. Modi’s candidature by the BJP, and the current exercise is limited to mollifying the senior leaders.

In recent weeks, the pro-Modi camp in the BJP has been underscoring the need for early announcement of the prime ministerial candidate. On Saturday, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the sooner the party announced its candidate, the better it would be for it.

This is the second time in over a week Mr. Jaitley, who has been at the forefront of the campaign for Mr. Modi, has not only pitched in for the Gujarat Chief Minister but has also said the party should avoid any “unnecessary controversy” over the issue. Speaking at a BJP forum here, Mr. Jaitley argued that any row would amount to the party committing a “hit-wicket” and turn out to be the only possible reason for it to lose the general election.

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