Modi supporters in BJP call upon him to move to the centre

A fresh attempt has been made by a Narendra Modi supporter in the Bharatiya Janata Party to focus attention on the “famous and praiseworthy” Chief Minister who has delivered “a huge electoral victory” to ‘nationalist forces' in Gujarat. He should now move to the centre to work his “developmental magic” for India, and presumably his electoral magic for the BJP.

The capital woke up on Wednesday morning to see Mr. Modi staring out from advertisements in several Hindi newspapers. His ardent fan, Lehar Singh Siroya, MLC in Karnataka and State party treasurer, was exhorting him to come to the centre and give India a “firm direction” to help it get over its many problems.

Seemingly innocuous, the ads were seen in BJP circles as a sign of things to come — a first indication of the power game that is waiting to take place after BJP president Nitin Gadkari's term comes to an end in 2012. By then the next Gujarat Assembly elections will be over and Mr. Modi will be ready to come to the “centre” and get the party to project him as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Party insiders feel that the provocation for Wednesday's exercise was the recent remark by Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, who, while campaigning in Bihar, said, “Modi's magic works well in Gujarat — where he recently won a grand victory in panchayat elections — but his magic need not work everywhere.” She thus explained away Mr. Modi's absence from the Bihar campaign, although it is acknowledged that it was the Janata Dal (United) leadership that had insisted that the BJP keep him out of Bihar lest his presence affect its Muslim support base. Ms. Swaraj's statement was seen as humiliating Mr. Modi. Her message: he may be a tall leader, but only in Gujarat.

Mr. Siroya, Karnataka MLC who placed the advertisements, is a known loyalist of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. It is no secret that Mr. Yeddyurappa has been feeling the heat from the Reddy brothers of Bellary to whom his government is practically mortgaged. Now Ms. Swaraj has publicly admitted that she is close to the Reddy brothers and she was able to broker a truce between Mr. Yeddyurappa and the Reddys when they almost threatened to bring his government down and publicly demanded his replacement.

There is a view in the BJP that the Karnataka and Gujarat Chief Ministers may have jointly decided to put down Ms. Swaraj and used Mr. Siroya for this purpose.

But if the calls from within the BJP for a more central role for Mr. Modi grow, there will be some re-alignment of factional forces to counter that, some party leaders have predicted. As always in politics, today's factional rivals may become friends tomorrow to keep the common enemy out, just as the Karnataka and Gujarat Chief Ministers presumably found common cause in this instance.

The colour advertisements in — the Navbharat Times, the Dainik Jagran, the Bhaskar and the Hindu Hindustan — immediately became the hot topic of conversation at the BJP party office. It was déjà vu as full-page colour ads saluting Mr. Modi in Patna in June this year had led to bitterness between the BJP and the JD (U). That time the exercise by the Modi fans in the party virtually hijacked the BJP conclave in Patna. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had specifically objected to ads using an old photograph of him holding hands aloft with Mr. Modi.

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Printable version | May 23, 2020 8:17:16 PM |

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