In the end, Narendra Modi’s promotion to campaign committee chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party happened not by consensus or by consultation but by diktat, with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh virtually cracking the whip on the dissenters. Yet through the three days of the BJP’s national executive meet in Goa, one man stood his ground, defying multiple attempts to coax and cajole him out of his reluctance. Indeed, veteran Lal Krishna Advani turned out to be as much in the limelight for resisting Mr. Modi’s elevation as Mr. Modi himself for getting his coveted prize. The BJP tried hard to sell the story that Mr. Advani had been kept away from Goa by his poor health, the first time he had missed an important party meet in three decades. But the latter made sure the world knew he was hale and hearty by blogging on a film with pointed references to the Mahabharata and Bhishma Pitamaha . The situation bristles with irony, starting with the fact that a man with such a presumed fan following as Mr. Modi could not find universal acceptance in his own party. And who should be the dissident-in-chief but Mr. Advani, the Gujarat Chief Minister’s former mentor who once intervened to save his job in the aftermath of the 2002 anti-Muslim violence.
Equally paradoxically, Mr. Modi finds himself pitchforked to the national stage courtesy the RSS, which self-proclaimedly abhors the personality cult so evident in the Modi phenomenon. If despite this history of antagonism, the BJP’s spiritual mentor has handed over the election management charge to Mr. Modi, it is obviously in response to the growing clamour from the BJP rank and file. But the decision also shows the absence of real democracy in a party controlled by the RSS. What next, now that Mr. Modi has won, overriding objections from senior leaders, among them Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj? That Mr. Modi will electrify his followers on Twitter is a given. And yet, it is over-the-top to equate his new, enlarged brief to a ‘coronation’ or to see him as the BJP’s prime-ministerial nominee. Mr. Modi cannot be the BJP’s Prime Minister-in-waiting unless the party has decided to disband the National Democratic Alliance, which is surely not the case. NDA partners have chosen to treat Mr. Modi’s elevation as an internal BJP matter, clarifying that they would need to be on board for deciding who will run for Prime Minister. Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley headed the BJP’s campaign committee in 2004 and 2009 respectively without the automatic assumption that either would be Prime Minister. NaMo’s frenzied fan clubs will do well to understand that their hero has some way to go before he becomes the face of 2014.