Modi is inevitable PM candidate for BJP (Sunday Guardian)
MADHAV NALAPAT NEW DELHI | 1st Jun 2013
ihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has emerged as the last hope for those within the BJP leadership adverse to Narendra Modi being the NDA's Prime Minister candidate in 2014. Although for the record, each of the party's mostly Delhi-based leadership touts the virtues of the Gujarat Chief Minister, yet no one is in favour of Modi as the successor to Atal Behari Vajpayee as the BJP-NDA Prime Minister of India. According to insiders, BJP president Rajnath Singh is hoping to emerge as the compromise candidate for the Prime Ministership, in the event that the NDA reaches the 200-seat mark. Rajnath expects RSS opposition to Arun Jaitley and L.K. Advani to remove them from the lists, while his advisers consider Sushma Swaraj a lightweight relative to the current BJP chief. All this, of course, in the expectation that the party leadership will be able to resist the pressure from the base to anoint Modi as a prospective PM, should the NDA get the numbers needed to come to power.
Party strategists say that the argument being used in internal BJP conclaves against a Modi coronation is that the JD(U) would then leave the NDA, thereby weakening the NDA so much that the UPA would come back to office the third time around. They argue that the "Nitish factor" mandates that there be no announcement of any PM candidate until the polls are over. In the post-poll scenario, the expectation is that the JD(U) would be joined by other prospective allies in opposing Modi, who would as a consequence have to either remain in Gandhinagar or come to Delhi as BJP president, a toothless post when the party is in power at the Centre. In order to silence Modi's backers within the party, it is expected that a National Campaign Committee will be announced in a few weeks' time, with Modi at the head. This would fall significantly short of an announcement that Modi would be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
The dominant view within the Delhi-based leadership, in particular L.K. Advani and Arun Jaitley, is that the party should focus on corruption and promise of development, with Hindutva taking a back seat. The other group, which is much better represented within the BJP base and the wider saffron parivar than at the higher rungs of the party ladder, is that a polarised election fought in a subliminal way on the issue of "neglect of the majority community" will ensure the consolidation of votes needed for the BJP to cross the 175-mark.
The Catch-22 for the Delhi-based leadership is that such a high score for the party would make it almost inevitable that the Campaign Committee chairperson Modi be nominated as the leader selected to go to Rashtrapati Bhavan to stake a claim to form the next government. Should the BJP tally fall within the region of 150-175 seats, those within the party who seek to continue the Vajpayee style of inclusive governance are certain that their moderate views will win them the backing of parties that are now even with the Congress.
However, the odds favour a declaration in favour of Narendra Modi being made the PM nominee before September. Throughout the country, only the Gujarat strongman has the charisma needed to galvanise the base and, in the opinion of party workers, pull in enough voters into the booths to ensure that the BJP tally reaches the "safe" (for Modi) figure of 175-200. Within the next three months, Nitish Kumar may have to decide on whether to quit a Modi-led NDA or to accept the BJP's star as the inevitable candidate for the PM's post, should the NDA get the numbers.