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Narendra Modi's rise may be BJP's strongest message

September 14, 2013 16:13 IST

In Narendra Modi, every BJP worker sees what he might have been or what he can become, says Amberish K Diwanji

A couple of years ago, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi visited Mumbai to attend an event of the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

At the event, BJP leaders trooped in, one by one, to receive a perfunctory welcome.

And then, an electric current ran through the crowd.

Narendra Modi had arrived. 

The excitement was palpable. For the rank and file of the party, it was as if all their efforts had been made worthwhile only because Modi had arrived.

Various slogans rent the air, the loudest being "Desh ka pradhan mantri kaisa ho?" and the ear-splitting roar "Narendra Modi jaisa ho!"  ("Who should the country's PM be like?", "He should be like Narendra Modi!")

What was even more interesting to watch -- while all these theatrics went on -- was the priceless look on the faces of all the other “leaders” of the BJP. None of them joined in the shouting, cheering or even clapping.

They tried to look impassive, as though saying, “All this shouting and yelling is fine, but don’t let it fool you into thinking that he will be 'our' choice for PM”.

They could see what was happening, they could hear the crowd’s clear choice, but they were wishing that it would disappear, or that all of it simply wouldn’t matter.

Instead of sharing the excitement, they seemed to resent Modi’s obvious popularity among BJP workers. It was an indication that Modi’s greatest opponents were not in the Congress but within the saffron party.

As some commentators have noted, in anointing Modi, the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- within which there remain sufficient reservations about the Gujarat chief minister -- have given in to the demand of the cadres.

The role that the lowly party worker plays can never be understated. They are the ones who toil in the party offices, organise massive rallies, gather people for those rallies, make sure the media (a spoilt lot that never hesitates to complain) is kept happy, and smoothen the arrangements for the party bosses.

The workers often devote years to their party’s causes and their only reward is seeing it come to power. Because then they can claim the vicarious pleasure of having helped the party achieve power and they can lord over their mohallas and locality as a member of the party in power.

These may seem like petty rewards for years of toil. But for the thousands of workers across the hundreds of offices in the country, these are worth every moment of their effort.

Over the last few years, BJP workers have been rallying around Modi, simply because they know that if there is one person who can pull off a BJP victory, it is Modi.

Let’s face it: if a sulking Advani, pouting Swaraj, hedging Rajnath Singh cannot inspire even BJP workers, how on earth will they inspire the people who are going to vote?

In Modi, party workers see one of their own. A man who started life as a RSS member, doing routine chores, and rising to the top simply by dint of hard work and his undeniably brilliant organisational talents. 

In Modi, every worker sees what he might have been or what he can become. What mattered was his ability, not his pedigree.

This is in stark contrast to the top leaders chosen in the Congress party, where the foremost criterion today is your pedigree and second is loyalty to The Family. If your father or mother or uncle or aunt etc was in the Congress, rest assured you will be noticed; you may even become a member of Parliament or member of legislative assembly.

But if you are only brilliant and hardworking, the party will use those talents but rarely reward you appropriately.

How many low-rung party workers have actually become ministers in the Congress?

Hard to find any, with the singular exceptions of stenographers/private assistants to top Congress leaders, who, being privy to the most sensitive information, have been rewarded with plum posts (it ensures their continued loyalty and silence).

In a country of a billion aspirations, this might well be the BJP’s strongest message. That as a party, it believes in giving every Indian the chance to realise his/her potential, and not depend on family connections.

If the BJP top brass is not playing out this message, it is because those at the top have become complacent. Sending out a message that every worker has the potential to rise to the top means putting their own positions at risk. No wonder then that so many of the BJP’s top brass strongly resented Modi’s rise.

Irrespective of whether Modi finally becomes the prime minister, things within the BJP will never be the same. And that in itself is a good thing.

India might finally get an opposition that it deserves.

Image: BJP workers celebrate the nomination of Narendra Modi as the party's PM candidate ' Photograph Courtesy: http://www.narendramodi.in/

Amberish K Diwanji