The appointment of aggressive campaigners like Varun Gandhi, Uma Bharti, Ananth Kumar and Ajit Shah in senior positions within the party is a clear indication of which way the BJP wind is going to blow, says Seema Mustafa
Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh, who has returned to head the party after a not-very ceremonious-exit the last time, seems to have found new support and clout within the party.
His first major reshuffle of the party organisation ensconces him firmly in the saddle. Meanwhile, the tone and tenor of the new team carries more than one message for those watching the developments within and outside the party.
The BJP is now in election mode, with the 76 member-team clearly including only leaders the party president feels comfortable with.
The BJP is one with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in moving towards an all-out Hindutva campaign for the general election. The appointment of aggressive campaigners like Varun Gandhi, Uma Bharti, Ananth Kumar and Ajit Shah in senior positions within the party is a clear indication of which way the BJP wind is going to blow.
The inclusion of these leaders is teamed with the exclusion of relatively moderate leaders like Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha.
This endorses the decision of the party top brass to be brazen, not shy, about its ideology in the belief that polarisation will work to its advantage in the polls.
The BJP chief has again made it more than apparent that Gujarat Chief minister Narendra Modi will be the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 polls. By making Modi the sole chief minister in the BJP’s Parliamentary Board, Singh has made it very clear that this particular leader outshines all others as far as he and the RSS are concerned.
Mutterings in the party in support of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh have been silenced by this one inclusion, with Modi towering above all other ‘competitors’ within the BJP.
Short of an official announcement, this inclusion is a declaration that Modi is very much a part and parcel of the run-up to the general elections, as he is the star candidate, the only state leader to be projected so prominently and a person who will have a major say in the overall election strategy.
The newly-appointed general secretaries will be part of a crucial team that will work towards projecting Modi as the next PM candidate. The team will also ensure a publicity blitz which, the BJP hopes, will eat into voters’ reservations about the party and encourage them to vote for the individual.
Modi himself has been calibrating his rise to power, tackling the international arena, even as he moves out of Gujarat to convince people from other states that he is a good and sound administrator, a disciplinarian and a leader who can be relied on to take India forward.
The calculated propaganda keeps away from controversial issues, with Modi already managing to stand several inches above the chaos that the BJP is currently associated with.
Rajnath Singh and the RSS have selected the new team with care -- to ensure that top positions are given to those who will not hesitate to support Modi and to build a strong campaign to ensure his acceptability across the country. The campaign will clearly have a strong anti-minority core to it, judging from the inclusion of several leaders who have become notorious because of the tone and tenor of their speeches targeting minority communities.
This is a given, as leaders like Varun Gandhi and Uma Bharti are capable of little else and they are certainly not in the party for possible cerebral contributions.
Veterans like L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj will find themselves isolated in the party if they oppose the emerging consensus to launch Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. Most leaders in crucial positions today are supporters of the Gujarat CM and are reckless enough to openly counter any dissent from within.
The BJP and the RSS, in a new assessment of the ground situation, have decided not to worry about alliances and coalition governments at this stage. Instead, they will go ahead with the party’s own agenda and ideology, in the hope that such a strategy will strengthen the support base for Modi.
The BJP knows that Modi can become the prime minister only if the party gets at least 180 to 200 seats on its own in the next Lok Sabha election. Fewer seats will place the BJP at the mercy of regional allies, some of which, like the Janata Dal-United, would then insist on a coalition without Modi in the forefront.
The BJP has clearly decided to pursue the go-it-alone path, at least before and during the elections, pinning all hopes on a popular wave in support of Modi. In case the Modi card fails to improve the BJP’s fortunes, it can go back to seeking alliances from even squeamish parties like the JD-U, which could be persuaded to join yet another version of the National Democratic Alliance, without Modi as the PM.
With 200 seats in the Lok Sabha, the BJP is very optimistic about making up the remaining numbers with support from parties like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Akali Dal, which have been supporting Modi for the top job all along.
Today’s reshuffle is an important milestone in the run-up to the general elections. And the BJP, with guidance and direction from the RSS, has taken effective steps to dispel the confusion, and to some extent the factionalism, by sending out concrete signals to the rank and file.
It has also tried to ensure that the team so carefully put together by the party leaders is able to move cohesively and in a united manner into the Lok Sabha elections. Dissenting voices have been either moved out or neutralised within the party organsation, with the red carpet now laid out by the BJP for Modi’s ascent to power on the planks of Hindutva, development and so-called national security.