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Why Modi's rise may give Gadkari a 2nd term as BJP chief

Last updated on: January 15, 2013 19:59 IST

Why Modi's rise may give Gadkari a 2nd term

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If Narendra Modi's forward march to Delhi is to be permitted then the president of BJP will be someone who is completely loyal to the RSS. That will improve Gadkari's chances though there is a serious lack on enthusiasm in the RSS on giving him a second term. Sheela Bhatt reports

Since the last couple of months, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's important leaders and peacekeeping intermediaries are doing the rounds of New Delhi and the state capitals, where the Bhartiya Janata Party is in power, to decide on the new party president.

The RSS, which has once again proved that its grip on the BJP is firm as it can be, is in the process of giving the mandate to incumbent Nitin Gadkari to lead the party, which is hopeful of coming to power in next Lok Sabha election. The RSS's ploy is to have Gadkari or someone whose loyalty quotient to the sangh is high.

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Image: A rally by the RSS


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Gadkari's faultlines

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Three years back, Gadkari was their nominee imposed on the BJP. Gadkari's first term has not been successful by any yardstick. The party has lost crucial state of Uttar Pradesh disgracefully. Gadkari himself planned the strategy of the Assam campaign but the Congress's Digvijaya Singh proved smarter.

Gadkari could never build, under his leadership, an energetic and coherent team at 11, Ashoka Road. He is seen as the leader who is not able to weigh information correctly.

In addition he has been facing serious charges for financial mess in his Purti group of companies. His counterpart Sonia Gandhi uses silence as a weapon; Gadkari speaks more than his party needs him to.

Surely, he is street-smart to hop from crisis to crisis but he has not displayed the qualities to fit the post of president of such a huge party, in spite of his extravagant public relations exercises.

When the issue of corruption is going to be one of the important election planks against the Congress the re-nomination of the tainted Gadkari, if and when done, will be advantage Congress.  

In fact, in certain sections of the party and analysts, who are well-versed with the BJP, feel Gadkari's second term, "will weaken the corruption plank against the Congress. It could very well give Congress hopes of a UPA-3, even."

In the coming days instead of going into an attack mould, the BJP will be defending its president if the inquiry into the Purti group persists.

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Image: BJP chief Nitin Gadkari


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Paucity of political talent

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The stark reality of New Delhi across party lines is that there are not enough leaders to fit the chairs. Congress president Sonia Gandhi's and the RSS's predicaments are similar.

The search for the new president of the BJP is a story of paucity of talented political leaders who can take a mainstream party forward with understanding of the tremendous national responsibilities and more importantly, play the role of a team leader within the party's huge national set up.

Every time the Congress president and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh try and reshuffle the Cabinet, the same issue crops up. The Congress has more departments and responsibilities but not enough talent to fill them. As a result even though minor changes take place in the Cabinet, the government remains the same.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh


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RSS cautious but ready to allow Modi bigger role

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It seems Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's game-plan to get bigger responsibility within the party and his craving to have a national profile to pursue his ambitions may help Gadkari, eventually.

The RSS is aware of Modi's work culture. He is, always, a tough nut to crack in time of crisis within the party. Also, the RSS has serious issues with Modi's gigantic attempt to build a 'personality cult' around him.

If he comes to power in New Delhi, the RSS knows that Modi can weave a complex web to pass over RSS's agenda and build a 'personality cult' as he has been doing in Gujarat. They had been watching helplessly all these years as a pracharak carved out a daunting career out of his humble beginnings in the RSS.

But the RSS has been playing fair game where they have also taken note of  Modi's talent. Also RSS leaders are being forced by the BJP cadre and its core constituency to give Modi his due. Modi is the most popular amongst them and they have in several surveys demanded that Modi should be made the leader of the BJP to lead 2014 general elections.

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi


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Gadkari's appointment a 'safe' decision

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The top source in the BJP, who is also close to the RSS, told rediff.com that the Sangh Parivar will 'allow' the BJP to give a clear signal to the electorate that "it will fight the 2014 election under the leadership of Modi." He even goes to claim that anytime around April or May 2014 Modi's promotion as a 'national leader to challenge the Congress in 2014 election' will be announced.

If these claims are true it is because the RSS is not in a position to avoid, ignore or suppress the demand for Modi. But, the obvious fall-out of Modi's promotion is that RSS will have to be extra-careful to see that their proxy who controls the party does not join hands with Modi.

So Gadkari's appointment, if done, will be termed a 'safe' not bold decision by the RSS. Nor is it matching with a larger electorate where the youth of India are baying for a change in politics.

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi


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No consensus on an alternative

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In fact, around two dozen leaders of the BJP, including all chief ministers of BJP-ruled states were asked by the RSS, individually, about their opinion on Gadkari. A majority of them gave a negative opinion but almost all of them, as it's done in party politics, refused to suggest an alternative.

But, at same time, it must be added that the RSS is listening to a variety of views. One of the sections within the party is lobbying for Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar for the top post. Another section has sent the detailed arguments to Nagpur on how if Uma Bharti becomes chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, once again, then the BJP can win the state. Therefore suggesting that current chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan should be made BJP president.

Modi is working silently. He has spread the message that Sushma Swaraj is not acceptable to him as party president. Since he is getting what he wants he will adjust or compromise with the RSS's choice.

A source in the RSS says that, "Arun Jaitley as president and Modi as the chairman of campaign committee looks like an attractive proposition but Sushma Swaraj would never agree to it as Modi has been adverse to her ascent."

Mohan Bhagwat, sarsanghachalak of the RSS, has not yet finally decided on repeating Gadkari but within the BJP many leaders are saying that situation is moving towards giving him a second term. Gadkari's chances are considered the best as on today but there seems to be a complete lack of enthusiasm on his re-appointment.  

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Image: BJP president Nitin Gadkari


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RSS is unable to drop Gadkari

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There seems to be clear divide in the sangh parivar over the issue of Gadkari getting re-nomination from the RSS. However, Gadkari's supporters think that many BJP leaders who were well-identified with the RSS and have risen to the senior posts have been, invariably, tarnished under some excuse or the other. They quote the examples of Jena Krishnamurthy, Govindacharya and Sanjay Joshi amongst others.

The RSS is unable to drop Gadkari easily because it will tell upon the RSS's decision-making process. Those who want Gadkari to remain in the post for another term think that if Gadkari goes the grip of the RSS over the BJP will weaken. Also, it will be argued that RSS is not shrewd enough to select the leaders to lead the BJP. It is a charge that the RSS cannot afford to stick.  

What is interesting to see is how the BJP is meekly accepting the RSS's decision. Look, how neither Modi nor Sushma has any choice. The way things are within the sangh parivar there remains no doubt that the RSS is powerful than the BJP and even Modi knows it well.

So, keep an eye on Nagpur. The selectors of the 2014 BJP election team will be fixed by them. If the RSS has agreed to allow Modi, as it is claimed by a few in New Delhi, to have the most-coveted public profile to lead the party in the 2014 general election it will, certainly, impose its president who will not gang up with Modi to checkmate them in any eventuality. 

So if Modi's forward march is permitted then the president of BJP will be someone who is completely loyal to the RSS. It can be Gadkari, Rajnath Singh or anyone RSS finds more loyal than Modi.

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Image: The party flag of the BJP


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