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Modi, Amit Shah and their Dilli ki Sultanate

November 09, 2015 23:00 IST

Amit Shah with Narendra Modi

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photograph: PTI

'The Modi Sultanate -- like the Congress Sultanate -- does not understand local aspirations and politics. It will repeat the same mistakes whenever it takes on powerful regional leaders,' feels Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

While covering the Gujarat assembly elections, I heard one refrain from Narendra Modi at every election rally. The then chief minister referred to the Congress party and its president Sonia Gandhi as the 'Dilli ki Sultanate'.

The Sultans -- for those unfamiliar with medieval Indian history -- ruled Delhi from 1210 to 1526 before Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat and laid the foundations of the Mughal empire.

At election rally after rally, Modi referred to the Congress party as 'Dilli ki Sultanate', dominated by 'Madam Sonia' as he dubbed the Congress president.

The 'Dilli ki Sultanat', he told his audience, wanted to establish a 'Sultanate' in Gujarat too. He then invoked 'Gujarat ni asmita' (Gujarati pride) and asked how the 'Dilli ki Sultanate' could rule Gujarat.

In parting, he mentioned that the Congress party threatened India's democracy and demanded that the Congress' 'ahankaar' (arrogance) be vanquished.

How ironical then that Modi is being accused of 'ahankaar'!

When the Bihar election results were streaming in on Sunday, and it was clear that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav were heading for an absolute majority in the state assembly, I realised that Modi had forgotten his old rage against the 'Dilli ki Sultanate.'

Just like Sonia Gandhi is accused of having asphyxiated internal democracy in the Congress party, Modi is doing likewise in the BJP.

Since he became prime minister in May 2014, Modi has fought all state elections on his own steam, betting the political punters that his charisma will carry the day. He does not depend on local BJP leaders.

That is the difference between the earlier BJP leadership with L K Advani and A B Vajpayee at its helm. Advani and Vajpayee never shied away from promoting state leaders like Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh, Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan or the late Gopinath Munde in Maharashtra.

All these leaders had their own clout and the people in their states had a connect with them.

Narendra Modi too came up from the ranks under Advani's benign supervision. Advani, in fact, rallied behind Modi and thwarted Vajpayee's attempt to remove him as Gujarat chief minister after the 2002 riots. Modi repaid that favour by appointing Advani to the Margdarshak Mandal, a toothless entity that is supposed to guide the current ruling dispensation.

Vajpayee and Advani did not believe in running a 'Dilli ki Sultanate' and gave state leaders a voice.

For Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah, everything needs to be done by their 'Dilli ki Sultanate.'

The going was good for this 'Sultanate' till the time they fought the Congress Sultanate with its disoriented and disinterested 'Shezada,' but when it went head to head against powerful regional leaders and parties things turn out very different.

The Modi-Shah Dilli ki Sultanate should have learnt their lesson after Maharashtra 2014 where the Shiv Sena, again a strong regional party, prevented the BJP from getting a clear majority in the state. Likewise with the Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir. For the sake of power the BJP gobbled up humble pie in both states.

In February, Modi's magic was invisible when the Delhi assembly results were declared. The BJP won just three seats, routed by the Aam Aadmi Party, which won 67 seats. Again, the Modi-Shah Dilli ki Sultanate was not fighting the Congress Sutanate, but a new charismatic regional leader called Arvind Kejriwal.

In Bihar no one ever doubted that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav were powerful leaders even though Lalu was convicted in the fodder scam and has been charged with supervising a 'jungle raj' in the state during his and his wife's 15-year stint in office.

The Modi-Shah Dilli ki Sultanate could have given the BJP's campaign a Bihari face. But intoxicated by visions of their invincibility they did not feel the need for it.

It was not as if the BJP's Bihar unit did not have suitable leaders. Sushil Kumar Modi, whos served as Nitish Kumar's deputy chief minister and finance minister when the JD-U-BJP ran the state and headed the national committee on the Goods and Services Tax, was clearly the most impressive.

Sushil Modi has been a loyal karyakartha for over 40 years, having been associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the BJP and its parent the Jan Sangh's student wing, since 1975.

The Modi-Shah Sultanate -- like the Congress Sultanate before it -- does not understand local aspirations and politics. It will repeat the same mistakes whenever it takes on powerful regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu or, for that matter, Naveen Patnaik in Orissa.

The Modi-Shah Sultanate needs to quickly reverse course. But will their ahankaar permit it?

Syed Firdaus Ashraf