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Will Congress benefit from Advani-Modi clash?

By Anita Katyal
June 10, 2013 21:44 IST

The Congress resisted all temptation to comment on senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani’s decision to step down from key party posts on Monday, but there was a palpable sense of relief that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s elevation had not been a smooth affair and had, in fact, triggered a major storm in the opposition camp, feels Anita Katyal.

Modi’s projection as the BJP’s face in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls following his appointment as the party’s campaign committee chief was viewed with some concern in the Congress in view of the Gujarat strongman’s appeal with the urban middle class and the youth.

There was also a lurking fear that Modi’s excellent marketing skills and PR machinery could create a wave in his favour in the months ahead. But as the unfolding developments in the BJP showed up the deep fissures in the principal opposition party, the nervous tension in the Congress gave way to relief.

The war within the BJP is a clear indicator that despite the support from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the clamour for Modi’s promotion from the party rank and file, the Gujarat chief minister still has a long way to go before he is accepted by the party leaders as a “first among equals.”

“We are bound to benefit as long as there is division in the main opposition party -- after all, it is our main political rival,” remarked a senior Congress leader, adding that the latest episode had demonstrated that the leadership issue in the BJP is far from settled.

The Congress is secretly hoping that present crisis in the BJP is not resolved in a hurry as it will deflect attention from the United Progressive Alliance government and instead expose the saffron party BJP as a bitterly divided house, incapable of governing the country.

“At least we have no confusion in our party on the leadership front. We now have to work hard to improve our position or, at least, maintain status quo,” remarked a senior Congress office bearer, adding that it will be difficult for the BJP to convince the electorate about its ability to rule if these differences persist.

While Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh had been quick to describe the BJP as a “party with differences”, his colleagues could not resist taking a swipe at the saffron party despite the diktat from the leadership that they refrain from commenting on the opposition party’s internal matters.

Clearly enjoying he BJP discomfiture, All India Congress Committee general secretary B K Hariprasad declared, “We wish Advaniji all the best for a Modi-mukt BJP (Modi-free BJP),” a dig at Modi’s declaration in Goa on Sunday that the BJP would launch a campaign for “Congres mukt Bharat Nirman.

Hariprasad’s colleague Shakeel Ahmed said that Advani was now trying to redeem himself after single-handedly destroying the country’s secular fabric with his mandir movement in the early 90s.

According to Ahmed, Advani incurred the wrath of the RSS for the campaign he led against their two favourite protégés -- Nitin Gadkari and B S Yeddyurappa.

“The RSS, therefore, decided to throw its weight behind Modi knowing full well that Advani will not happy with the Gujrat chief minister’s projection as the party’s face for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

While the BJP leadership hopes to resolve its internal crisis at the earliest, the Congress believes the damage has already been done.

“Advani may not have the same following and influence in the BJP as he did in his heydays but if he if continues to sulk, he will strengthen the public perception that the BJP is a house divided,” said a Congress leader.

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Anita Katyal