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Narendra Modi's new best friends in BJP

September 17, 2013 10:14 IST

Photographs: Courtesy:

Soon after he became chairman of the Campaign Committee, a colleague from the Bharatiya Janata Party met Narendra Modi to find out what he was thinking about the issues that should be raised during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. 

"Mudda kya hoga (what will be the issues)?" he asked Modi during the meeting.

"Mudda?" responded Modi, surprised he was being asked the question. "Mudda aur kya hai: Narendra Modi hi to mudda hai (what else can be the issue but Narendra Modi)?"

If this is the central theme of BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Gujarat chief minister needs a lot of friends in Delhi. It is not just image building. He has been away from national politics for a long time and needs to have eyes and ears in the city of rumours and true lies.

Some of these friends have already surfaced -- party colleague put it rather laconically: "Varsha ke baad kukurmutta ki tarah (like mushrooms sprouting after the rains)."

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Narendra Modi's new best friends in BJP

Image: BJP leader Smriti Irani

Modi has some young people rooting for him. There is Smriti Irani, for instance, and Meenakshi Lekhi too, who have become torchbearers for him on national television. There is Murlidhar Rao who might one day ascend to the party presidentship with Modi's help.

And then there are other friends in Delhi who want to propel the mood in India in Modi's favour.

The first test of loyalty to Modi came in Bihar. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had made it clear that if Modi was chosen as the National Democratic Alliance's prime ministerial candidate, he could no longer continue in the alliance that had run Bihar for almost two terms.

For Modi, it was important to send out a signal that he would not tolerate such hectoring by allies, even if it meant that BJP ministers in Bihar had to resign.

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Narendra Modi's new best friends in BJP

Image: Narendra Modi with BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and Arun Jaitley
Photographs: Courtesy:

It was during this period that the mettle of his friends in Delhi was tested.

First, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, party vice-president, rushed to Bihar and announced that Modi would be BJP's prime ministerial candidate when the proposal wasn't even a glimmer -- in terms of a formal proposal -- in the party's eye.

This was followed by the Patna visit of Dharmendra Pradhan, who, in the interim, was appointed general secretary in charge of Bihar. Pradhan and another leader, JP Nadda, are both close colleagues of Arun Jaitley, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

Pradhan belongs to Odisha but is a Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar and is acquainted with all the movers and shakers in the state BJP. Pradhan announced a 'hunkar' rally in Patna for October where Modi would be chief guest. He also organised a teleconference between Modi and party colleagues to allow the Gujarat chief minister to declare "his great respect for Bihar and Biharis", obviously to nullify the negative impact of unintended slurs about Bihar in some Gujarat government posters, which Nitish had exploited to the hilt.

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Narendra Modi's new best friends in BJP

Image: At the venue of Narendra Modi's Hyderabad rally
Photographs: SnapsIndia

Then Rajiv Pratap Rudy, another Delhi leader, said that BJP had to break its ties with the JD-U because an ally could not dictate who should be BJP's prime minister.

Amid all this, the Bihar unit of BJP met in Gaya and passed a formal resolution asking that Modi be made the party's prime minister designate. No unit anywhere in the country had passed such a resolution. This forced party president Rajnath Singh to step in to tell the Bihar unit not to get carried away in its enthusiasm.

These events constituted a not-so-subtle build-up for Modi's national foray. His friends in Delhi didn't know it yet -but they were running a campaign that had as its slogan: "Narendra Modi for Prime Minister".

Slowly, new friends and strategists emerged in other states too.

Modi went to Hyderabad, where people paid to attend his rally. This meeting was organised by G Kishan Reddy, former president of the state BJP, and senior leaders Bandaru Dattatreya and Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao. Party stalwarts like Venkaiah Naidu joined the campaign for Modi at events organised by people from Telangana. They invited Modi in the belief that after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, BJP might be able to put down roots in Telangana and their own careers would take off.

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Narendra Modi's new best friends in BJP

Image: Narendra Modi at his rally in Jaipur
Photographs: Rohit Jain Paras

Back in Delhi, the patronage of Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley -- Modi men, so to say -- has triggered the rise of a whole new crop of Modi supporters, leading to misgivings among the existing leadership.

Among them are Vasundhara Raje and Bhupendra Yadav of Rajasthan.

Few know that when she was being persecuted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, it was to Modi that the former chief minister of Rajasthan had gone for help. Modi helped her in hundreds of ways and knows now that he can depend on her for support.

On his part, Yadav, Rajya Sabha member, organised a rally where two lakh people wanted to hear neither Rajnath Singh nor Raje, but only Modi. They kept chanting Modi's name and went wild when they saw him. It was at one of Yadav's efforts in Rajasthan that Modi came up with his "ABCD for the Congress" speech.

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Narendra Modi's new best friends in BJP

Photographs: Mukesh Gupta/Reuters

"Book ke anusar, A ka matlab Adarsh ghotala, B ka matlab Bofors ghotala, C ka matlab coal ghotala and D ka matlab....damad ka karobar (A stands for Adarsh scam, B for Bofors scam, C for coal scam and D for son-in-law's business)," Modi had said to rapturous acclaim.

Perhaps one of Modi's staunchest friends in Delhi is Suresh Soni, the RSS leader 'lent' to the BJP by the parent organisation. Soni was the one who forced Rajnath Singh's hand in Goa, leading to the announcement of Modi as chief of the party campaign committee despite LK Advani's misgivings.

And it is Soni who has been scripting Modi's moves to bridge the rift between him and the Sangh (which, incidentally, does not believe that the Gujarat strongman will be democratic, but is afraid that it will be left behind if it does not do what its cadres seem to want).

But ultimately, it is Narendra Modi himself who is his own friend, philosopher, strategist and guide -- with a little help from friends in Delhi.

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