After Dec 20, the focus as far as India's politics is concerned, will change. Till now, the relevant topic for discussion has been whether Narendra Modi, with his big electoral victory (assuming he won't have problem in that), will be catapulted into national politics and the BJP will nominate him as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general polls. But the point is: After the Gujarat election gets over and if Modi indeed earns a favourable mandate for the third consecutive time, the BJP may find itself confronting more challenges instead of settling with a relieved mind. There are reasons for that.
BJP may still feel the pinch
First, Narendra Modi's third victory on the trot will mean that he will virtually become unstoppable in the party. The Gujarat election has been a Modi vs rest fight and national parties like the Congress and BJP have been made look like glorified extras. Even the splinter party making its debut in this election, the Gujarat Parivartan Party led by former BJP leader Keshubhai Patel has commanded more significance in this election, than say Sonia Gandhi or Nitin Gadkari, the chiefs of the two national parties. Modi has made himself the only relevant factor in the Gujarat BJP today, something that Indira Gandhi had once done in the Congress, and this is seen as a serious threat by many in the saffron party.
The others in the BJP are only seen talking in the media about Modi's great work in the state rather than what the BJP thinks or perceives about Gujarat. One person has made the whole party and that too, an organisation-based one, secondary to himself. This is not something any other BJP chief minister could do.
In fact, Modi even outscores Indira Gandhi in this respect for the latter had a much easier task of subordinating a dynasty-based party. He has kept the VHP and RSS at a convenient distance and this proves the Parivar is not indispensable for Modi anymore. He has successfully connected with investors and the middle-class and these two sections today play a huge role to propel the Gujarat CM forward. No matter how much the 'liberal' media cry foul about 2002, the fact is that Modi has moved far ahead. Even ahead of the Parivar.
The saffron centre of Indian politics will struggle to keep pace with Modi and this will create inconvenience when it comes to projecting the latter as the PM candidate. Either Modi will have to slow down or the BJP and the rest will have to catch up.
Win Gujarat but lose Karnataka?
The second factor that will spoil the BJP's Gujarat celebration is the Karnataka crisis. Four years ago, the party had backed up Modi's second victory in Gujarat by forming its first government in south India when BS Yeddyurappa became the CM of Karnataka. This time, the situation is just the reverse. The BJP, while is certain of retaining Mod's Gujarat, will face an uphill task in coming back to power in Karnataka next year. The BJP government in the state, which saw three CMs taking charge within a gap of four years, received a decisive blow when a disgruntled BSY quit the party.
BSY's exit means alienation of an entire vote bank and there is very little chance of the party returning to power in a highly fragmented political situation. We had seen how the exit of Kalyan Singh in Uttar Pradesh and Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand gave big blows to the party and now it seems Karnataka will go the same way.
Fragile top leadership a big worry
The decision of BSY, a Lingayat strongman, to quit the BJP also hints at yet a third reason for the BJP to remain unhappy. And it is its fragile central leadership. Experienced party leaders know very well that the shaky leadership at the top will help it little in achieving anything significant in 2014. The tainted party president Nitin Gadkari, who has the backing of RSS, has evolved into a serious point of difference between divided camps.
Senior leaders like Ram Jethmalani, Yashwant Sinha and Satrughan Sinha have expressed their displeasure with Gadkari after anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal accused the BJP chief of indulging in corrupt practices. Gadkari, however, refused to budge and Jethmalani was suspended.
The RSS-backed chief has failed to tame rebels like BSY in Karnataka and party supporters may feel that under such leadership, the BJP will struggle to forge a winning alliance in the next general polls. The shrinking NDA alliance has more differences within than agreements and one of them has been the choice of prime ministerial candidate. A secular leader like Nitish Kumar has objected to Modi's candidature and the BJP needs him badly if it wants to put into place a winning alliance. Who will negotiate on the BJP's behalf? Gadkari certainly is not the preference of many.
Is Modi vs Gadkari the next big clash in BJP?
Modi's arrival on the national stage will create a big challenge of accommodating for the BJP. The partisan national leadership will have to give way to the leader from Gujarat or else, the party will suffer serious blows. The BJP must understand that to avoid its own Congressification, it should allow its strong regional leaders to rise. If the party's next factional squabble involves supporters of Modi and Gadkari, then it is better to forget 2014. For a Narendra Modi can become PM only if his party delivers. National politics is a different ball-game altogether.