After the UK laid the red carpet for Narendra Modi, it was the turn for veteran lawyer and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani to certify the Gujarat CM as the party's prime ministerial candidate for the next Lok Sabha polls. The noted lawyer-turned-politician has also written to party president Nitin Gadkari advising the latter that the party must declare its PM candidate during the pre-2014 election campaign to help voters clear their mind about the projected leadership.
This is an important development as far as the BJP is concerned. The party has adopted a lot a time-buying strategy but the need of the hour is to take a brave call on the issue, for further delaying will only jeopardise the poll prospects, both for the BJP and Narendra Modi.
Ram Jethmalani, while talking to a news channel on Thursday, also made a revelation that RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat agreed with him that Narendra Modi was the BJP's best possible PM candidate. He, although, qualified his remark by saying that there are other important people in the RSS and their opinions also count a lot. But Jethmalani's basic point is clear: Narendra Modi, a man of great integrity and administrative ability, leads other aspiring candidates by far and even the ubiquitous RSS has endorsed his candidature.
I noticed this revelation by Jethmalani created a ripple but wonder why was it so. The truth is simple: The BJP today has no leader who can successfully fill the vacuum that was created by Atal Behari's departure and Advani's fall from prominence. The party is clearly plagued by internal feuds (we may call it the Congressification of the BJP) and even its current president is not a man with a popular base.
In this situation, the only man who has proved his leadership and administrative skills with great success is Narendra Modi. There is not a single leader in the BJP or even the Congress today who can challenge Modi's popularity. Rahul Gandhi is being pushed as a potential competitor but everybody knows it is a forced attempt.
RSS's flip-flop just an outer show?
The RSS's strategy has not been consistent so far but now one feels that this 'inconsistency' has been a calculated strategy taken by the outfit. Some section believed that the RSS would back its own man, Nitin Gadkari, for the prime ministerial post but promoting Gadkari as the party chief could also be a move to accommodate Narendra Modi as the PM candidate in the long run. If we weigh Modi and Gadkari, there is no doubt that the former leads the second by a good distance and we got a glimpse of that during the national executive meet in Mumbai earlier this year where Gadkari, despite all efforts, had to give in before Modi's firm demand of ousting Sanjay Joshi, a man very close to the RSS.
Besides, the recent corruption charges against Gadkari could also prove to be an obstacle for Gadkari, who is yet to cement his place in all-India politics.
Modi's personality cult has shaken the organisation-based Parivar
The rise of Narendra Modi has in fact brought into play a new style of politics in the otherwise organisation-oriented functioning of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar and that is: Personalised politics. And when this personality cult of Modi is backed by his strong and effective administrative ability, it really pushes the hardliners to play a second-fiddle role to him but yet prevents it from dumping Modi for he is still the most viable symbol of Hindutva for them. There is no second option.
Secondly, the RSS and other pro-Hindutva forces can not alienate Narendra Modi for a strategic reason. For if they do so, it will only weaken their Hindutva movement vis-a-vis the secular Congress. Modi, on the other hand, has shown in the past that he can try to free himself from the clutches of the Parivar for he does not have to depend on it for his political survival. Certainly not in 2012.
Today, face value is more important than ideology and it will be unwise to expect that the BJP and the Parivar will ignore how much significance the moderate face in Vajpayee had held for them vis-a-vis the more radical Advani. Narendra Modi is a trump-card BJP just can't ignore if it eyes the throne in Delhi. The Shivraj Singh Chauhans, Raman Singhs and Manohar Parikkars still need to cover some ground before they match Modi's political appeal.
Veteran lawyer has said the obvious
Ram Jethmalani also raised some key points. He said the BJP should form a 'shadow cabinet' in advance of the polls, highlighting the good points of individuals, and also before attacking the Congress, should ensure that it has no skeletons in the cupboard. This is precisely another reason for which the BJP can not afford to ignore Narendra Modi who has a better acceptability compared to Gadkari.
Realpolitik favours Modi
Yes, there are leaders like Sushma Swaraj, who was backed by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray a few months ago as a potential PM candidate, but was it more a stance shown by the patriarch after the RSS and BJP slammed Uddhav Thackeray's remarks on the Biharis in Maharashtra? Such stunt games in a alliance are normal, particularly when it is not in power, but on the ground, it is unlikely that Sushma Swaraj will replace Narendra Modi as a PM candidate.
Also by opposing Modi, Shiv Sena can create enemies on two fronts in the NDA, i.e., the BJP and the JD(U) which is leading in Bihar, and political sensibility says the Sena might not want to lose some ground to the MNS in Maharashtra by creating an unnecessary mess. Again, the RSS said recently that it will back Keshubhai Patel against Modi but again realpolitik will stop it from actually doing so.
Modi himself has moved ahead of 2002, others have not
Realpolitik might turn the wave in favour of Narendra Mod, but that doesn't reduce his own importance. It will be foolish to judge the Narendra Modi today through the lens of 2002. The man has recast himself and has not depended on others' favour to get political mileage.
Modi today perhaps has more enemies in his party than among the opposition ranks but yet he has ensured so far that he prevailed above all his critics. He has wisely used technology and modern means of communication to connect with his million supporters who admire him for his stress on economic achievements. He doesn't speak the same old slogans like a Leftist or other populist leaders do. At the end of the day, that (the Ashmita or pride) is what matters. And no matter how every other critic of Narendra Modi try to pull him down owing to personal grudge or by citing the 2002 ghosts, the fact is: Narendra Modi has moved much ahead since 2002. Others haven't.