Did Sushma Swaraj avoid Narendra Modi during her Bhopal speech?

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Bhopal, Sept 25: The BJP organised a massive rally named Karyakarta Mahakumbh in Bhopal on Wednesday where top leaders of the party addressed a massive audience of over 7 lakh people. Besides the party's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Narendra Modi, patriarch LK Advani, president Rajnath Singh, parliamentary leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, former Union minister Murli Manohar Joshi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, former MP chief minister Uma Bharati and many other leaders were present on the occasion which also marked the 97th birth anniversary of late Jana Sangh ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay.

The BJP leaders showered praise on Chouhan, the chief minister looking for his third straight term, paid tribute to Upadhyay and lashed out at the Congress government at the Centre. No problem till this point. But did all speak in unison to back Narendra Modi at the event?

Sushma Swaraj is a case in hand. The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, during her six-minute speech, did not name Modi once, something which was not the case with the other speakers. Even the 85-year-old Advani, who reportedly snubbed Modi when he the latter touched his feet on the podium, mentioned about the Gujarat chief minister during his speech.

Being an Oppn leader, was it tough for Sushma to accept Modi as BJP's face?

Sushma praised Shivraj, but for Modi?

Was it a deliberate ignorance by Swaraj? While comparing the line-up of the BJP leaders with the great heroes of Mahabharata, she once said that Arjuna has come to seek blessings of the elders and cooperation of the people. Whom did she refer to as Arjuna? Was it Modi or Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the man who was more in focus during the day for obvious reasons.

The rally was more an election campaign for the assembly polls in the central Indian state and it is understandable that Chouhan will be the man more talked about. But does that justify the BJP parliamentarian's not spending a word for the party's prime ministerial candidate? Are the dissenting voices just waiting for a strategic advantage?

Difficult for a leader who is leading the opposition?

It is true that the Advani-led camp is not convinced about Modi's candidature for the top post. It is the pressure of the RSS and the popular perception that had forced this camp into submission but is Sushma still to accept the reality?

Not unlikely. After all, it is she who has been leading the BJP against the increasingly unpopular Congress regime at the Centre.

Advani's backing didn't do it for Sushma

Advani even compared her with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpyee in terms of eloquence at the party's national council meet earlier this year, which one feels was a calculated move to put Swaraj ahead of Modi, whose speed he had downplayed. Advani had even clubbed Modi with Shivraj Singh Chouhan, known to be close to him, and curiously deviated from his written speech which included praises about Modi. That day, Swaraj and Chouhan had also tried hard to project themselves as figures not eclipsed by the lengthening shadow of Modi.

Bal Thackeray's demise also gave a blow to Sushma's chances

Swaraj perhaps was the biggest loser the day Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray passed away last year for he had thrown his weight behind her as the NDA's prime ministerial candidate.

Thackeray's successor is yet to gather the political courage and strength to stick to what the senior Thackeray had wanted, particularly when the other Sena chief and his estranged cousin is known to be close to Modi.

For Swaraj, it was perhaps not a very happy feeling to have lost the patronage. For a leader of Opposition who next aspires to be the prime minister, it is not an easy situation to be in.

Modi's rise also mattered

Modi, on the other hand, is a tail that has wagged the dog. The man, who is yet to enter the political circles in Delhi in a formal way, has established himself as the face of the BJP and also expressed his dissatisfaction with Swaraj's raking up the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin. The man has emerged a powerful invigilator of the party's policies and moves and it is not something the old guards will readily appreciate.

Political rivalry is nothing new but was it a wise move by Swaraj not to mention about Modi even once in Bhopal on Wednesday specially when the party's formal face for the next general election is present on the stage? Didn't it send a wrong signal?

Swaraj will not be present at Modi's hi-tech rally in Delhi on September 29. Again, is the decision wise, given the fact that Sushma herself was the last BJP chief minister of the state since the Congress took over 15 years ago?

September 13 has settled a few questions. But it has also given rise a few more.

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