The man faced challenges, externally from JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar and internally from party patriarch LK Advani and in both cases, the unconditional backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) helped him prevail over. But what if the RSS itself turns into a challenger, after seeing that as a prime ministerial aspirant, Modi is responding to pragmatism more than the Sangh ideology?
This will be a key question for the entire saffron camp. Modi's recent rallies have indicated that he is for building a social coalition comprising people from all sections and projecting himself as a moderate national leader, something which is an imperative for successfully authoring an India story.
But the RSS might be thinking otherwise. It will want Modi to act like a magic wand that will achieve whatever it has been dreaming about since the beginning. They want Modi to establish a Hindu state, abolish Article 370 related to Jammu and Kashmir, set up a uniform civil code, ban cow slaughter and of course, flag off the Ram Mandir project at Ayodhya.
This is an impossible ask. Modi is wise enough to know that turning back the wheel of history is not feasible and neither will he let the ghost of 2002 ruin the transformation of his image that took place over the 12 years. Modi has already been seen practising inclusive politics, speaking moderately on Pakistan and focusing more on issues like economic slowdown. He has also refused to involve himself with the ongoing communal tussle in Uttar Pradesh, whether at Ayodhya or Muzaffarnagar. For he knows that there is no other way to emerge as a pan-Indian leader. The RSS may not understand this truth but Modi has.
Modi’s advantage is that he can always learn from Vajpayee’s leadership
A new chapter on RSS-BJP tension?
So, will we witness a fresh episode of RSS-BJP tension if Modi indeed emerges as the prime minister of India? Not unlikely. In the past also, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a sour relation with former RSS chief K Sudarshan over government policies.
The NDA government had sought a liberal stand on economy and also took an accommodative approach towards Pakistan for in realpolitik, these ultimately matter and not hollow slogans of ‘go for Swadeshi goods' or ‘nuke the enemy'.
But at the end, it was Vajpayee who left a legacy in the mind of India and not Sudarshan's forced opposition. He was little heard of after being confined to Nagpur, thanks to Vajpayee's political skills. Party chief Rajnath Singh might also have to step into the shoes of Lal Krihna Advani to act a bridge between Modi and the RSS. Advani was the man who did the job during Vajpayee's days.
The RSS's next project to influence the BJP's functioning by imposing Nitin Gadkari as its head also did the party more harm. It was a timely replacement of Gadkari by Rajnath Singh that had saved the day for the BJP and the new chief's strong support for Modi helped the BJP to take on the problems head on.
Modi has to deal the RSS with a strong-and-soft approach
Modi will have deal strongly with the RSS factor if he aspires to win allies across the nation to form a government at the Centre. While many analysts feel that Modi is not a Vajpayee, this writer thinks he has an advantage that Vajpayee didn't have and that is Vajpayee's own experience in tackling the ever-intervening RSS during his days as the prime minister.
He might have to keep the RSS satisfied by giving some concession by means of appointing some of its men at important posts. As a leader of a majority government in Gujarat, Modi did not think twice while tackling the slightest of threats, even if they came from aggressive saffron fronts, but as the leader of a coalition government of a secular nation, he will have to execute the policy of concession and compromise just as Vajpayee had done.
It will also create a new circle of sycophants for the man, so far known to be an outsider in Delhi, but politics is never free from problems. A hard-working Modi knows it more than many others.