Is Modi dispensable?
Absence of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaign for the ongoing assembly polls has led to all kinds of speculation on why he has kept away and whether it was his way of getting back at the RSS leadership for inducting his main detractor Sanjay Joshi in the Saffron Brigade’s battle to regain Uttar Pradesh in particular. There is no doubt that a large section of BJP workers view Modi as their strongest leader but Modi’s magic has never been really put to test outside Gujarat. In the few elections where he campaigned, the BJP has not done too well and where it came to power, it was more to do with anti-incumbency or the local leadership’s ability to organize the polls.
Modi has been able to win successive elections in Gujarat essentially because of his electoral strategy ie polarizing voters on community lines. He has tall ambitions of launching himself on the national centre stage but has decided to put his plans in abeyance because he feels that he will be better placed once he gets Gujarat for the BJP one more time at the end of this year when the polls are due. No BJP Chief Minister has so far won three successive assembly polls and if Modi achieves that he will be in a very good position to dictate terms. But before that happens, politics may change at a very rapid pace and who knows what kind of situation exists by December end.
As stated earlier, Modi has never been successful outside Gujrat and I do not think that the BJP is missing him much in Uttar Pradesh where the only other mass leader of the party, Uma Bharti is spearheading the campaign with more seasoned leaders playing second fiddle to her. The problem, with Uma is that after being ditched by the BJP in Madhya Pradesh where she led them to victory in 2003, there is no certainty that she will be not be left high and dry once again once the results are out and even if the BJP performs better than what most people think.
Modi I think knows that he should not venture into the uncertainties of UP politics as the star campaigner because his detractors will put the party’s defeat on his shoulders. He must also be thinking that UP would also prove to be the undoing of Uma Bharti and he, as the sole mass leader of the BJP subsequently will have all the cards in his favour. It does not matter to Modi that his mass appeal is on account of his polarizing and divisive abilities (unlike the appeal of Uma which is wider). Therefore, it would be better to remain busy in Gujarat rather be labeled as among those who campaigned in UP but were unable to make any difference for the party. Modi is a political person and thus has calibrated his moves very well.
He is trying to present a fait accomplii to the RSS once all the Saffron leaders put together fail to regain UP and thus emerge as the sole saviour at the end of the year. The only miscalculation he seems to have done is that a mid-term poll at the Centre could take place before the Gujarat assembly polls and thus his timing can slightly get muddled up.
The Modi saga and other sub acts being played in the political arena all add up to suggest that a huge tussle is on to resolve the leadership issue in the BJP once and for all. LK Advani has to give way to someone younger and if palmists were to see his hand, all lines except the lifeline have vanished. The problem before him is that none of the leaders whom he has groomed are in any position to come up and take over the reins of the party in the same way as he and Atal Behari Vajpayee did for many decades. Murali Manohar Joshi, the favourite son of the Sangh Parivar is not getting any younger and thus can at best be at the helm for a short duration if the RSS decides. But ultimately, the Saffron brigade has to find a long time replacement for Vajpayee and Advani. Modi and Gadkari amongst many others think that they will emerge on top but politics often lays emphasis on the indispensable factor. In the long run, there is no one who is indispensable including Modi since life goes on. Nature recognizes the principle of dispensability and this is what Modi and his supporters should see while finalizing their political strategies.