Does Sushma really want Modi?

Has the recent statement by Sushma Swaraj, BJP stalwart and leader of opposition in Lok Sabha been wrongly interpreted in some circles as an endorsement of Narendra Modi for the top job in the country? In order to reach any conclusion, one has to first see the context in which she praised the Gujarat Chief Minister as also the timing and venue of her observation.

Obviously, the Gujarat assembly polls campaign is at its peak and every BJP leader would want Modi to win the state for their party for the third time. Therefore if she has stated what she has while campaigning in Gujarat, the entire issue has to be viewed with all its political dimensions when the election is over and the results are out. Her views can only be taken seriously if she repeats this statement after the polls and there too, it is not Sushma alone who will decide on the BJP’s future leader but the top brass of the party and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh which is the controlling authority of the BJP.

Sushma Swaraj by virtue of being the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha is an automatic choice for being the party’s nominee for Prime Ministership during the next Parliamentary poll if one goes strictly by the Westminster model of democracy which we follow here too except that there is no shadow cabinet in this country. Therefore why would a seasoned campaigner like Sushma give up her claim on being projected as the BJP nominee for the position in favour of Modi? Many in the BJP and outside perceive Modi as the strongest leader amongst opposition parties but his influence outside Gujarat is yet to be tested. In Cricket parlance, he remains a Ranji trophy player and is waiting to be selected by his seniors for Test cricket. This is in contrast to many others in the BJP who have been playing at the top level for many years now. This includes besides Sushma, other stalwarts like L.K.Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Ananth Kumar, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and some others.

There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that Modi has bigger ambitions than being merely the Chief minister of Gujarat. This has come out through indications provided by him as well as many of his supporters. His close friend and aide Arun Jaitley is yet to give him the kind of endorsement he has got from Sushma mainly because, it is rather early to make such a proclamation and given that the BJP has not discussed this matter at any level so far. It is true that Modi had successfully imposed himself as the CM of Gujarat by ousting Keshobhai Patel in 2001 but similar tactics may not necessarily succeed at the national level.

It is certainly not my argument that Modi cannot be the Prime Ministerial candidate but this if it has to happen will happen only after the poll results of Gujarat and when the matter gets debated within the Sangh Parivar.

There are many who feel that Sushma spoke in Modi’s favour to spite Jaitley with whom she does not get along very well. The other view is that the Advani camp which includes Sushma and Jaitley and some others who do not belong to any camp like Murali Manohar Joshi are at present concentrating on how to deny Nitin Gadkari his second term as the BJP Chief and therefore are presenting scenarios to scare him (Gadkari) away.

I have always believed that it is the business of every political party to select who its top leader will be. But for that to materialize, the political party and its allies will have to sit and agree on the nominee. Sushma alone cannot select and anoint anyone including Modi. She herself has to go a long way. How events play out in the future will determine the BJP’s successor to Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K.Advani.

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