Will the rise and rise of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi help the BJP? Opinion is divided as strongman Modi took the centrestage in a major reshuffle within the party.
Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and political pundits were divided on whether or not Modi, who has not hidden his prime ministerial ambitions, is an asset or a liability in the long run for the opposition party.
Modi was made a member of the BJP’s parliamentary board and the central election committee in Sunday’s reshuffle by party president Rajnath Singh. The parliamentary board is the the BJP’s top decision making body.
Rajnath Singh did other things too – he inducted young faces to connect with India’s young, and gave hints that the party was not turning its back on Hindutva.
He also sought to create a political balance among central office bearers by taking into account regional and factional factors.
Analysts said that some appointments showed BJP’s desire to lay thrust on Hindutva issues, which includes a long-standing promise to build a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya.
Aswini K. Ray, formerly a political science professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the elevation of Uma Bharti was also a signal that the BJP won’t shy away from portraying its Hindutva plank.
“On the one hand good governance of Modi will be a major issue, on the other (they would) host the flag of Hindutva,” Ray said. He called this a “sensible” strategy.
But Ray said Modi may not be formally projected as prime ministerial candidate due to reservations of ally Janata Dal-United and other internal issues but he will keep rising in the party.
Commentator S. Nihal Singh said the BJP had almost settled the decision on projecting Modi for the country’s top job. “It is obvious that Modi will be prime ministerial candidate.”
Nihal Singh said the BJP appeared to have convinced itself that it was not going to get Muslim vote in large numbers — Modi or no Modi.
He said the induction of controversial Gujarat politician and Modi confidant Amit Shah as a BJP general secretary was an indication of the Gujarat chief minister’s growing clout.
Some BJP leaders feel that Rajnath Singh has tried to accommodate all pressure groups within the party.
One BJP leader said the reshuffle was a clear sign that the party will harp on good governance without giving up the Hindutva issues so close to its heart ahead of the next Lok Sabha ballot.
Another BJP leader said what really mattered was electoral momentum in favour of the party at the grassroots.
He said that the party had to be unambiguous about its prime ministerial candidate if it wanted people to root for it.
“Modi’s elevation has given a positive signal but I don’t think it is good enough,” the party leader told IANS.
He said the party should not halt the process of projecting Modi even though there were differing views on the issue.
Nisar-ul-Haq of Jamia Millia Islamia’s political science department had another view: “Old people have been sidelined (in BJP). It shows some problems in the BJP.”
He said Modi’s projection would consolidate the Muslim vote against the BJP.
“The reshuffle shows they want to bring up Modi. The more this happens, the more the Congress will benefit,” he said.
BJP’s organisational reshuffle also saw the party bringing in 32 new faces in its central team, with almost 80 percent of the appointees being under 60 years of age.