By Dinesh K. Sharma
NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi’s status in the BJP today is like that of L.K. Advani during the 1990 Rath Yatra.
The BJP’s then president had embarked on the famous Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in September 1990. Though the yatra was stopped by then Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav with Advani’s arrest at Samastipur on October 23, it energized the BJP and Hindutva forces which were soon to catapult the party to a new status as its tally rose from 85 seats in 1989 to 120 in the 1991 elections.
Thanks to Advani, the BJP, which had won just two seats in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, became the alternative at the national level.
In 2014, Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi has energized the BJP in the same way as Advani did in 1990.
Modi has come on the national stage with the backing of the RSS and with his track record in Gujarat.
No doubt, Modi’s elevation as the party’s prime ministerial candidate has come at the expense of octogenarian Advani who still nurses prime ministerial ambitions.
But it is the new troika of Modi, Arun Jaitley and BJP president Rajpath Singh which is calling the shots now.
The troika has forced Advani – after he expressed reluctance to contest from Gujarat – to fall in line. Another stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi has been forced to leave the Varanasi seat to Modi. Lalji Tandon too has been ousted from Lucknow to accommodate Rajnath Singh. Cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu has been turfed out of Amritsar to make way for Jaitley.
Advani’s confidante Harin Pathak has been replaced with Modi supporter Paresh Rawal from the Ahmedabad East seat.
Another Advani man Jaswant Singh has been denied ticket from Barmer in Rajasthan.
The Modi-Rajnath-Jailtey troika seems to be working to a plan to position themselves in a post-poll scenario in which the BJP and allies don’t reach the required figure of 272 seats.
The troika wants to eliminate chances of Advani being in the reckoning in case other parties insist that they will support the BJP only if Modi is not the PM. That’s why Modi, Rajnath and Jailtey are riding roughshod over those whom they see as a threat.
In fact, Rajnath Singh may have his own game-plan in case Modi is not acceptable to other parties willing to back the BJP to form government. That’s why he (Rajnath Singh) admitting leaders from other parties who are from the same community as himself.
Jailtey may not have such aspirations because he has no base. He is in Modi’s inner circle because he stood by Modi when Vajpayee was about to dismiss him as the Gujarat chief minister after the 2002 riots.
Though their actions have created rumblings in the party, the troika is very sure of the party’s victory, just like the BJP was during the `Shining India’ campaign of 2005.