Challenge for Modi: Can he now deliver?
Not many gave Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi much of a chance when he began his campaign to be named his party‚Äôs choice for Prime Minister. He had become Hindutva‚Äôs poster boy after the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, but the RSS was not in his favour.
This has changed, and on Friday Mr Modi was duly named the BJP‚Äôs man for the top job. He should have been right up the RSS‚Äô street with his 2002 showing, but was thought to be self-driven, egotistical and full of self-love, placing himself above the organisation. The RSS didn‚Äôt like this. He also gave other BJP leaders (including stalwarts), and RSS and VHP adherents, a hard time if they did not kowtow to him.
Then Mr Modi changed tack and literally wooed the RSS top brass. He knew only too well that the Delhi-based BJP leaders, who hated his guts and thought him too rough for their liking and too dismissive of their individual aspirations, would meekly fall in line if the RSS ‚ÄĒ Hindutva‚Äôs motherboard ‚ÄĒ cleared him. This is exactly what has happened.
But the Nagpur-Jhandewalan cabal has extracted its price. If the Gujarat CM becomes Prime Minister, he must deliver on core Hindutva issues as the RSS sees things. These are building of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, scrapping Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and enacting a uniform civil code.
The Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government had earlier skirted these issues, rightly perceiving them as a hot potato that could plunge the country into a state of discord, instead of putting it on the path of development, and the RSS was very sore. Now the Hindutva body believes it is poised to have its own man in place. Mr Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, builder of the modern BJP, who has chosen splendid isolation and declined to endorse Mr Modi‚Äôs enthronement by the Sangh Parivar (risking being called ‚Äúpetulant‚ÄĚ), had a mind of their own although they rose from RSS ranks.
Mr Modi‚Äôs nomination is as much a victory for him as for RSS strongman Mohan Bhagwat. Mr Bhagwat has shown the energy of hoary RSS chief Golwalkar. He has come out upfront doing straightforward politics, not having any of the mumbo-jumbo of the RSS being a ‚Äúcultural‚ÄĚ organisation.
Besides Mr Advani, all in the BJP have fallen in line and endorsed Mr Modi, although privately senior leaders have misgivings. There has never been such an open show of revolt in the BJP in selecting its prospective leader. All the same, Friday was Mr Modi‚Äôs day, not Mr Advani‚Äôs, although in politics people don‚Äôt suddenly become irrelevant. Mr Modi has to bring in the votes and his burden can only grow.