By TR Ramchandran*
The country is once again at the crossroads. All eyes are on the BJP’s bid to regain power at the centre. Its controversial and autocratic prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi is in the eye of a storm, unfazed by senior leaders like Jaswant Singh defying the party leadership’s desire of quietly fading away.
Jaswant Singh apart, the serious differences within the party have led to dirty linen being washed in public. It is not just confined to patriarch L.K.Advani or Sushma Swaraj but several others in the states. They have questioned Modi’s choice as head of government.
A generational shift in the BJP has been long overdue. Politicians in this country don’t hang up their boots but want to soldier on eternally. Retiring from public life leads to insecurities. Politicians must realise when to call it a day rather than being unceremoniously shown the door.
The powerful ideologue of the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and its chief Mohan Bhagat, has emphasised that there will be rumblings in any political party when major changes are effected. Thus, RSS does not find it necessary to intervene.
The RSS believes the country has suffered immeasurably over the last 10 years of the Congress-led UPA government. A powerful leader capable of taking hard decisions is needed at this critical juncture to put the country’s battered economy back on the rails and end the unending trials and tribulations of the poor.
Nobody in the BJP, including its seniormost leader L.K. Advani, can overrule the RSS line of thinking. It has held firm and seen the outcome of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s liberalism in keeping out the controversial issue of Hidutva from the common minimum programme.
These pertained to building the Ram temple at the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site, abrogation of Article 370 according special powers to Jammu and Kashmir and a Uniform Civil Code. There is not going to be any appeasement of the minority community.
This is not going to be in the forefront of Modi’s development agenda. Taking the country out of the morass it finds itself in takes precedence over everything else. No doubt attempts will be made to unobtrusively sneak in these issues without raising a hue and cry from its alliance partners in case the BJP forms the government at the centre.
If the Lotus party is able to form the government on its own, the secular allies supporting the BJP can be kept at bay.
Most major formations in the political firmament claiming to be secular have reservations about Modi being prime minister. What rankles them is the possible repeat of the 2002 Gujarat riots in the form of a new pogrom probably elsewhere in the country.
The politics of fear has entrapped the minority community in Gujarat and other parts of the country. This cannot be wished away.
Here, what is significant is that there are 400,000 minority community voters in Varanasi. They have affirmed that the question of voting for Modi does not arise. Their choice lies with the Congress, the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party.
There may not have been any riots over the last dozen years in Gujarat. At the same time, Modi has not made a conscious effort to win over the minority community. What cannot be overlooked is that a Supreme Court- mandated Special Investigation team has absolved him of any involvement or conspiracy connected with the riots. After a decade of scrutiny there is nothing against Modi. It is another matter that some other cases in this regard are still pending in courts.
The critical aspect is that the BJP has got a new power centre. It is being compelled to rearrange itself around it. There is no doubt the Lotus has a distinct advantage, thanks to the Congress being enmeshed in its own follies and scams.
There has also been an absence of any power struggle since last September when Modi was nominated prime ministerial candidate. The reason is not far to fathom: He is the only choice of the RSS for the high office.
Modi has emerged as the only leader to rally around in the BJP, sending the other aspirants for the prime minister’s post scurrying for cover.
The question is whether politics in this country is about to change. If so, it will be widely welcomed, subject to the leader being liberal without communal tendencies and working in the interests of the people at large and the country.
*T.R. Ramachandran is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected]