A day after the CBI filed its charge sheet in the contentious Ishrat Jahan case, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi isn’t taking it easy and is presently in Delhi to regroup the party’s leadership, assess the party’s preparations in the Parliamentary Board meeting and work on how to take on the Congress.
The BJP leadership had prepared for the political fallout from the CBI’s charge sheet but there is a rather belated realisation for the party’s top leadership to present a unity of purpose. As a result, there has been a lot of hectic ground work and some important announcements could be made at today’s party meetings.
Modi has already begun the ground work for a poll campaign. Party vice-president, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will have an important role to play in Modi’s core campaign committee team. While Naqvi already looks after poll campaign management and programme implementation, Modi picking him for a important assignment is an indicator that the Gujarat chief minister wants to send a message that a Muslim face from UP matters in his scheme of things.
Modi wants a special focus on Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where he wants to capitalise on the charged atmosphere in the party following the severing of ties by the JD(U) and Nitish Kumar. The party campaign committee chief also will lay an emphasis on doing better in Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan and such other states. He has already been to Mumbai to hold a meeting of party’s state core committee to discuss poll strategy for Maharashtra, numerically the second most important state after UP.
Apart from Modi, another leader who will feature prominently in the meetings despite his absence is former BJP president Nitin Gadkari. Sources told that Gadkari is going to be placed in charge of the most crucial assignment of the party: to wrest power from the Congress in two states, Rajasthan and Delhi, which will go to the polls along with Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in November. Though Gadkari’s proposed role isn’t exactly what party patriarch LK Advani had sought for him, it is seen as a honourable solution in the top circles of the BJP.
The truce with Gadkari was worked out in a meeting between Gadkari and BJP President Rajnath Singhlast weekend. Sources said on 29 June, Singh drove straight to Gadkari’s Teen Murti lane residence from Ghaziabad, where he had gone to inaugurate a BJP Mahila Morcha conclave. Singh had some other engagements scheduled in Ghaziabad, since it is his parliamentary constituency, but went to meet with Gadkari since the former party president was leaving for a 10-day-long tour to Norway.
Gadkari’s appointment to head a proposed election management committee for the states was mired in controversy as it coincided with Modi’s rise to head the party’s campaign committee in 2014. Even though Singh couldn’t constitute the election management committee that party patriarch Advani had sought, the BJP president had been in talks with his predecessor on an alternative assignment for him.
In their meeting on 29 June, Gadkari was clearly sounded out about his new role about taking charge of the party’s campaign management in Delhi and Rajasthan. The BJP had drawn a blank in 2009 elections winning only seven parliamentary seats in Delhi and only four seats in Rajasthan out of 25.
Gadkari is said to have been satisfied with the offer and Singh has taken all senior leaders into confidence on the matter. While the party normally names a prabhari (in-charge) of a state, Singh did not name one for Delhi due to an internal party conflict. For Rajasthan he picked Kaptan Singh Solanki, an RSS appointee. During his tenure as party president Gadkari had already re-established Vasundhara Raje pre-eminence in organisational matters in the state.
Gadkari had made his importance in the party known by playing a crucial role in resolving the party’s crisis following LK Advani’s resignation. Gadkari’s role not only re-established his proximity to the RSS, but also his capacity to bring the warring factions of the BJP to the negotiating table.
The debate over whether the RSS should have so many say in the functioning of the BJP remains debatable, but the control of the Sangh over the party is almost total on organisational matters since the 2004 election debacle. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s recent meeting with Advani and other senior leaders in Delhi dealt with how could the party could portray a common sense of purpose given that the constant reports of infighting were only damaging the party prospects.
Presently an effort is being made to portray a united leadership at the top of the party. Modi has taken the initiative to meet with Advani after the party patriarch’s resignation and withdrawal and is said to have had a candid chat on critical issues in his hour long meeting with his one time mentor. The meeting was a result of Modi wanting to shed the impression that he was bypassing the senior leader, a charge erstwhile ally Nitish Kumar had levelled.
Party leaders are hoping with Gadkari’s return to the party’s leadership a positive signal will be sent to both to the cadre and its opponents, that the clash of titans in the BJP is taking a back seat to achieve the goal in a national election they know is only months away.