Suspicions of silent collusion between the Congress and BJP suggested in these columns have only been strengthened by the subsequent choice of a lightweight candidate by the Congress to be fielded against Mr. Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Now recent developments encourage speculation whether the danger of a rift emerging within the BJP exists. The basis of a rift has been pointed out earlier. Mr. Modi’s style of functioning has diminished solidarity within BJP ranks. The constraints of discipline have prevailed thus far over a sulking segment of the BJP leadership. But recent developments could tilt the balance.
Mr. Modi has created an entire team of parallel volunteers who mastermind his election campaign. And the thrust of the campaign is plain to see. The campaign is only about Mr. Modi who is larger than life and considerably larger than the party he represents. Mr. Modi has dwarfed the BJP and marginalized it into a corner. The calculations of the volunteer team have borne fruit by the great hype of a Modi wave that has swept across the entire media and among almost all political observers. However, there is one element that seems to be overlooked.
The volunteer team can create the hype; it cannot physically mobilize voters to the polling booths. How must the RSS workers assigned to that task and inhibited by discipline to vent feelings be silently thinking?
Already some telltale signs of how the traditional BJP voters respond were provided by top BJP leaders who support Mr. Modi, but boycotted his function to admit defectors Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan and Mr. Upendra Kushwaha into the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Subsequently there has been a string of unprincipled defections that mock traditional BJP sensibilities.
However it is the latest developments that should cause more serious concern. Recently a TV channel ran a program describing Mr. Rajnath Singh as the dark horse in the BJP. The arguments advanced were unexceptionable. It was opined that if the BJP failed to get an absolute majority to preclude Mr. Modi as Prime Minister and there arose the need for a compromise candidate, Mr. Rajnath Singh could fill the breach. As the President of his party, as the former Chief Minister of India’s largest state, and as the parliamentary candidate for Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s former constituency in Lucknow, the logic was understandable.
But did this innocent telecast raise hackles somewhere? Almost immediately thereafter Mr. Amit Shah made his controversial statement about the need for Jats to seek revenge for the insult rendered to them by those who allowed them to be killed. BJP apologists are being nonsensical when they try to justify the statement as being innocent. Electoral compulsions explain their conduct. But regardless of the legal implications of that statement its political impact was dramatic. At one stroke the campaign was thrice removed from corruption or from development and became one of communal polarization. Political analysts considered this to be a ploy for augmenting Jat votes in Western Uttar Pradesh. That is only one aspect. The other and hidden aspect is that the anti-Muslim sentiment generated by the statement might have a crucial bearing on Mr. Rajnath Singh’s prospects in Lucknow where the Muslim vote is significant. The timing of Mr. Amit Shah’s statement immediately after Mr. Rajnath Singh was identified as a dark horse does raise eyebrows.
Matters most likely will be sorted out and the crisis will subside. But will it? Consider what happened after these events in Amethi. It might be recalled that in Amethi Mr. Narendra Modi’s confidant, Miss Smriti Irani, who had twice lost previously to Mr. Kapil Sibal in elections, was appointed the BJP candidate against Mr. Rahul Gandhi. Subsequent to Mr. Amit Shah’s controversial statement the AAP candidate in Amethi, Mr. Kumar Vishwas, made a most curious statement. He stated that previously he had voted for the BJP and he expressed his admiration for the RSS. This revelation should cause little surprise since the RSS has presence in many parties. RSS ideologue Mr. Govindacharya’s close links with Mr. Arvind Kejriwal had been publicized earlier. It is the timing of the Kumar Vishwas statement that attracts attention. Will it not divert BJP support from Miss Irani to Mr. Vishwas? If that was the intention and the likely effect the ramifications could be significant. How will the BJP vote behave in Varanasi where Mr. Kejriwal contests Mr. Narendra Modi…?
All this is of course highly speculative and can be dismissed. But BJP supporters should avoid complacency. There is many a slip between cup and lip.