Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and BJP President Mr. Amit Shah make no secret about their goal to create the BJP as a single majority party in the centre as well as in all the states. It is with that aim that the current assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana are being fought. Mr. Modi’s personal campaigning in both states is of an unprecedented level for any Prime Minister in state assembly polls. Clearly the intention is to exploit fully the PM’s personal popularity to achieve the single majority goal in both states.
This single minded pursuit of single party majority is not without consequences. In Maharashtra the BJP has run into a speed breaker as the Thackeray cousins, Udhav and Raj, put up stout resistance. The cousins are exploiting the Maharashtrian identity issue to the hilt. Both leaders have warned the public that Mr. Modi intends to separate Mumbai from the rest of Maharashtra in order to assert Gujarati power in the city. Mr. Modi has responded with the fervent assurance that there is no question of ever dividing Maharashtra state and that Mumbai is an inalienable part of the state.
That is where the PM has scored a self goal.
For considerable time the BJP has been committed to the creation of smaller states through the establishment of a second States Reorganization Commission. It is a cardinal policy commitment of the party. The large number of demands for smaller states and better governance and devolution of power that would accrue from creating them persuaded the BJP to adopt this policy. Mr. Modi’s blanket commitment to never divide Maharashtra naturally embarrassed the party. More than Marathwada and Konkan the Vidarbha region that includes Nagpur where RSS headquarters are located has long been demanding separate statehood.
That is why Union Law Minister Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad was constrained to reiterate: “We are in favour of smaller states. We have been advocating this for a long time.” BJP leaders lamely explained that what Mr. Modi had said was in reference only to Mumbai. On the contrary Mr. Modi’s statement was unequivocal and referred to the whole of Maharashtra. So, what will be the BJP stance for the future? Will the party in deference to the Prime Minister’s public commitment abandon its demand for Vidarbha state or will Mr. Modi simply forget his commitment in the manner he has forgotten several poll promises he made regarding corruption?
There is a more fundamental question raised by this episode. What motivates Mr. Modi’s obsession to achieve single party majority in all the states? Supposing he succeeds, what then? Apart from acquiring total control does he have any other goal related to policies? There does not appear much concern with policy at present. Mr. Raj Thackeray’s criticism that the PM remains immersed in assembly polls while neglecting a critical situation developing with Pakistan is not without merit. If Mr. Modi is interested only in power for power’s sake that provides small comfort.