The other day I happened to watch on the box BJP's founder leader L.K. Advani's one-time confidant and adviser Sudheendra Kulkarni explain why he thought Narendra Modi was the party's wrong choice for the nation's top executive job.
Kulkarni, a former colleague of mine in a Sunday newspaper, had been a true blue leftist and hence his transmogrification as a BJP ideologue in the late nineties had surprised me a teeny bit. I was also mildly amused to hear Kulkarni tear Modi off a strip much like a Congress spokesperson.
Though Kulkarni and I are not on the same page on many issues, I think he was spot on when he said that Modi was, at bottom, a polarising figure; he split his own party, in the first place. How can such a polarising figure unify a country of vast diversity like India? But the saffron party hopes that if polarisation does happen it will be to its advantage.
BJP doesn't want to see things in the right perspective as its real 'high command' is the RSS. The latest developments have showed yet again where the party's decision making process takes place. Nobody has any doubt that the ultimate aim of the RSS, BJP's parent organisation, is nothing but a 'Hindu rashtra'. The RSS architecture is built on the premise that the minorities are foreigners. The BJP's protestations that the RSS is only a cultural organisation and nothing more are all unadulterated codswallop.
The RSS has always known that Narendra Modi is an autocrat to the core and hence he might not kowtow to its diktats all the time. Even so, it might have calculated that Modi is, flaws and all, the best man for promoting Hindutva, given his 2002 riots credentials.
Modi, no doubt, is a 'can-do' leader, a demagogue par excellence. His campaign speeches are peppered with scads of soundbites that relate to the common man. However, I think he should avoid importing slogans and punchlines, especially from the US which has banned his entry into that country.
Resorting to slogans like 'yes we can' smacks of unoriginality. But then a shrewd politician like Modi may have different objectives in his mind even when he blasts out the 'yes we can' number of Barak Obama. Does it mean that we 'can' banish the 'foreigners' or orchestrate riots while the administration would be playing the fiddle? Whatever, we are sure to hear a smorgasbord of magic tricks with words in the coming days.
The BJP, no doubt, has extenuating circumstances for picking Modi as PM choice. It knows full well that given the diversity of parties, not least the regional variety, it is really hard to come to power. So it has decided to go for the broke and flag up Modi as something of a deus ex machina who would solve all the problems of the nation.
But realistically speaking, the euphoria around the crowning of Modi could evaporate post-poll. It's better for the party to have a gander at the 'India Shining' big bang euphoria in the 2004 election campaign that ended in a despairing whimper.
The party is advised to give a thought to Advani's warning that the campaign focus would turn to Modi instead of the drawbacks of the UPA government on several fronts, corruption, inflation, price rise, a tottering economy, et al. Advani's caveat may not be good-intentioned, but its logic is as clear as cut-glass.
Remember, it was Advani who ushered Modi into the party in the late eighties and made him the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001. Earlier, Modi had shown his mettle in micromanaging Advani's famous (or infamous?) 'rath yathra' that began from Somnath in Gujarat, something which helped the former's stock rise in the party. When former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee was about to sack Modi in the wake of the 2002 riots, it was again Advani who came to his rescue.
Advani had been in a sulk ever since the party made Modi the chief of the poll campaign committee. Now, his discomfort is complete with Modi's elevation as the prime ministerial candidate.
Prime task before Modi at the moment is to lure parties to the residual NDA, unify the party and the people of the country as a whole and send out a message that he would make a true leader who would be all things to all people. Will a person who thrives on Hindutva and polarisation be able to fulfil this task?
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.