Problems beset Modi post Vanzara letter
It was never very easy for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to cataplut himself to the Prime Minster’s chair. It has become even more daunting now, after his one time protégé former senior police officer, D G Vanzara, currently languishing in the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, charged off a 10-page letter, threatening to disclose Modi’s hand behind the encounter killings. Meanwhile Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Sarsanghchalak Mohanrao Madhukarrao Bhagwat has issued a diktat to the BJP leaders to fall in line and announce Modi’s candidature before the inauspicious Pitrapaksha commences September 20 onwards.
Of course the current round of communal violence in the western districts of Uttar Pradesh, tearing away the decades old camraderie and bonhomie between the dominant Jats and the Muslims in rural West UP, is encouraging for Modi supporters and his poll manager Amit Shah, handling the biggest state of India, population wise and in terms of MPs and MLAs elected to Parliament and state assembly. The fissures on account of the communal violence, if these furrow deep and take too long to heal, it will help in communal polarization which will naturally consolidate the Hindu vote in favour of BJP/Modi.
Returning to the Vanzara letter, Modi supporters claim they had accounted for occasional fissions to derail Modi’s train, when they decided upon Modi for PM and therefore these pinpricks would not make much difference to their plans, which will remain on course never mind a Vanzara here or a sting operation there. But there is a contrary view in the BJP as well and it is no more a secret that LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi lead the anti-camp, which incidentally also includes Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Rajasthan CM candidate Vasundhara Raje, who are projecting themselves as leaders above any communal divide and feel that Modi’s projection may influence their prospects.
While it is true that this section was from the beginning opposed to projecting Modi as the PM candidate, the latest tussle is about the timing—Before Pitrapkash or after the four state assembly elections? It is common knowledge now that the BJP is today confident of winning back only Madhya Pradesh. Thanks to the open infighting in Delhi and charges of sale of party tickets against its current president Vijay Goel, it is not at all sure about Delhi and in Rajasthan it is hoping that Gulbchand Kataria and other RSS stalwarts may not sabotage Vasundhara Raje’s chances of defeating Congress chief minister Ashok Gehlot. In Chhatisgarh Raman Singh’s sole hope is that his one time rival Ajit Jogi may put up his candidates to ensure Congress defeat. Therefore their argument is that if Modi is projected as PM candidate now and the BJP loses two or three states, it would reflect badly on both the party and his projection. Therefore the BJP should wait till the conclusion of the assembly polls later this year.
But by the same logic, Modi supporters consider this a ploy to postpone the announcement indefinitely. According to them, the Modi baiters are only awaiting the state assembly polls and if as expected, the poll results turn out unfavourable for the BJP, this camp will then start a whisper campaign that Modi is not selling. Therefore in order to forestall such a move it is necessary to announce Modi’s candidature right away.
However there are two crucial factors the Modi supporters seem to be ignoring. One that post Babri Masjid demolition everyone in the BJP had reconciled to the fact that Advani who led the charge for demolition lacked wider acceptability then. So Advani stepped forward unilaterally in the Mumbai national executive in 1995 to declare Atal Bihari Vajpayee the BJP’s PM candidate. It’s another thing that by that time, apart from the Masjid stigma, the Jain Hawala case had also started becoming a sources of nuisance for Advani. That apart, if there was one thing that distinguished Advani from Vajpayee in the Jana Sangh and then in the BJP it was his ability to command personal loyalty from a whole lot of people at all levels of the organization, be it Kedarnath Sahni, Madan Lal Khurana, Harin Pathak, K N Govindacharya, Ram Jehtmalani, Uma Bharti and most of all Sushma Swaraj.
But post Hawala when he failed to stand up for Khurana or post ‘Mukhauta’ controversy, when he ditched Govindacharya or abandoned Jethmalani in his fight against Vajpayee, Advani lost that halo and slowly many ex-loyalists moved away from him. Modi on the other hand was paratrooper dropped on Ahmedabad in 2001 and to make it worse he has all along been arrogant and abrasive towards his peers.
The only factor which has helped him command considerable loyalty across the board is the perception of his total unflinching commitment to Hindutva and his bold anti Jehadi stance. Already there are those in the Gujarat BJP/VHP/Bajrang Dal like Praveen Togadia, Jaideep Patel, Haren Pandya’s wife and Babu Bajrangi who despise Modi for ditching them once they were implicated in the post Godhra killings of February/March 2002, thus denting his pro-Hindutva image. Now Vanzara has also questioned Modi’s commitment to the policy of fighting Jehadi terror from across the Pakistani border. Vanzara has also brought to the fore that Modi is in the habit of using and then throwing away not just senior BJP/VHP leaders like Advani and Praveen Togadia but even trusted officers like Vanzara who did his bidding without batting an eyelid. This sends a very alarming message to the very constituency he is banking on, namely the upwardly mobile urban rising classes to which all those educated police officers, now languishing in jail, belong. If Modi can pick and choose now between who to stand by and who to ditch what prevents him from doing the same when he the Prime Minister tomorrow?
Vanzara has mentioned 32 Police officials. One of them, Singhal has already testified against Modi with a conversation he taped secretly. If in the coming months and days more and more of those languishing in jails post 2002, like former minister Dr Maya Kodnani start speaking out, the noise will be too high pitched and jarring to be drowned by the pro-Modi sloganeering.