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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

NAMO: Muscling His Way In

By Swapan Dasgupta

There is a curious mismatch between India’s fiercely argumentative national temperament and its corresponding wariness of robust inner-party democracy. The boisterous celebration of diversity and competitive politics are inexplicably combined with a yearning for disciplined parties and decisive leaders.

This penchant for autocratic democracy may explain why last Thursday’s contrived truce between warring ministers was hastily choreographed and flaunted as evidence of Sonia Gandhi’s firm grip over the party. It may also help decipher the frantic attempt by a shaken BJP leadership to de-politicise Narendra Modi’s absence from last week’s national executive session, while simultaneously stressing the importance of party unity to confront a tottering regime.
On the face of it, the BJP may also be inclined to repeat the ‘all is well’ quip of a Congress minister, but only if it values self-deprecation. Modi’s factional detractors have cast him as a petulant regional satrap — with the implication that he is an interloper on the national stage. On his part, Modi has maintained a characteristically imperious silence. Overall, there is profound unease in the BJP that unless the issue is managed with tact and wisdom, it may explode in the party’s face and unsettle the journey  back to power. 
What was witnessed last week was not an ego battle involving Modi and LK Advani over some proposed anti-corruption yatra. Modi isn’t in competition with Advani who in turn isn’t any longer seriously in contention as the BJP’s public face in a future general election campaign.
The decision to stay away from last week’s meeting was over an issue that may strike people as very trivial: it was a protest against BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s decision to quietly rehabilitate former organisation secretary Sanjay Joshi. The Modi-Joshi spat dates back to the politics of Gujarat in the mid-1990s when Modi was packed off to Delhi and made to feel unwelcome in his home state, where Joshi ran the organisation. Following Modi’s triumphant return in 2001, Joshi was hastily shifted out of Gujarat, elevated to a national post in Delhi and then abruptly removed in 2006 following an unsavoury sex scandal.
In the context of national politics and, indeed, the future of the BJP, Modi’s expression of displeasure may seem trivial and unworthy of the attention of someone with an eye on the top political post in India. This may well be true but, carefully pre-meditated or otherwise, Modi’s protest has also drawn attention to two larger questions that the BJP has so far carefully sidestepped.
In questioning Joshi’s resumption of an active leadership role in the BJP, Modi was doing more than questioning Gadkari’s judgement. Joshi, after all, wasn’t just any other apparatchik; he was an erstwhile RSS pracharak (full-timer) from Nagpur whose return to political life had been authorised by the RSS top brass. In questioning Joshi’s return, Modi was simultaneously questioning the right of the RSS to decide political appointments in the BJP.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Modi has pitted himself against the RSS. Since 2002, his relationship with the parivar leadership in Gujarat has been tense, if not outright antagonistic. In the 2007 Gujarat assembly election, the top brass of the Gujarat RSS kept away from the campaign. Their aloofness didn’t make the slightest difference: almost every ordinary RSS member campaigned for Modi energetically. 
In coping with Modi, the RSS has been faced with a dilemma. The Gujarat chief minister has guarded his political autonomy zealously, and even more fiercely than Atal Bihari Vajpayee. To an RSS accustomed to obedience and deference from politicians, Modi is viewed as a difficult customer: highly individualistic and fiercely argumentative. No other BJP leader would have survived the sustained hostility of the RSS, but Modi has grown and grown in stature. At the same time, his unquestioned mass following in Gujarat and his charismatic hold over the political Hindu imagination have forced the RSS to swallow its pride and tolerate Modi. Seething with rage at his high-handedness and impetuosity, the RSS has, at best, only succeeded in slowing his national ambitions.
There may be good tactical reasons why a more centrist approach may yield better returns for the BJP than Modi’s aggressive nationalism. The RSS, however, can’t be seen to be embracing such assumptions. It can’t repudiate Modi but is wary of embracing him.
Modi’s open defiance of a RSS whip is calculated to throw Nagpur into a tizzy. There are whispers in the Sangh of the need to prevent Modi from holding a strategic veto. A bitter war of attrition between an over-bearing Parivar and a mass leader could be in the offing, with ominous consequences for the BJP. Modi, after all, is questioning the RSS claim to be more equal than the others.
The conflict is likely to crystallise over the leadership question for the next general election. If the BJP had a system of primaries, there is little doubt that Modi would win convincingly. Unfortunately, the BJP (like the Congress) hasn’t institutionalised inner-party democracy and selecting the leader has become the prerogative of a cabal of ‘wise’ men. This is how both Rajnath Singh and Gadkari were appointed BJP presidents. In such a situation it is extremely unlikely that Modi will be able to bulldoze a decision in his favour using the adulation of the committed as his weapon — not unless he wants to emulate Mao Zedong and urge the faithful to “bombard the headquarters” and reinvent the BJP.
Temperamentally, Modi is at his best when taking on the enemy. However, with an ongoing no-holds-barred war against a formidable liberal Establishment out, can he risk opening another front? The history of Modi suggests that he loves springing surprises.


Anonymous said...

Modis penchant for aggressive hindusim would work only when all the hindus would be tormented by muslims and christaisn for more 10/20 years.Now hindus are passive patient impotent slaves.theyw ould take oevr all the humiliations.but we cant want to be tortured anymore.we want democracy and that is best option.Namos policy is of semi-autocratic.It wont work all over may have worked in Gujarat but it wont work all over teh country.Till an hindu backlash polrisation take slace we have to endure soft hindutva.We want a Bihar model centre govt.


modis aggressive hindutva needs to be followed after a hindu rennaissance.time is not yet ripe for modi brand of politics in whole india.It is a Bihar type govt at cnetre would work with all the old NDA partners like BJD TDP AIADMK and TMC included along with the presnt bunch

Kishore Mudiraj said...

It is high time BJP comes out of RSS' clutches. RSS purpose is served seeing BJP in power once. However, with youth aspiring for good things in life RSS kind of ideology will be acceptable to only backward-looking youth.

NAMO also has to desist from using Sant-Sadhu brigade. Except Gujarat, saffron-clad usually are viewed with suspicion.

Kishore Mudiraj said...

It is high time BJP comes out of clutches of RSS. Among today's youth, who are looking for better things in life, RSS ideology will find lesser and lesser acceptance.

NAMO also desist from using Sadhu-Sant brigade with him, as except in Gujarat everywhere they are viewed with suspicion.

Anonymous said...

This repeated labelling of Sri.Narendra Modi "aggressive, Hindutva" does a lot of damage.

It misleads us into concluding Congress stands for "non aggressive , secular Catholicism" blahblah.

Whatever be the standards of tehelka , that they are pro Congress is so obvious. Most of Indian media is pro congress and anti Narendra Modi. So much so in our own country we hindus are apologetic in referring to ourselves as Hindus & meekly resign ourselves to be ruled over by Rahul, Priyanka & Sonia.

If Congress is not voted out , we the Hindus should brace ourselves for emergency like regime & further despair. We can also forget bringing back blackmoney of Congress stashed overseas.

Anonymous said...

How the converted christians of India monopolise everything from Education , charitable activities ,healthcare, media , Temple management & governance , thus micromanaging us the Hindus-all these were enunciated in detail by Swami Dayananda in an extensive interview by T.S.Jawahar Editor of newstoday.

I doubt if they are available online today.

Anonymous said...

Namo is d need of d hour.RSS will only help CONGRESS if they oppose Modiji. I pray better sense for RSS top brass; table politicians can not reinvent BJP .

chinmay said...

Both RSS and BJP are faced with hard choices.The slide of BJP on national stage in the past 7 years has coincided with the surprising rise in stature of Narendra Modi.There is little doubt that modi with his aggressive development agenda and macho hindutva image has caught the image of large sections of right wing leaning Hindus especially middle class.The middle class which burgeoned under UPA rule is ironically becoming more nationalistic thanks too UPA's weak leadership.over appeasement of minorities and weak anti terror is this sizable block which has found an icon in narendra modi.The rest of BJP leaders are simply no match to modi and would be blown of in case of a democratic
inner part contest.The predicament of RSS is that having championed a Hindu rastra all these years the party cant be seen opposing the rise of a man who has emerged as poster boy of hindutva.But modi as a whole is a highly polarising figure and any hint of his warming the PM chair could push even larger sections of muslims into deep arms of UPA.BJP could do well with a less controversial candidate as modi's ability to bring in the hidu vote beyond the middle class is still unknown

alokban said...

Swapan, your articles are analytical and as well as thoughtful. It appears you get to know political pulse because you have wide contacts in this field. This is very important because today readers are fed up with half cooked half home-worked half-knowledgeable main stream columnists full time engaged in negative reporting about BJP in general and NAMO in particular.
Few points on NAMO. His Sadbhabona has been totally misrepresented by all the vested interested brigade as an aspiration for PM job. But his actual motive was clearly to vent his anger in front of the National Audience about the trashy-treatment he received over the last ten years from the Congress and the Media. But he drove that in with a crystal-sugar knife in a very decent civilized manner!
He was definitely not doing it to position himself as the next PM.
He is not stupid. He knows that without the vote from 16% Muslims no party can win the General Election in this country. He also knows that the Mountain of Propaganda about his being “Anti-Muslim” unleashed by the Congress and the Media for the last 10 years can not be demolished in one Sadbhabhna rally. It will need long painstaking work in making people believe that he does not work for minority or majority but for ALL.

But why this rally now? Because after almost 8 years of innumerable litigations by equal number of NGOs and PILs , our great Supreme Court has found nothing to indict Namo for the 2002 riot. This realization which dawned on the SC now after wasting hundreds of crores of rupees was known even to a fifth standard student from the beginning that you can not indict a PM or CM for riots. Otherwise likes of Gandhi, Nehru or Rajiv would have been hung in their days. This acceptance of fact by SC gave Namo the opportunity to vent his anger and hurt. And at the same time tell the world his vision of Nationalism.
He is not stupid to believe that just if BJP party leadership or RSS project him as the PM candidate, he can be the PM !

Anonymous said...

It is high time BJP comes out of clutches of RSS.
Among today's youth, who are looking for better
things in life, RSS ideology will find lesser and
lesser acceptance.//
@ kishore mudiraj, dear plse dont be so funny with ur childish know-hows. U dont have any sense how rss' work is helpful for bjp. And can u tell how rss is against youths' "likes" and what that "ideology" that drives youth away from rss? I mean can put the said "ideology" that is in YOUR mind...

Jitendra Desai said...

NaMo may have two reasons to be peeved.
1.LKA's unilateral decision to start one more Yatra.This has put party,parivar,supporters and people in a tizzy.
NaMo was forced to put up his Sadbhavana mission in a very short time.It has created bad blood all around.May be LKA should have consulted seniors, including NaMo.
2.NaMo has presumed that Nitish will not support him at the Center.That is loss of 20 seats at max.Can BJP make this good by supporting Behenji,post 2012,if she falls short? It appears she will.If she does, will BJP extend support? [ with 60+ seats] as quid pro quo for seat adjustments in 2014? Appointment of Sanjay Joshi means NaMo will have to approach Sanjay Joshi for such an arrangement.
NaMo is cast in the mould of late Indira Gandhi or Morarji Desai.He may not bend.But he is capable of forcing every one to do so.
By the time we reach 2014,UPA II could become so messy that the people may clamour for some one like NaMo.He could be waiting for such a moment.Till then he is busy in Gujarat,where no one can dislodge him.
In the meantime,BJP minus him at the center will not be able to cross 125 mark,irrespective of what Congress does.