NEW DELHI, 8 JUNE: Even as the BJP stands divided over the move to anoint Mr Narendra Modi as the party’s mascot for the next Lok Sabha election, insiders said he clearly has an edge over his mentor and now foremost critic Mr L K Advani.
The pro-Modi camp is pitching his native understanding and trust in hardliner ideology against what they term the "apologetic" approach of the party patriarch towards core Hindutva issues. Mr Modi’s supporters are also of the view that his willingness to manipulate things, his humour and sense of timing give the Gujarat Chief Minister the edge.
The pro-Modi camp, led by BJP president Rajnath Singh, envisages a scenario similar to the Indira Gandhi factor in the 1970s when her appeal to the voters transcended the Congress party structure. This camp feels Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, too, had this mass appeal in 1996 and 1998 but paradoxically failed to galvanise voters in 2004.
On the other hand, the Advani camp feels the Modi "magic" has consistently failed outside Gujarat and there is no point in creating a ground for decimation of the NDA. With the tacit support of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, according to sources, they have raised the bogey of Mr Modi&’s "dictatorial" style of functioning. The Gujarat chief minister had often ignored the RSS and in 2012, had forced the exit of RSS nominee Mr Sanjay Joshi from Gujarat affairs.
However, the Modi camp feels the Gujarat chief minister&’s USP is his ability to read the "pulse" of the people, especially his home crowd. And, since 2002, he has worked hard on an image makeover. By 2012, when the Supreme Court refused to hear any petition on the 2002 riots, he was already semi-transformed ~ a catalyst of change and development. And from being the "Hindutva laboratory", Gujarat was now being billed as a "development model". This has been repeatedly lauded by the BJP top brass, including Mr Advani and Mrs Sushma Swaraj. On 12 September 2012, when the Supreme Court reprieve came, Mr Advani went all out to praise Mr Modi and said he was the most vilified politician. In December 2012, on the eve of the Gujarat Assembly polls, Mrs Sushma Swaraj said Mr Modi had the caliber to be the country&’s Prime Minister.
Mr Advani’s detractors are harsh in their criticism of the party patriarch and say he has been constantly flirting with failure. A prominent pro-Modi parliamentarian said despite his "glorious past" and historical contribution, Mr Advani’s claim to be the face of the BJP ended in 2005 when he termed Jinnah as secular. His critics also cited the mishandling of the "cash-for-vote" episode in the 2008 trial of strength in the Lok Sabha. Mr Advani was pulled up even by then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee for allowing the BJP MPs to bring in currency notes to the floor of the Lok Sabha. Repeatedly calling Mr Manmohan Singh "the weakest Prime Minister" has also not helped the BJP, his detractors said. (file photo)