A folly to believe BJP not a Modi-Shah show

In light of this, it is interesting that the minister for surface transport should say what he has said.

Union minister Nitin Gadkari, a former president of the BJP whose term had ended abruptly in controversial circumstances, protests too much when he says in an interview to the news agency, PTI, which appeared on Saturday, “It is a wrong notion that the party has become Modi-centric.”

“BJP neither became Atal or Advaniji’s party in the past, nor can it ever be Amit Shah or Narendra Modi's party,” notes Mr Gadkari, and says that his party’s “Parliamentary Board takes all the decisions”.

These past five years Mr Gadkari has sat in a cabinet in whose meetings ministers were expected to speak only when they were asked to, not otherwise (admittedly, he was the exception). In light of this, it is interesting that the minister for surface transport should say what he has said.

Given the current state of intra-party politics within the BJP and internal diplomacy within the wider Sangh Parivar framework, Mr Gadkari’s name has done the rounds as a likely successor to Mr Modi, should the PM fail to take his party past the finishing line with the help of Mr Shah, the party president he has personally selected.

Naturally, this holds up as a proposition only if Mr Gadkari can win his own seat in Nagpur, for internal sabotage from on high has been whispered. Nevertheless, in recent months, Mr Gadkari alone among BJP-RSS leaders has summoned inner resources to publicly comment on BJP’s functioning under the Modi-Shah duo. Others are much too scared. And it is this which has prompted some to ask: Where does he get his backing from?

Does Mr Gadkari have the blessings of the RSS when he speaks? Inner workings, inner meanings and secretive dynamics are thought to inform the inner life of the Sangh Parivar. If the BJP comes good under Mr Modi's stewardship, the RSS is unlikely to complain. But if election results dictate the choice of another leader who might be more acceptable to prospective allies, then many think Mr Gadkari may be the fall-back option.

It is this which has prompted the man from Nagpur to say on more than one occasion that the BJP’s universe does not revolve around Mr Modi and Mr Shah, and that it is the Parliamentary Board of the party — which is always subservient to RSS advice — that is the final arbiter.

This is all very well, but Mr Gadkari must know from experience that so long as Messrs Modi and Shah are in the saddle, they are the Parliamentary Board. And the election campaign that the BJP has run has valorised but one man, and has not exalted even the BJP. Such a thing did not happen in the Atal-Advani era because these stalwarts never brought the bacon home in the shape of a full parliamentary majority.

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