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HindustanTimes Fri,01 Aug 2014

Narendra Modi selected, but it's tough time for BJP

Shekhar Iyer , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 18, 2013
First Published: 01:36 IST(18/6/2013) | Last Updated: 09:41 IST(18/6/2013)

No matter how one looks at the BJP after Narendra Modi's ascent as its campaign chief for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar's resultant exit from the NDA, affairs within the saffron party are anything but fine.

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Between June 9 and 16 - after Modi's elevation and LK Advani's resignation and its subsequent withdrawal - the see-saw in the BJP-RSS ties propelled Nitish to take a hard line on Modi.

Details of telephonic discussions between Nitish and a section of BJP leaders to checkmate Modi reveal that unless there's some magic of unity, they would oppose the Gujarat chief minister, come what may.

Yet, at the end of it all, Nitish, a known hater of Brand Modi, couldn't just sit back complacently.

He had to chart his own course outside the NDA, much to the disappointment of the BJP leaders who hadn't thought twice about what they would do if their last-ditch efforts to stop Modi by using the 'Nitish card' failed. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/6/18_06_13-metro10b.gif

As JD(U) insiders saw it, Nitish realised more than these BJP leaders - including Advani , Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari - that they were in no position to reverse the events of the week that put Modi ahead of others in the first place.

When Advani resigned after Modi's appointment on June 10, Nitish was given an impression by Modi baiters in the BJP that a spate of resignations of at least 10 more BJP office-bearers would force party chief Rajnath Singh to put on hold if not rescind his announcement about the Gujarat strongman.

But in 36 hours Advani withdrew his resignation after ex-party chief Gadkari and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat spoke to him.

Advani's turnaround surprised Nitish, whose party had by then escalated its position on Modi's appointment to a decision that "leaves the NDA without secular credentials". What followed was even more intriguing.

First, Advani called Nitish on the phone, asking him to "accept" the assurance given when Gadkari met him at Arun Jaitley's home last year. Gadkari's word then that nobody would be projected as PM candidate was still valid, Advani is believed to have said.

But Nitish questioned the assurance as Gadkari was no longer BJP chief.

Then, Swaraj called Nitish to assure him that "Modi didn't have the numbers in the BJP parliamentary board to endorse his PM candidature and the board couldn't be bypassed in any event."

Nitish then insisted that BJP leaders get Rajnath Singh to publicly say that no one would be projected. Rajnath declined to do so, saying it was an internal party matter.

Swaraj is understood to have then conceded to Nitish that it wasn't possible for the BJP to publicly reverse its decision on Modi.

It was then, JD(U) sources said, that Nitish remarked that "if Advani could not stop Modi's appointment as chairman of the NDA and BJP parliamentary party, and his resignation from all posts did not alter things, what was the meaning of the assurances that Modi wouldn't make it as PM candidate."

Nitish will chart his next course but the big question is how these BJP leaders will deal with the BJP under Modi after their best efforts to stop him have not borne fruit.

What will Modi's response towards them be? Will they be able to shake hands with each other? Will the RSS intervene again to tell them that the Congress is the main enemy?

And, will they and Modi just move on along the lines of TS Eliot's Four Quartets: "What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."


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