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Now, BJP plays down Hindutva
Shekhar Iyer, PTI
New Delhi, December 16, 2002
First Published: 00:46 IST(16/12/2002)
Last Updated: 01:30 IST(16/12/2002)

Even as the Opposition is aghast over the BJP riding a Hindu wave despite the recent communal violence in Gujarat, senior BJP leaders are unwilling to attribute the party's success to Hindutva.

This is, quite obviously, by design. BJP leaders are as aware of the dangers inherent in the Gujarat verdict as the other political parties. No wonder then, there is a concerted attempt to credit the BJP organisation and Narendra Modi for the electoral success.

But the VHP has no qualms saying that it was its brand of Hindutva that did the trick.

Unlike the VHP, the BJP did not attempt to sell Hindutva directly. In fact, Modi and every BJP leader who was campaigning, couched Hindutva — either as an "anti-terrorism, security plank" or as the battle for the "pride of Gujarat".

BJP leaders realise that as the party moves forward from Gujarat, the VHP is bound to ask for its price for its role in Gujarat. The VHP, after the BJP, was actually the second-largest political formation that campaigned for the BJP. Now, emboldened by the Gujarat results, the Sangh Parivar is very likely to push for its pet agenda — the Ram Janmabhoomi temple.

As for Narendra Modi, his magic worked to an extent that no one expected. Nevertheless, the BJP cannot afford to not realise that Modi has to reinvent himself now if he has to survive as chief minister and if the BJP has to carry forward the euphoria among voters.

Will the BJP be tempted to repeat the "Gujarat experiment" in other states that go to polls in 2003? The answer is that no state —- none that goes to assembly polls in 2003 — has the same social or communal matrix. Emotive issues do matter but can the BJP risk avoiding the key issue of development and governance in the states where the Congress faces an anti-incumbency factor? As many BJP leaders believe, the Gujarat victory may have long-term implications but its short-term payoffs are what matters.

And, for now, as every BJP leader is saying, "Modi ka magic chal gaya". No one in the party — barring Modi and Togadia — had expected Modi's magic to work. Everyone had thought the party would 'scrape through'. The exit polls only strengthened that impression. But on Sunday, as BJP workers celebrated and top party leaders, including L.K. Advani, BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley exchanged greetings, Vajpayee called up Modi to congratulate him.

Commenting on the win, Advani said the BJP's victory was an expression of anger against the "sustained campaign of slander" by its opponents.

But the BJP itself plans to take ahead the lessons it has learnt from Gujarat. The party's national executive, which meets on December 22 and 23, will hear first-hand from Modi, Keshubhai Patel and Gujarat BJP chief Rajendrasinh Rana about how the party pulled it off.

Also, Arun Jaitley is expected to elaborate on how the party converted a "media-hostile" scenario to its advantage.


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