Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s elevation as Bharatiya Janata Party’s face for the next Lok Sabha elections may have created ripples in his party, but the Congress is unfazed.
A majority of Congress leaders maintained that Modi was “no threat” to their party and that his appeal was limited to Gujarat only.
They cite the “failure of Modi magic” in Karnataka where the BJP was routed in the recent assembly elections despite a high-voltage campaign by the Gujarat chief minister who had till then been billed as a star vote-getter for the party.
Prior to Karnataka, the BJP’s defeat in Himachal Pradesh elections in December last year had taken some sheen off the party’s poster boy, a senior leader pointed out. Modi had extensively campaigned in the hill state.
“We do not take him seriously,” party general secretary Digvijaya Singh said.
A section in the party feels that Modi’s presence in the general elections would galvanise all “secular” and non-BJP voters behind the Congress. “In Lok Sabha elections, secular voters prefer a national party over regional forces,” said another leader. “In such a scenario, we will benefit the most,” he added.
This section further argued that Modi was a “polarising figure” in the BJP and popular only among those who favour communal politics and communal personalities. Singh echoed these views. “This kind of politics goes against the ethos of India. Common people do not appreciate the communal politics of people like Modi,” he said.
Buoyed by the rumblings within the BJP over Modi’s elevation, triggered by the resignation of veteran LK Advani from all party posts, the Congress sounded confident that the main opposition party would disintegrate in the run-up to 2014 polls.
“Advani’s resignation is one of the many repercussions of Modi’s elevation,” said another party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi.
Referring to the 2002 riots in Gujarat under Modi’s chief ministership, Union petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily claimed the BJP move would benefit the Congress in parliamentary polls. “Thirty crore minorities would vote for the Congress,” he said.
The Congress party also rejected contentions that the next Lok Sabha elections could be a Rahul Gandhi, who heads the party’s coordination committee for 2014 polls, versus Modi contest. “We fight elections on the basis of principles and not personalities,” Singh said.