To witness the way things have panned out, it is hard to believe that the last few months were filled with acrimony and bitterness. But finally, the BJP patriarch LK Advani seems to have decided that he will throw in his lot with the BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi.
Whether Mr Advani’s description of Mr Modi as a man who always thinks of new ways to do things signals a change of heart about the Gujarat strongman or whether it is his innate desire to do no further harm to the party he was instrumental in building up is not known, but the result has been a cohesion which the BJP has not seen in a long time.
It may now be time for the BJP to change its tactics a bit. While Mr Advani may be an elder statesman and very much past his prime, he still has an all-India recall which Mr Modi is in the process to trying to acquire.
After all, Mr Advani was once deputy prime minister in the Cabinet of Atal Behari Vajpayee who has been a hard act to follow for the party. While there is no doubt there is tremendous enthusiasm for Mr Modi in the rallies he has addressed so far, the party still seems to be putting all its eggs into the northern states’ basket.
Opinion polls seem to show the party as getting 160 seats, which means that it will still be crucially dependent on allies. And the fear that many have raised is that Mr Modi is not a comfortable presence for some of the potential allies.
This is where the BJP could play its cards a bit more astutely and use its considerable talent to better use. Rather than rely only on Mr Modi’s charisma, the BJP ought to demonstrate that it has many able people in its stable. Sushma Swaraj, who has contested elections from Karnataka, has an all-India appeal.
As has Arun Jaitley, perhaps thanks to his earlier stint in government. The BJP’s chief ministers who have by and large been successful in the states they run too could be valuable assets in the campaign. Both the BJP and Congress need seats in the south, and here the Congress does have an advantage. The BJP also has little presence in the northeast and the east.
It is also perhaps time for the BJP to spell out its vision. So far, apart from highlighting the shortcomings of the UPA — and there are many — Mr Modi has spoken in opaque terms about development. While the UPA has been able to talk about its welfare schemes, the BJP has yet to come up with any concrete blueprint.
In an age where the people expect the party of governance to deliver on welfare schemes, this could prove counterproductive as the campaign heats up.