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The man in the iron mask

Modi is the kind of person who is not going to share the podium with anyone if he wins, but will blame everyone else if he loses, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2007 02:18 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The focus in the coming week will be on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi: will he be able to pull it off for the BJP once again or will he be relegated to the archives forever? The coming week will also see another closely fought election in, arguably, the country’s best state, Himachal Pradesh (HP). The HP polls will determine whether Mayawati’s elephant has finally managed to climb the mountains and break the monopoly of the Congress and the BJP in the state.

First, Modi’s future and BJP’s will be at stake as the Gujarat assembly results will be declared on December 23. In what has been billed as a Modi versus Modi fight, there is an element of unfairness. If Modi wins the battle he is not expected to win by his opponents, he will hog the limelight. If he loses, the blame will go to the BJP; how dissidents and passive support from the RSS let him down.

Modi is the kind of person who is not going to share the podium with anyone if he wins, but will blame everyone else if he loses. If the BJP loses this battle — there are indications that it is fighting with its back to the wall — it will impact the party’s future in the long-run.

Modi may have emerged as the star of the elections with his overbearing presence but for the BJP — essentially a cadre-based party dependent for its success on the RSS volunteers — the future in national politics may have become hazy. If Modi wins, he comes to the centrestage, but not necessarily as a top draw. There are many players who may have done well in their states or regions, but did not do well at the national stage. If Modi loses, he will make it difficult for others in BJP. He will not take defeat kindly and will zero in on those who withdrew themselves from the campaign due to his overbearing presence.

One sometimes wonders how hate politics has found its way into the polity. All through the campaign, there was no mention of Godhra, which started the Cm’s success story. The lies about kar sevaks being attacked from outside and then burnt inside the train have been proved by the UC Banerjee Committee.

Though the panel’s findings have been kept in abeyance, the three affidavits of serving police officers expose the lies about Godhra. It is unfortunate that the Nanavati commission has taken so long to come out with the truth about Godhra and the riots.

Modi seems to have benefited towards the end of the campaign thanks to the reactions to his reported comments on Sohrabuddin. But that does not necessarily mean that he is winning. His position is not as strong as is being projected by a section of the media. His insistence on pursuing his own style of politics has alienated every section of the Sangh parivar. There must be something wrong in his style that even Pravin Togadia, who has a similar rabid Hindutva mindset, has kept away from the campaign. Former CMs — Keshubhai Patel and Suresh Mehta — have also shown their aversion.

The RSS was neutral in the game being played out in Gujarat and Modi’s other colleagues also resented his style. It seems that even within the BJP and the Sangh parivar, which are often described as outfits with fascist tendencies, there was a battle on between fascism as represented by Modi and democracy as represented by others. A contradiction, but also the truth.

The CM’s fascist streak was also evident in the Gobbelsian propaganda that was unleashed through a carefully controlled and monitored campaign. His public appearance had shades of Hitler’s mannerisms and the voice-body synchronisations. Modi, at least the way he projects himself, is the most schizophrenic personality in Indian politics. He has managed to force many in the BJP to support him and isolated others who don’t support his autocratic manners.

The Modi masks used in the campaign could still be handy after the results are declared. If he wins, they will be used to project his image further; but if he loses, they will have the same sanctity as the evil masks of some of our mythological characters.

On the other hand, the HP elections are turning out to be literally a cliffhanger and the 16 seats in Kangra would determine the final winner.

The BJP continues to have a slight edge, but that does not necessarily mean that it is winning. The uncertainty is due to the presence of BSP candidates who could dent both the parties considerably. By advancing the Himachal polls, the Election Commission has added to the confusion since the current assembly’s tenure is till March 8. If the victory is decided by one or two seats, as was the case in 1998, a constitutional crisis may follow. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is undoubtedly the tallest leader in the state and he seems to have stopped the BJP in its tracks in many places thanks to the feud between P. K.Dhumal and Shanta Kumar. He has an advantage of understanding the state’s politics better than others and can overcome a stiff challenge both from outside and inside his party. It is now a matter of speculation whether he will retain power for his party or allow anti-incumbency to get the better of him.

In the end, Indian politics is bound to get a new direction before the year-end. A Congress win in Gujarat can pave the way for a mid-term poll in March-April and ensure that the Indo-US nuclear deal goes through. A Modi win will upset many calculations in both the Congress and the BJP. Between us.

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