BJP strongman Narendra Modi during BJP National Executive meet in Panaji, Goa. PTI Photo
With the exit of Janata Dal (United) — the main hurdle in his path — from the NDA, all signs point towards the unfettered rise of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi within BJP as Lok Sabha polls draw close.
“After this, the battle lines in the polity will be drawn between those with Modi and those against him. There may be voices within the BJP crying over the alliance breaking, but spilt milk is spilt and Modi’s rise is now a fait accompli,” a senior RSS functionary told HT. And with his rise, the coming polls are bound to see polarisation on the question of secularism, especially in Bihar and UP.
A pro-Modi leader said his rise has been further cemented by this divorce, and the party has no option now but to throw its weight behind him and see how he fares.
But, if he fails in the polls or an unexpected controversy comes up before them, party insiders warn, there may be a dramatic regrouping of anti-Modi forces.
Led by BJP patriarch LK Advani, the camp within the BJP that was opposed to a Modi-only pitch has lost a crucial bargaining chip with Nitish Kumar’s abrupt departure. These leaders, however, will assume a "we-told-you-so" line for some days now, but this may be unable to check Modi.
While Sushma Swaraj - seen as close to Advani -- tweeted Sunday evening that the NDA's splitting was "sad and unfortunate", Advani reportedly told Rajnath Singh that the NDA's disintegration was sad.
Advani had been the one to emphasise that BJP could return to power only if the NDA expanded.
The Sangh and large sections of the BJP, including Singh, however, feel that the NDA can expand only if the BJP's tally rises impressively, which, they believe, only Modi can achieve.
The party has seen realignments take place: Modi, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley for Modi's elevation - with cadre and RSS backing - and Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar arguing that only a strong NDA could make the BJP win in 2014.
With the NDA clearly no longer a winnable entity in itself, Modi's "magic" - or the lack of it - will be tested soon.