With exit polls predicting that the NDA led by Narendra Modi will come to power at the Centre, political action shifted to the Gujarat chief minister’s official residence Wednesday with BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari flying in to meet Modi to chart the course for the party and the likely future power setup.
The meeting of this new group of four leaders, sources said, was initiated on May 12 when Gadkari met Modi in Ahmedabad.
“Our understanding is that Gadkari was asked by Modi to gauge the mind of Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj, who are senior to Modi going by the old pecking order,” a BJP source said, adding that Gadkari and Rajnath met Swaraj in the capital before leaving for Ahmedabad.
BJP sources also said this indicated Gadkari had bounced back in the party as he continues to enjoy the confidence of the RSS and had got a clean chit in the income tax cases against him. Besides, Modi could not have entrusted the task of talking to Advani, Joshi and Swaraj to any other leader due to the fraught equations in the party.
However, sources said Gadkari did not get much from Advani and Joshi about their expectations from a Modi-led establishment. Swaraj, a source claimed, sought an “honourable role” for her without outlining its contours even as it is doubtful if she will join Modi’s government since Modi is her junior in the old pecking order.
“There are suggestions that she has reservations about working under Modi. However, whether this is a bargaining chip or not is still not clear,” a party source said, adding that she may even be angling for the post of speaker of Lok Sabha.
Another source said that even Advani could not be expected to work under Modi. “The position of President and Vice-President are not vacant. The only place that appears open is that of the post of speaker,” the source said.
“There are a clutch of important issues that need to be sorted out: whether the party president will join the government, the broad contours of a potential cabinet and the role of party elders,” a source said.
Discussions in Ahmedabad also touched upon scheduling meetings of the BJP parliamentary board, NDA leaders, the BJP’s newly-elected parliamentary party meetings and oath-taking ceremonies, among others. The decision on who will succeed Modi in Gujarat was also on top of the agenda of the meeting, it is learnt.
After landing in Ahmedabad, Rajnath told reporters, “one thing is confirmed, that Narendrabhai Modi is going to become the next prime minister of this country”.
Asked what role Advani would play, Rajnath said: “As far as the roles of veteran leaders are concerned, I will call a party meeting to which they will be invited. After a thorough discussions with all senior leaders, we will decide what role will be played by which person.”
Signalling his exit from Gujarat, the state cabinet bid farewell to Modi who presided over its meeting Wednesday at the Swarnim Sankul-I, which houses the Chief Minister’s Office commissioned two years ago.
Finance Minister Nitin Patel thanked Modi for his guidance through the “12 years and 7 months”. Modi simply rose and with folded hands said, “aabhaar” (thank you).
Meanwhile, the Delhi unit of the BJP has planned a massive roadshow to welcome Modi to the capital after the results are declared. The party has mobilised 25,000 workers to line the entire way from the airport to the BJP’s national headquarters in the heart of Lutyens’s Delhi.
“From 1 pm on May 17, when Modiji’s flight lands in Delhi, up to the time he arrives at 11 Ashoka Road, leaders will direct celebrations at every significant crossing. We need to ensure that coordination is perfect, so that Modiji gets a grand welcome with very little inconvenience to the public,” Vijay Sharma, general secretary (organisation) of the Delhi BJP, told workers Wednesday.
According to a senior BJP leader, the party’s message to its workers for Saturday is as follows: “Party workers and whoever else would like to come out on the streets to celebrate should be present at each crossing with sweets, garlands, flowers, crackers, dhols and whatever else they believe is appropriate to welcome Modi. Delhi should be seen to be celebrating.”
The Delhi unit has also planned celebrations for result day. “On May 16, the victory of each BJP candidate will be celebrated with a roadshow or juloos. The Delhi unit will host all of them,” Harsh Vardhan, Delhi unit president, said.
The party’s 280 mandals have been told to encourage supporters to celebrate at every booth. “We have been given charge of arranging crackers, sweets and dhols,” Gaurav Khari, president of the Delhi BJP youth wing, said.
Vijay Jolly, in charge of the BJP’s overseas unit, claimed that requests had begun to pour in from various foreign dignitaries wanting to attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony.