Modis inclusion in Team Rajnath signals a new pact between the two and its difficulties
Ever since Narendra Modi won Gujarat for the third time after an assembly campaign in which he conspicuously addressed the nation,he has signalled his imminent move to stake his claim in Delhi. In the months that have followed,Modi has all but declared himself to be the BJPs prime ministerial hopeful-in-chief. The reconstitution of Team Rajnath confirms and underlines this undeclared candidature. In an organisational exercise otherwise careful not to send out any big messages of change,hemmed in by factional by-plays,regional and caste compulsions and circumscribed by RSS micro-management,the striking signal was the partys acknowledgement of Modis national role. This is evident not just in Modis return to the partys parliamentary board and poll panel the only serving chief minister to be in this position but also in the unabashed rehabilitation at the central level of his controversial aide,former Gujarat minister and accused in the Sohrabuddin encounter case,Amit Shah.
In fact,a Team Rajnath that includes Modi-and-friends signifies an attempt to give a new twist to the story that has gained currency,not undeservedly: of Modis inexorable rise in the BJP against the BJPs will. In his quest for a larger role,the story goes,many of the obstacles Modi would be required to vault over lie within his own party and parivar. Of course,he would also face formidable difficulties outside the party fold of winning allies and of widening the BJPs area of influence as opposed to merely inflaming the faithful already inside the BJP tent. While his continuing failure to address the question of accountability for the crimes of Gujarat 2002 remains a primary problem in winning friends outside,it has been no secret that a large section of his own party visibly strains away from its most powerful chief minister and his abrasive personality cult. Sundays organisational exercise,under new BJP President Rajnath Singh,and backed by the RSS,may be aimed at tweaking that storyline. From now on,it says,the party will be trying to establish a working relationship with its mascot-to-be.
This is,of course,easier signalled than done. It will require both sides to reconsider hostile assessments and congealed positions. Can the party rally behind its most successful chief minister,who also refuses to share any credit for his achievements? Can Modi learn to work with others,in a setting larger and more diverse than Gujarat,instead of constantly casting himself in the role of conqueror? For Indias main opposition party,and for all those tracking the contours of Battlefield 2014,the answers will start trickling in now.