Even as it revels in it, BJP must know that it will be rearranged and reshaped by Modi’s personality cult.
BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi, who had to give up his seat of Varanasi for the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, touched off a few ripples when he said that there was no “Modi wave” in sight, and that the excitement was about the party. Party leaders Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley hastened to parse Joshi’s remark and argue that there was no difference between a BJP wave and a Modi wave, given that Modi was leading the party. Joshi may have reason to run Modi down.
He is, after all, one of the old guard that is most wary of Modi’s ascendance, among those who have been relegated by the power shift within the BJP. While even L.K. Advani has seemed to be on the receiving end, Jaswant Singh, a founder-member of the party, was denied a ticket and Joshi himself has been accommodated, but dispatched to Kanpur. Joshi’s disgruntlement is unsurprising, therefore, and may not be entirely a principled objection to the way things are in the BJP. Yet, he makes a point his party would do well to heed.
Modi, it appears, has taken over this election and rearranged it around himself and an unresisting party has been amenable if not actively complicit in its own seeming diminution. The BJP campaign is made up of posters, slogans and songs about Modi that have almost entirely dwarfed local issues and candidates. The blinding spotlight on the man has made it difficult to spot the ideas. From slogans like “Har, har Modi” that all but deify him to comic books that make a legend out of his childhood to the social media warriors who vigorously project his message and aggressively launch into any and every critic, the attention is overwhelmingly concentrated on Modi.
The party obviously calculates that Modi’s charisma can carry it into new regions where it has no organisational presence. It hopes that it will persuade those who may be disillusioned with the UPA and lured by Gujarat’s image as a dynamo of industry and commerce.
But the effects of this personalised campaign will stay with the party well after the election is over. For now, the party may be enjoying its piggyback ride on Moditva, but it must know that, depending on the numbers it brings into the party kitty, it will be a force to contend with after the election as well. It may not be easy in the heat of an election, but the BJP must prepare itself for a far-reaching transformation.