Narendra Modi’s candidature for prime minister of India is likely to be announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tomorrow, in spite of party senior LK Advani’s determined opposition to the move.
According to BJP President Rajnath Singh, however, there isn’t any opposition, but internal negotiations have yielded no consensus and Advani has been quoted as predicting a “political disaster” if Modi is chosen to represent the party.
In fact, such is the atmosphere within the party that Singh, sources say, may avoid a meeting of the BJP's top 12 leaders and parliamentary board for a vote on Modi, altogether. Advani has allegedly said he will vote against the Gujarat Chief Minister and there are others that share his sentiments, exposing rifts in the party that could prove to be its undoing in the next elections.
But the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or RSS, a rightwing Hinduttva organisation responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and BJP’s ideological inspiration, is extremely keen to see Modi’s candidature announced imminently.
When Advani registered his opposition to Modi’s ascent back in June, by resigning from all party posts, it was the RSS, in fact, that persuaded him (Advani) to reconsider.
Advani believes fielding Modi will leave the BJP open to allegations of bigotry and anti-secularism because of Modi’s association with the riots in his state in 2002, in which hundreds of Muslims were killed.
His endorsement by the RSS exacerbates this image.
But Modi is not without support. The BJP in Bihar urged Advani not to place obstacles in Modi’s way with Sushil Modi, senior BJP leader in that state, saying that the top leader has failed to determine the lay of the land.
Sushil Modi was ousted from government when a 17-year-alliance between the BJP and Janata Dal (United) fell apart after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar pulled the JD (U) out of it. Kumar did so after Narendra Modi got BJP’s nod in June, to signal that the BJP was no longer secular enough for the JD (U).
Sushil Modi is certain of Narendra Modi’s popularity and has said: "The public, workers are not willing to accept anyone other than Narendra Modi. You can't impose anyone as PM or CM candidate."
Tomorrow’s possible announcement will deepen the already cavernous fissures within the BJP as entrenched “pro” and “anti” Modi camps continue to try and increase their support, leaving the party looking disunited and unsteady, something that could cost them dearly at the ballot.