The BJP doesn’t need to formally announce Narendra Modi as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate anymore. The proceedings of party’s three day national Executive and Council meeting stand testimony to that.
It serves three purposes – the party’s highest decision making body, the Parliamentary Board, would not have to go into the huddle over the subject. Such was the pressure from the cadre that the much vexed leadership issue was settled through a quicker process of natural evolution.
Secondly, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), BJP’s key ally cannot react harshly as yet because there is no official word yet.
Thirdly, Modi can continue in Gujarat without giving his critics a chance to force a debate on whether he should move to Delhi to accept this new position.
If there was any doubts left in anyone’s mind within and outside the party, it came to a rest after Modi’s hour-long address at the National Council meet on Sunday. It seemed to be an acceptance speech of a Prime Ministerial candidate — giving direction to the party, highlighting Congress’ dynastic follies and giving a mantra to his party cadre to work with ahead of the next elections – “BJP works with a mission, Congress works with a commission.”
A reference of daamad (Robert Vadra, without naming him) was made in this context. True to the occasion, his speech was political, aimed at galvanising the morale of his party cadre and convincing them that their faith in him was not misplaced — he was ready to deliver.
Party president Rajnath Singh through his gestures clearly indicated that the primacy of position that Modi had now come to enjoy in the organisation. The moment Singh called Modi’s name to speak, over 2000 delegates who were packed into the Talkatora indoor stadium gave him a standing ovation, lustily cheering, clapping, chanting shouting slogans for him. The noise decibels were such that there was no point in talking from the podium for next few minutes. Slowly, Modi began with his trademark Bharat Mata ki Jai.
Even as he basked in glory, he tried to appear humble in front of the party biggest policy-making body when he spoke about himself and angry, when taking on the rival Congress and “political pundits.”
His tone and tenor was reflective of the fact that without saying a word on leadership or Prime Ministerial candidate issue, he has accepted the new role. If “family (Nehru-Gandhi)” was thrust of his target against the Congress and the UPA, he strategically singled out two non-dynasty leaders from the Congress – Lal Bahadur Shastri and Sitaram Kesri for special mention.
If he praised Shastri for giving Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan slogan, which gave a sense of confidence to farmers across the country to become self reliant, then by referring to the humiliation meted out to Sitaram Kesri, he sought to impress that in the Congress, no one from outisde the “the family” could head the party.
Kesri was thus a leader to be empathised with. But behind extended references of Shastri and Kesri there could also be a political strategy. Shastri belonged to UP and Kesri to Bihar, states where the BJP needs to retrace its social support base. If Shastri belonged to educationally mobile Kayastha community, Kesri belonged to numerically significant OBC community.
Through his anger he sought to convey that he had the strength and resolve to take on the might of Congress party. He also declared that the Congress was a sinking ship because of that party’s self inflicted wounds of devotion to the family at the cost of nation’s and their own party’s interest. So much so that they chose a night watchman in name of Manmohan Singh instead of more capable, rooted to the ground leader Pranab Mukherjee. Though he did not take Sonia Gandhi’s name, her National Advisory Council (NAC) came for a bitter criticism, “a gathering of rootless five-star” wonders.
Modi is acutely aware of his party’s organisational shortcomings in East and South India. As such the organisational expanse in these areas gave the Congress an initial start up advantage to the Congress in 2014.
Modi had a counter to that. Though he targeted “political pundits” for making this kind of an analysis he warned his own leaders and workers not to be carried away by “these statistics”. “The people have made decided to get rid of the Congress, the issue is how do you contribute in translating that into reality,” he said.
The message was if his name was flavour of the season among the people in the country, the organisational strength may not matter much as had happened in case of VP Singh.
His prescription was to instill a new sense of belligerence among the BJP workers against Congress and work with a renewed sense of conviction.
“The Congress has forced a mood of pessimism in the country, it has to be replaced with a sense of hope and aspiration. People don’t get a feeling whether or not a government exists at the centre”, Modi said. “It thus presented a challenge before the BJP and it should be call of duty for all workers that the Congress regime must be overthrown.
He ended with a Hindi couplet Mana ki andhera ghana hai, par diya jalana kahan mana hai.
As he finished, the cheering delegates moved out of the stadium to continue the discussion. As old timers say, it’s been a long time since they saw same sense of purpose among the party workers at a National Council meet.