The cat is out of the bag finally. Not everything is hunky-dory between BJP president Nitin Gadkari and the party’s showcase chief minister Narendra Modi. The mutual distrust, if not open acrimony, was evident during the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections when Gadkari roped in Modi-baitor Sanjay Joshi into the campaign despite objections from the latter. In retaliation, Modi had refused to canvass for the party’s candidates.
It comes from the horse’s mouth now. In an interview to the Indian Express, Gadkari admitted to differences with the Gujarat chief minister and had hinted in an earlier interview that it had to do with the latter's ambitions.
"Presently, the party needs someone who can give everything to the party. Ambitious politicians are not good for the party...Ambitious politics is not part of the BJP," he had said earlier.
What is so terribly wrong with ambition in politics Mr Gadkari? If the reference is to Modi, what is so out of place in him aspiring to be prime minister? Most of the opposition to Modi is more on matters of principle than his abilities as a leader. He seemingly represents a brand of politics which is not acceptable to people beyond the boundaries of Gujarat. But that in no way diminishes his achievements as chief minister. He has his serious flaws but if he has an ambition, it is totally justified.It appears that he faces bigger challenges to his prime ministerial ambition within his party than outside. There were murmurs of resentment within BJP brass earlier about Modi gunning for the top job — there are just too many leaders harbouring the same ambition, Gadkari has brought it out in the open, not in a too negative way though.
Let’s put his case in perspective. The BJP is now a party of political lightweights. Take out the brilliant oratory skills almost all of them possess, none would count much as a leader. Many of them, at least some interested in the top job, don’t have a mass base and would find it difficult to be elected in a direct election. Most of them survive by clever intra-party alliances and tactful media management.
Modi, by contrast, is a leader in his own right. He is controversial but can deliver a state to the party's kitty in elections. He can offer the numbers the party so desperately needs in Lok Sabha. Which other central leader can do that? None. Not even Gadkari, who also allegedly nurses the ambition to be prime minister. His position in his home state Maharashtra is not strong. He has not been able to make the party one of the front-runners in the state.
If the BJP is thinking practical for 2014, its leader has to be from one of the states. Such a leader would help the party organisation steer clear of intra-party machinations while choosing its prime minister. Among the state leaders Modi comes the strongest. Shivraj Singh Chauhan has had a successful run in Madhya Pradesh but he is not tall enough to be a contender for the top job. And yes, he is not ambitious enough.
"Ambitious politics is not part of the BJP," says Gadkari. Well, he should introspect some more. The problem with the party is there are too many ambitious people, not many of them deserve to be ambitious. If he is referring to Modi alone, he should revises his position. Modi is the best possible leader for the party for the general elections. He is not too popular among NDA allies and take time to be acceptable in the Atal Behari Vajpayee way but he is worth the risk. Simply because the party does not have a better choice to offer.
Career politicians need to be ambitious. It helps them grow as leaders and politicians. It prepares them for tougher competition, within the party and outside it. Why would not a senior leader of a party want to be party president or prime minister? If the BJP scotches ambition, how does it become different from the Congress?
Mr Gadkari, encourage ambition in the party. It is not such a bad thing.