When asked about the potential declaration of Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate at a two-day meet of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at Allahabad during the Mahakumbh, a leader who works with both the RSS and BJP said,"“Mahakubmh me toh dubki lagti hai, Rajtilak ki muhar toh Dilli me hi lagti hai (Mahakumbh is for a holy dip, the anointment for a throne is done in Delhi).”
Two things are noteworthy here – no political party takes its most politically sensitive decision in this manner.
Second, even if such a move were to be made, it would not be beneficial for Modi to be connected to a hardcore Hindutava icon when he has worked so hard to build an image of a strong development oriented politician.
Modi is also all set to expand his youth constituency, as seen through an interaction he will have with students of Delhi's Sri Ram College of Commerce on 6 February. This will be his first interaction with students outside Gujarat. Though Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, a prominent alumnus of that college was seen to be the architect behind the move, he is unlikely to be present there.
It is in this context that Modi supporters believe that his projection as Prime Ministerial candidate at the Kumbh Sant conclave is a design to portray him as Hindutava ideology poster boy by political rivals outside of the BJP so that he his appeal gets limited only to certain sections of society.
So much so that the BJP president Rajnath Singh repeated an assertion that a decision on whether to project a PM candidate and whom to project can only be taken at the party’s Parliamentary Board is just taken for the record, and is not a factual position. Singh will be going to Mahakumbh on 6 February and will interact with the seers and VHP leaders.
That can have implications on wider coordination between the Sangh Parivar, but is unlikely to have anything to do with a decision on who the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate should be. Singh belongs to Uttar Pradesh and has been taking a dip in almost all Kumbh festivals held at intervals at Haridwar and Prayag/Allahabad. This is thus no exception.
Furthermore, at this stage Singh has more pressing issues to settle first – given the kind of abnormal situation which led to him being named to be the party President. He first has to smoothen the coordination between various warring factions within the party and form his own team of office bearers. The question before him is if should be form his own team before or after a ratification by a 1500 member National Council meeting. But there is still no clarity on whether that meet would be held before or after the budget session.
Senior party leaders say that after a recent extended lunch meeting between Modi and Singh in Delhi at the latter’s residence, it is almost sure that the two leaders are now acting in tandem.
Singh has also dropped enough hints that Modi would have a bigger say and role in the party’s organisational and policy issue. The appointment of Vasundhra Raje, former Rajathan chief minister, as the state BJP president and declaring that he would lead the party in next elections in the state is being seen as a move forward in this direction.
The appointment of the state party president in Rajasthan had been pending for a long time due to factional feuds. Vasundhra now shares an exellent rapport with Modi. She was one of the most visible BJP leaders to campaign in Gujarat and had a long meeting with Modi in Gandhinagar two days prior to the announcement of her appointment as state BJP chief.
The “information” of Modi for PM announcement at Kumbh is often sourced to the VHP and is credited as being an endorsement by Ashok Singhal. That supposed backing of the VHP chief and his nice words for Modi, however, came in response to pointed questions of media.
It is important to understand that Modi has had a most uneasy relationship with the VHP in Gujarat. Through sustained administrative and political measures, Modi has completely marginalized the VHP in the state.
The outfit’s second most powerful leader, International Working President Pravin Togadia has been virtually banished from there and has ceased to be a force of any kind. There had been inside reports that in the recent Gujarat elections, Togadia and VHP workers supported breaking away and supporting Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party.
Though this took away some hardcore Hindutava supporters from Modi and BJP but it also won him support from other segments of society including in reaching out to the Muslim community.
Meanwhile the clamour of Modi for PM is rising by the day in the BJP. The Shiv Sena has hinted that they are willing to support Modi despite the fact that Bal Thackeray had always wanted Sushma Swaraj, while the Akali Dal has extended its clear support to Modi. But the BJP is not in a hurry. It does not want to precipitate matters with its old and largest ally JD(U), at least at this juncture.