Last week, India’s main opposition political party Bharatiya Janata Party experienced massive tremors as it was split through the middle internally by the elevation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to chairman of the party’s election campaign, and resignation of one of the party’s senior most leaders LK Advani
. Narendra Modi, who has been the Chief Minister of Gujarat since 2001, winning each of the last 4 elections, is seen by many to be BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate for 2014 general election. He has certainly taken the first steps along this path – he was made leader of the party’s election campaign in a conference in Goa last week – following BJP’s sweeping success in the by elections in Gujarat the previous week.
Many senior leaders including LK Advani (Parliamentary Chairperson of the party – second most important in party) boycotted the conference – revealing the rift in the party. While Mr. Advani has cited BJP’s connection with Hindu nationalist group RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) as the main reason for him leaving, there can be no doubt that the real reason is the elevation of Mr. Modi, and his prospects as the BJP’s future Prime Minister. his opposition is probable because Modi is viewed as a heavily right wing and polarizing candidate, who will lose some votes and ostracize some members of the opposition because of his past. Narendra Modi is a highly controversial politician because of the horrific Gujarat riots in 2002, when Modi’s government (he was CM) has been accused of doing nothing to, and even participating in, the genocide of Muslims in the state. Whether this is true or not is a matter of opinion, but this makes him a controversial candidate for PM. On the other hand, under him, there has been tremendous economic and infrastructural progress in Gujarat.
So in spite of all the controversy, the promise of an economically able and authoritative leader after a corruption ridden, economically weak Congress government may just win BJP the next election. Although Advani, after a great deal of pleading, has entered into talks with the party leadership and will rejoin the party, he has still left all major posts, and is likely to become sideline during BJP’s election campaign. The rift in the party will still exist clearly and the 2 developments definitely mark the end of an era for the BJP, as their biggest leader resigns and their most promising leader is elevated, – but whether for better or for worse – we are yet to see.
Photo Credits: Narendra Modi/Flickr
References: Times of India, Economic Times