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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

BJP’s Modi has changed, finally!

New Delhi: In its desperate urge for power the Hindutvite BJP has decided to give a go by to its hardline Hindutva policy at least temporarily. For the BJP, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has lost utility. Now, since the party has decided to fight the present general elections on the development agenda, Modi is after all not the tallest of the BJP leaders to project. 

Ever since the 2002 carnage of Muslims in Gujarat and its condemnation worldwide, senior leaders of the BJP including Prime Minister AB Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani had to express regrets and apologise for the macabre happenings which were of Modi’s making. Thus to project itself as a more acceptable party, which realises and admits its guilt and is ready to take all sections of the Indian society along with it, Modi had to be discarded as he has very much turned into a liability.

To cut Modi and his hard Hindutva (or is it, Moditva) to size, BJP leaders in Gujarat like Keshubhai Patel and Suresh Mehta are being given extra importance and leverage in the state politics. And, all this is being done on the specific instructions of ‘Loha-Vikas purush fame’ BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu.

Narendra Modi has finally been shown his rightful place in the BJP’s scheme of things. According to a senior BJP official, Mr Modi’s suggestions on the selection of candidates for the current general elections have simply not been entertained. Modi wanted that at least eight sitting MPs be dropped and replaced by others. Seven of them are Keshubhai Patel supporters while one is said to be the supporter of Suresh Mehta. 

Besides being solely held accountable for spreading mayhem and communal disharmony in Gujarat and beyond, Modi has also earned the wrath of the strong Patel or farmers lobby in the state. He has also not done anything significant on the development front so as to showcase his achievements to the country.

Moreover, at a time when the BJP is all out to woo Muslims in the country, projecting Modi or fielding him for election campaigning would not go down well with the people, especially Muslims. "We are seriously trying to woo Muslims since we are trying to portray BJP as genuinely a party above communal politics. Modi’s days of glory are over now and we knew this when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee openly apologised for the Gujarat riots and sought forgiveness at a function in Ahmedabad in January, and that too in the presence of Narendra Modi," remarked a prominent BJP leader.

Modi might have been changed in BJP’s poll arithmetic, but the party is reluctant to give up its hardline Hindutva agenda for that matter. Modi’s mukhauta (mask) has merely been changed with that of Kalyan Singh’s. The prime architect and the hero of the Babari Masjid demolition has staged a triumphant and grand comeback, and so has the grand Ramjanmabhumi temple vision of the party. No doubt, from Modi it is a complete mood changeover for the Hindutva party.

— Danish A. Khan  ¤

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