Modi Soars, Ni­tish Shrinks

Modi’s prime min­is­te­rial am­bi­tion gets a new boost and Ni­tish loses the sheen

India Today - - NATION - by Amitabh Sri­vas­tava and Uday Mahurkar

Naren­dra Damodar­das Modi’s self- as­sured gait sud­denly took on the dis­tinct swag­ger of vic­tory as he saun­tered past Ni­tish Kumar at the chief min­is­ter’s con­fer­ence on in­ter­nal se­cu­rity in Delhi on June 5. Vi­brant Gu­jarat would not even ac­knowl­edge the ex­is­tence of a van­quished Bi­har. Adding that prover­bial in­sult to in­jury, min­utes later Modi beamed at the shut­ter­bugs in a bear hug with Congress’s Haryana Chief Min­is­ter Bhupin­der Singh Hooda.

“A 100 per cent vic­tory,” he de­clared, cock­ing a snook at Congress which could not even reg­is­ter a pres­ence in the west to east cor­ri­dor. But he was also mock­ing Ni­tish Kumar on the per­ils of his ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Congress on the yet- to- be- ful­filled as­sur­ance of spe­cial sta­tus for Bi­har.

Mean­while, Fi­nance Min­is­ter P. Chi­dambaram lamented Modi’s op­po­si­tion to the mod­i­fied draft pro­posal to es­tab­lish National Counter Ter­ror­ism Cen­tre ( NCTC). Per­haps the real rea­son for his anguish was his party’s de­ba­cle in Bi­har, Gu­jarat and West Ben­gal. The car­pet- bomb­ing of Union min­is­ters such as Sachin Pilot, RPN Singh, Ra­jeev Shukla, Ji­ten­dra Singh and Raj Bab­bar— who were among 40 star cam­paign­ers for Congress at Ma­hara­j­ganj— failed to change its fate in Bi­har. Seen as a party bend­ing over back­wards to ap­pease Ni­tish Kumar, the elec­torate re­jected Congress.

Modi grabbed both Lok Sabha seats— Por­ban­dar and Banaskan­tha — and all four assem­bly con­stituen­cies where by- elec­tions were held in Gu­jarat. In West Ben­gal, Ma­mata Ban­er­jee, de­spite her cri­sis with chit funds and scams, bumped Congress to an ig­no­min­ious third place in Howrah, also trounc­ing the CPI( M), run­ner- up by 27,000 votes.

“Peo­ple have shown this in th­ese polls that they are an­gry with Congress,” said Modi. For him, the ver­dict could not have come at a bet­ter time. It will def­i­nitely help smoothen the pitch and shorten the path to Delhi.

The lad­doo- eat­ing photo op­por­tu­ni­ties at BJP chief Ra­j­nath Singh’s house in Delhi may be a telling pre­cur­sor to the forth­com­ing BJP National Ex­ec­u­tive meet in Goa where the BJP chief is des­per­ately seek­ing ways around ob­jec­tions from lead­ers like Lal Kr­ishna Ad­vani to in­stall Modi as head of the party’s cam­paign com­mit­tee for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The ‘ Modi for Prime Min­is­ter’ clam­our is cer­tain to at­tain a new crescendo in the com­ing weeks.

In Bi­har, Lalu Prasad Ya­dav is cel­e­brat­ing. But does the Ma­hara­j­ganj poll win for Lalu’s party also sig­nal the end of the road for Ni­tish? “Ni­tish’s con­sis­tent ha­rangue against Modi has clearly boomeranged,” says a Bi­har BJP leader. Modi has emerged as the face of BJP not only for mul­ti­tudes of vot­ers but also for the party’s rankand- file out­side Gu­jarat.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Modi re­mained the top trend­ing on­line po­lit­i­cal en­tity in Delhi on June 5. This es­pe­cially so af­ter he at­tacked the So­nia Gandhi- led National Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil. Congress brought on its best— Chi­dambaram along­side Union min­is­ters Kapil Sibal and Man­ish Te­wari— to try and counter him. But Modi held on to his space. What he needs is more sup­port from within BJP at Goa.

Pho­to­graphs by PANKAJ NAN­GIA/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

NARENDRAMODI ( LEFT) AND NI­TISH KUMAR

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