Modi Soars, Nitish Shrinks
Modi’s prime ministerial ambition gets a new boost and Nitish loses the sheen
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.
NARENDRAMODI ( LEFT) AND NITISH KUMAR