Silent Rebel Sushma Plays A Wait-and-Watch Game
Amid murmurs she may be made the Lok Sabha Speaker, her mentor Advani is likely to insist that she be given a plum portfolio
HeroppositiontoNarendra Modi and his camp in the BJP is an open secret. Thoughshehasrarely spoken against the party line in public, Sushma Swaraj often gives broad hints about her d i s a g r e e me n t with party decis i o ns. A s i l e nt rebel, the 62-year-old is playing a wait-andwatch game. With the prospects of Modi becoming Prime Minister at an all-time high, there are speculations about Swaraj’s role i n t h e Uni o n Cabinet. “She is the Leader of the Opposition in (outgoing) Lok Sabha and is a senior leader of the party. She will get a good portfolio,” one of the party’s top leaders told ET when asked about Swaraj. AspertheWestminstermodel that India adopted, Swaraj was the shadow prime minister in her capacity as the opposition leader in the 15th Lok Sabha. While there have been murmurs thatshemaybemadetheLSSpeaker,
A SENIOR BJP LEADER A lot will depend on Modi.... Swaraj may be given the External Affairs or HRD ministry
her mentor LK Advani has always put her on a par with Modi and is likely to insist that she be given a plum portfolio. A fiery orator, Swaraj herself is not likely to agree to become a moderator in debates in the Lower House and would like to be a part of the government, sources said. Swaraj, along with Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, was opposed to the anointmentof Modiastheparty’scampaigncommitteechief inJune.Thetrio had also expressed their disagreement to Modi being named BJP’s PM candidate but the party and the RSS prevailed and announced the decision.
AdvaniandJoshi,bothintheireighties now, are unlikely to work in a Cabinet led by Modi and may prefer to walk into the sunset. But Swaraj still hasalongpoliticalcareeraheadof her. Party insiders say she may even get one of the four key ministries. “AlotwilldependonModi,especially if the BJP wins a good number of seats. Swaraj may be given the external affairs ministry or human resource development,” a senior party leader said. In the erstwhile NDA government,Swarajhadworkedashealth minister, and also as the information and broadcasting minister. Swaraj may have spoken out rarely against the party – she had made liberal use of her Twitter handle to do so – but her opposition to Modi and others in his camp is well-known. She has cultivated her own camp around Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other leaders. During the LS polls campaign, the senior leader confined herself to her constituency, Vidisha, and some seats in Madhya Pradesh. Her detractors say she rarely mentioned Modi in her initial campaign but was forced to praise him as the campaign progressed as she was not sure of a good margin. While “Abki baar Modi Sarkar” posters were put up in Vidisha by the central campaign managers, those from the state displayed her picture along with those of Chouhan and Modi. Chouhan has stood by her all along and even participated in her road show on the last day of campaigning. “She did not invite any senior leader tocampaign,unlikeothercentralleaders. Chouhan campaigned there as he did in other MP seats in his capacity as CM of the state. In Bhojpur, a Vidhan Sabha seat under Vidisha, actorturned politicians from Bihar – Shatrughan Sinha and Manoj Tewari – were invited to campaign as there is a sizable Bihari population there,” a close aide of her said.
Swarajalsodidnotinvolveherdaughter or husband in her canvassing. Swarajhasnotbeenmuchindemand forcampaigninginthisLSelectionsas most of the attention has been on Modi.WhileshewastiedupinVidisha and other MP seats till the sixth phase (April24),Swarajsparedadayeachfor campaigning in Delhi and Haryana. Even after April 24, Swaraj did not campaign as extensively as in the past (she had addressed 50 public meetings for the Delhi elections in NovemberDecember). She campaigned for a day each in Gujarat, Telangana and Uttarakhand and then addressed some rallies in eastern UP and Bihar.
Significantly, Swaraj kept away from Amethi though the party had announced that she would campaign there against Rahul Gandhi. She also did not visit Varanasi, unlike other leaders who made a beeline to the holy city to canvas for Modi. Swaraj had ruffled some feathers in the BJP when the party was looking for new allies. She expressed her differences with BJP brass on inducting Sriramulu,acloseassociateof mining barons Reddy brothers She also opposed NDA ally HJC’s move to induct Venod Sharma, a former Congress man and money bag, into the party. Whether these voices of dissent from her will harm her prospects or she will still play a significant role in Modi Sarkar will be clear in the coming days. Discarded by Congress, federative impulses of the Indian polity return with the ascent of Modi who has shown a chief minister’s governance record and achievements can be leveraged to build and sustain a national identity