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Posted at: Jul 14, 2019, 7:11 AM; last updated: Jul 14, 2019, 7:11 AM (IST)

New BJP: Centre holds stage

Saba Naqvi
MOCKINGBIRD
Saba Naqvi
The BJP has shown strategic clarity in not letting state power centres imagine they have the power to veto. In matters of ticket distribution for the Lok Sabha elections, it was the national writ that prevailed, not state pleas
New BJP: Centre holds stage
Setback: Shivraj Singh Chouhan wanted to be Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and/or BJP state unit chief. Instead, he was made one of the national vice-presidents of the BJP.

Saba Naqvi

The defining feature of BJP 2.0 post-2019 is that there are no strong state satraps left. Those who were perceived as being the pivot of power in particular states are finding the equations changing. Those who imagined they were irreplaceable in the scheme of things because of their profile or caste group are facing a reality check. 

As far as the BJP goes, it has already established ‘one nation one poll’ in its own power equations. Only Prime Minister Narendra Modi matters, as does his right hand, Amit Shah, now also the Home Minister of India. The 2019 mandate reinforces the cult of the great leader, an authoritarian figure with shades of a demagogue. And that process certainly has implications for other figures in the BJP, who till now imagined they were important on their turfs.

They do not have the sort of clout they once did. First let’s look at Karnataka, where the Congress is imploding and the government tottering. The traditional BJP leader in the state has been BS Yeddyurappa. The former Chief Minister has a strong backing of the state’s powerful Lingayat community. He is very desperate to form a government in the current Assembly. But the national BJP is actually in no hurry and would be quite content with fresh elections, where new leaders would be tested or appointed after the verdict.

Of course, if things really fall apart, Yeddyurappa may get a brief moment in the sun again but the long-term thinking is to get a simple majority government of its own. The BJP is grooming a new set of leaders, including the new Bangalore South MP Tejasvi Surya, who specialises in rabid communal speech in good English. It’s also worth pointing out that Ananth Kumar, a significant BJP gen-next leader from the state, passed away last year, aged just 59.

Another prominent BJP figure that passed away in March this year was Manohar Parrikar, the Goa Chief Minister, who too had been irreplaceable at one time. Turns out the party’s getting on fine without him as the Congress in the state is also imploding with many MLAs joining the BJP. 

Next, let’s move to Madhya Pradesh where the Congress regime can also be jerked around and made to fall as it has 114 MLAs in a House of 230, but also the support of two BSP and one SP MLA. The BJP has 109 seats in the state that witnessed three terms under former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. After the defeat in the Assembly polls in December last year, Shivraj wanted to be Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and/or BJP state unit chief. Instead, he was made one of the vice-presidents of the national BJP, along with the former three-term BJP Chief Minister from Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh. 

The Modi and Shah-led BJP, therefore, has shown strategic clarity in not letting state power centres imagine they have the power of veto. In matters of ticket distribution for the Lok Sabha elections, for instance, it was the national writ that prevailed, not state pleas. Under these circumstances, it’s not clear when the national BJP leadership would like to topple the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh as they have not shown any particular eagerness to empower Shivraj. Similarly, it’s well known that former chief minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje has no leverage with the national BJP and neither does Raman Singh. Again, like Yeddyurappa, Shivraj could get a look-in if things fall apart for the Congress in the state, but he is not the future face of the party.   

There are, however, three BJP chief ministers that have a bright future as they were appointed after Modi came to power in Delhi in 2014. These include Raghubar Das, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand. He was the first non-tribal to be made chief minister of the state and has actually succeeded beyond expectation. The formula is simple: all non-tribals support BJP, and even a section of tribals come across as they see other parties as being in terrible decline. Raghubar Das was very much a choice made by the Prime Minister himself. 

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar comes from the RSS stable and if he delivers the state in the forthcoming Assembly elections, he has no reason to worry. The same goes for Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The thing to note about all three chief ministers of the states, which have elections this year, is that they were “selected” chief ministers. Now they will, in all probability, become “elected” chief ministers. 

But they should have complete clarity that this is due to the cut-throat grassroots model fine-tuned by the Modi-Shah-RSS government, the fact that 85 per cent of the corporate donations now come to the BJP alone, that other parties now stand in ruins. It’s ‘one nation one poll’ in the BJP and the states are not fiefdoms, but vassals of the Centre. 

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