Narendra Modi has agreed to attend his party’s national executive in Mumbai. The Gujarat Chief Minister, who is in Udaipur, had orchestrated a trip to Rajasthan as a form of boycott. He was upset that his old rival, Sanjay Joshi, would be present in Mumbai. This morning, hours before the meeting began, Mr Joshi resigned as a member of the national executive, paving the way for Mr Modi’s arrival. The Chief Minister is likely to arrive in Mumbai in the afternoon today.
“I welcome him…he has told me he will stand with us shoulder-to-shoulder and work for the party,” said BJP president Nitin Gadkari about Mr Modi’s new itinerary. Mr Gadkari added that Mr Joshi’s resignation was “a large-hearted gesture”. But in reality, the move proves that Mr Gadkari remains at odds with other senior BJP leaders, though he is staunchly supported by the party’s parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which reportedly stepped in to end the Modi-Gadkari tussle.
In the resignation letter that Mr Joshi sent to Mr Gadkari, he reportedly said he does not want to be the reason for dissent or division in the party. Sources however say Mr Joshi was asked to quit after pressure from the BJP’s Gujarat unit, who had said they would follow Mr Modi’s lead and skip the meeting.
Mr Modi has already skipped a party meet in November, sulking about Mr Joshi’s presence and also did not campaign for the party in the crucial UP elections earlier this year because Mr Joshi was given an important charge there.
The resignation of Mr Joshi, an old RSS hand, is being seen in political circles as a big setback for Mr Gadkari. Mr Joshi was re-inducted into the party by Mr Gadkari only a few months ago after being in political exile for six years over a seedy CD scandal.
One of the main items on the BJP’s agenda in Mumbai is amending the constitution of the party to allow Mr Gadkari a second term as president after he completes his current term in December. The RSS supports a second term for Mr Gadkari, but there is reportedly serious opposition to that from top leaders in the party, including veteran LK Advani.
The party also hopes to finalize its strategy for the July elections that will decide who becomes the next President of India. With the general elections just two years away, the BJP also wants to blueprint its plan of attack against the Congress-led government at the Centre. Most importantly, the party has to prep for Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year. The BJP rules both those states and must retain them in the run-up to the 2014 General Elections.
In recent days, party leaders have challenged several of Mr Gadkari’s decisions and forced him to back down on them. He had to go back on his decision to induct Babu Singh Kushwaha into the BJP in UP last year; then came the controversy over supporting the nomination of independent candidate Anshuman Mishra in Jharkhand for the Rajya Sabha. Mr Gadkari was forced to reverse that decision after other senior leaders united against him. While re-inducting Mr Joshi last year, Mr Gadkari had overruled all opposition and today’s development will be seen as Mr Modi arm-twisting the party president and getting his way.
Today’s development is also seen as a setback for the RSS. It backs Mr Gadkari and had also backed Mr Joshi’s re-induction. Today it said this was an internal matter of the BJP. RSS spokesman MG Vaidya said, “The parties which revolve around one person, have these kinds of problems. Did anyone from Delhi know Nitin Gadkari three years back? Now they know him. Every post someone holds is respectable. Zero has no value. But if you put one before it, it is ten. Same way, if you put another zero, it’s 100.”
Mr Modi may have been won over for now, but another popular BJP leader from the South, BS Yeddyurappa will miss the roll call in Mumbai. He believes his party has failed to give him his due by ignoring his demand to be reinstated as Chief Minister of Karnataka despite a series of corruption cases.