Rama Krishna Sangem
Prime Minister Narendra Modi further tightened grip over ruling BJP at the Centre. Last week we have seen how BJP installed completely new faces as Chief Ministers of three northern states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – that went to elections in November. Though the party got full majority after counting of votes on December 3, the party leadership took almost 10 days to finalize CM candidates.
After prolonged talks and close door meetings, BJP named three new faces – Vishnu Deo Sai as CM of Chhattisgarh, Mohan Yadav as Madhya Pradesh CM and Bhajanlal Sharma as the CM of Rajasthan. While all the tall leaders who hoped to become CMs were kept out of the race, and each state got two each Deputy CMs. These deputy CMs represented different castes and communities which aspired for CM post.
Interestingly, all these states have strong BJP leaders – who almost led the electoral battle and can rightfully claim credit for the party’s success. Many exit polls predicted clean sweep for BJP in Madhya Pradesh and gave some edge in Rajasthan but hinted at Congress coming to power in Chhattisgarh. However, proving them all wrong, BJP captured power in all the three states, leaving fourth state – Telangana – to Congress and fifth – Mizoram to ZPM.
In Madhya Pradesh, sitting CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan has every right to get CM post as he led the party to victory after running the government for five years, after snatching it from a Congress CM Kamal Nath. In Rajasthan, we have seen how a majority of BJP MLAs – close to 50-60 – went to former CM Vasundhara Raje and openly pledged their support to her. In Chhattisgarh, former CM Raman Singh flexed his muscles and wanted to get back the CM post.
Heavy weights time over
Several BJP leaders who talked to me in Hyderabad said PM Modi wanted to bring new comers as CMs because he wanted to give chance to others too. However, some seniors privately said that Modi wanted to make CMs someones who would listen to his word, not the heavy weights who may not follow his diktat. The era of heavy weights or regional satraps in BJP is over, they confided.
Compared to three heavy weights – Chauhan of MP, Raje of Rajasthan and Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh, the new ones – Sai, Yadav and Sharma – are nobody. Unless they are backed by the party’s top leadership – of Modi and Amit Shah – these new incumbents have no support of even two or three other MLAs in their states. They wouldn’t have imagined in their dreams that they would become CMs one day, if not now. Obviously, they are Modi’s nominees.
Then comes the question of why chose to replace the established leaders with new comers? This too, at a time before the Lok Sabha elections which might turn to be risky? The answer lies in the question itself. Modi wanted to tell the country that he is against to pampering the established leaderships in states. Just as he is opposing Parivarwadi parties outside, he also wanted to demonstrate that there is no space for powerful groupings within the BJP too.
Even in Maharashtra too, Modi asked former CM Devendra Fadnavis to settle for Deputy CM post under Eknath Shinde, CM. In Karnataka, he sacrificed BS Yeddyurappa to prove the point and made Basavaraj Bommai as the CM. These measures might appear suicidal at the outset. But, those who understand and support PM Modi say that they will have a long term impact on BJP’s fortunes.
People will understand that PM Modi doesn’t allow regional chieftains to keep states under their control and everyone, from different social groups and communities will get an opportunity to become CMs. This will not happen in either Congress or regional parties. Congress too tried to some extent to bring in new faces, but failed to get public approval for the attempts.
Modi wants to tell people that BJP is a party with difference, where anyone can become a CM. The party is not like Congerss where some regional leaders or communities have tight hold over it. In BJP, no one is indispensable. Then, what about Modi? He wants to become PM for the third time? Of course, he is an exception. BJP wants to project him as the supreme leader of India, who can win for a third term, making him taller than late PM Nehru.