There was no major Modi announcement despite feverish speculation in the media at the end of the two-day national council meeting of the party. The Gujarat chief minister evoked the loudest applause on Sunday when he addressed the more-than-four-thousand-strong audience, but it is not clear whether he has won the prime ministerial race in the party.
On the second and final day of the BJP’s national council meeting here on Sunday, it seemed that unlike in Congress where there was no contest against heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi, there is no walk-over for Modi in the party.
Said a BJP member of the Lok Sabha speaking on condition of anonymity that the applause and enthusiasm for Modi at the national council was no guarantee that the Gujarat chief minister will be declared the party’s prime ministerial candidate though it was a sincere appreciation of the party for his historic success. He reminded that in 1995 it was LK Advani who was the most popular and powerful man in the organisation and Atal Bihari Vajpayee was nowhere on the scene. But Advani stepped aside in favour of Vajpayee.
It was a fine display of verbal pyrotechnics by three of the top BJP leaders. Chauhan, the first major speaker of the day, put aside his self-effacing demeanour and went ballistic about what his government’s achievements were, and what he was able to do for the poor and the needy people in the last five years.
Modi, who followed Chauhan, launched a vitriolic tirade against the Congress, took pot shots at the media and political and economic pundits. Chauhan and Modi held the party audience spell bound. Each spoke for an hour.
Swaraj adopted a sharper, low-key tone and warned the party that to win elections you need a wave-like condition as well as strong organisational backing, especially booth workers. Though she was slated to speak on the political resolution moved by deputy leader in Rajya Sabha and chief national spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad and seconded by deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde, Swaraj chose to speak on organisational issues with a bearing on elections.
Chauhan held out the prospect of a BJP victory in 2014 based on its formidable array of leaders and the successful BJP governments in many of the states. Modi too did not swerve from the tacit assumption of collective leadership. He said that the people wanted to throw out the corrupt Congress-led UPA government, and that this was an opportunity for the BJP and that the party needs to grab it. He did not say that the people would automatically choose BJP in place of Congress.
Modi was generous in his praise of Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh’s food security programme and upbraided the media for not taking note of Singh’s great achievement. He said that for the first 30 years after Independence, Congress was the lone player in the political arena but it failed to develop the country. He said that BJP would change India based on good governance and development. He said that Congress did not have the sincerity to improve the lot of the people, while the BJP took every opportunity to do good to the people, and cited the example of Sunderlal Patwa’s BJP government in Madhya Pradesh which implemented welfare schemes that Congress formulated and did not bother to implement them.