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One battle won, Narendra Modi faces first bloody skirmish

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 - 3:45pm IST | Place: Panaji | Agency: IANS
The BJP's face in the Lok Sabha battle has to contain a bloody skirmish within his own fortress.

A battle has been won, but skirmishes and a war with all its rigours lies ahead for Narendra Modi.

The next obvious campaign for the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) newly nominated chief of the election management committee, making him the BJP's face in the Lok Sabha battle, is to contain a bloody skirmish within his own fortress.

The immediate task for Modi after his elevation to the national stage will be to 'weld' the image of the party following 'Loh Purush' L.K. Advani's dramatic resignation from party posts Monday. And, if possible, to mollycoddle the patriarch and usher him back to a comfort zone within the BJP.

One did not need a crystal ball to realise over the last few weeks that Advani's relations with Modi, who Sunday overrode intra-party dissent and differences to emerge as the BJP's face for the 2014 polls, had soured.

Advani, who along with Atal Behari Vajpayee founded the BJP, the successor to the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, in 1980, had given the three-day national executive meet of the party in Goa a miss for the first time ever, citing health reasons.

Several leaders, including some from the Advani camp, too had stayed away from the June 7-9 conclave. These included Yashwant Singh, Jaswant Singh, Shatrughan Sinha, Varun Gandhi, Uma Bharati, and Ravishankar Prasad.

And from what insiders said during the conference, especially after the leader's doodling with ominous metaphors on his blog, Advani's hurt was evident.

"There is a sense of uneasiness among some leaders because Advani was overlooked in a way. This gap is very important to be filled," a BJP leader claimed minutes after the Modi announcement.

Another senior party leader was worried about the control-obsessed Gujarat chief minister creating a single power pole in the BJP. This, it is feared, could have a negative impact on the democratic structure of the party.

The embarrassment caused by the resignation of a leader of Advani's stature has already cut a deep gash in the BJP cadre's psyche.

It will also allow other parties, especially the Congress, to jab at the BJP at will, especially because the latter's guard is down and the party's leaders, dazed and stunned by the development.

Goa MP Shripad Naik says Modi's popularity and a "craze" for him would help reap dividends for the BJP. He feels Advani should have exercised restraint and not resigned at this juncture.

An expert on the Sangh Parivar, Pralay Kanungo, says the challenge will be to temper the atmosphere in the party.

"It is a difficult beginning for Modi. How he proceeds from here will decide the party's fate in the general election and establish him as the prime ministerial candidate," Kanungo said.

Kanungo says that charm and popularity aren't enough to carry along a party. For Modi to prove himself efficient and a true leader, it is important for him to manage the differences.

"Extremities don't last in politics," the professor said.

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