Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is subtly projecting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the party’s most popular leader before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a section of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is not in favour of creating a larger-than-life image for Modi, according to party sources.
Senior RSS leaders are of the opinion that although Modi is popular with the cadre of both BJP and RSS, his presence at centre stage of national politics might not strengthen the party in several states where BJP has marginal presence.
BJP President Rajnath Singh had recently included Modi in the parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body of the party. Although a section within the party wanted Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to be included in the board, the move was blocked by Singh.
Notably, the top brass of RSS had informally discussed the projection of Modi by the BJP during the recently-concluded three-day meeting at Jaipur. However, none of the senior members of the RSS took the issue forward, fearing a backlash from Modi supporters among the cadre, who are increasingly demanding the Gujarat CM play a crucial role in the central BJP.
“There are certain states where the BJP has little presence, and most of the RSS leaders agree there is a need to strengthen the party in these states. There is a debate going on in the organisation whether projecting Modi would spread the base of party in these states,” said a RSS leader.
Among the states where the BJP is weak are Uttar Pradesh, where the party has only 10 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal. The party’s position in Karnataka is also vulnerable, as it has suffered a setback because of the allegations of corruption against its top leaders and the growing division within its ranks. Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha seats.
RSS leaders said it’s the organisation, and not leaders that’s important. However, BJP has been promoting Modi due to pressure from the cadre who demand Modi should play a larger national role.
“The RSS has always believed that organisation is bigger than individuals but people want to see Modi at the forefront. The BJP has been promoting leaders in the states as well because of the goodwill these prominent leaders have earned,” the RSS leader added.