Is Rajnath Singh’s ambition to become PM fueling current crisis in BJP?


Rifat Jawaid

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Post Bihar results, which decimated the BJP in the state has caused an unprecedented turmoil in the party and the crisis appears to have spiralled out of control for Narendra Modi and the RSS.

What started as a mere quibbles by couple of MPs in Bihar have now gained full-blown momentum with the BJP leadership finding it increasingly difficult to control its spread.

On Tuesday, soon after the BJP MP from Bihar’s Begusarai, Bhola Ram, launched a stinging attack against PM Modi blaming his ‘unparliamentary language’ for the party’s poor showing in Bihar elections, three veteran leaders dispatched a hard-hitting letter asking for responsibility for the loss to be fixed.

In their letter, the trio from the party’s Margdarshak Mandal hinted that the blame ought to have gone to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

Realising that this was no ordinary revolt as the signatories included stalwarts like LK Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha, three former president of the BJP responded with their letter within minutes.

The letter, which was signed by Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu, reminded the disgruntled party veterans how the BJP had won Lok Sabha, several assembly and local body elections under Modi.

Since then, the party has been making desperate attempts to avoid any more threats to the leadership of Modi and Shah.

But, most pundits have largely ignored the significance of two statements that Rajnath Singh, now union home minister (effectively number 2 in the government) in Modi government, made in the recent days.

Singh, while talking to reporters before the Bihar election results were announced, had said that the outcome of these elections must not be seen as a mandate against the leadership of Modi and Shah.

He reiterated his stance on Tuesday evening.

He said, “Amit Shah will remain as party chief for six more years. There is no hurdle. In fact, he got one and half years of my own tenure (as party chief) when I had moved from the party to the government. After that he is entitled to two terms (of three years each).”

However, when asked to comment on the ‘removal’ of his home secretary, LC Goyal, in August, Singh said, “Singh said: “I don’t know why he (Goyal) was removed. Please ask the Prime Minister.” 

Singh’s response related to his home secretary’s removal was clearly suggestive of his frustration with Modi’s decision. There have been several media reports suggesting that Singh felt ‘suffocated’ as he had no authority even in his own ministry. The joke on social media was ‘Singh can’t appoint his own PA without Modi’s prior approval.’

One senior BJP leader told on Wednesday that Singh saw a huge opportunity for himself in the ongoing crisis.

“He is aware that the RSS’ patience is wearing thin with Modi, whose stature has grown phenomenally in the last 18 months. Sangh is particularly worried about the growing adulation for Modi. The current crisis has prompted the RSS to start preparing grounds for Modi’s replacement should we lose, say Bengal elections. Should this happens, then there are only two credible candidates who could be potentially considered as Modi’s successor. One is Rajnath Singh while other being the defence minister Manohar Parrikar.”

Singh’s continuous defence for Shah appears to emanate from the fact that he’s no longer keen to take the role of BJP’s president after having led the party three times in the past. Singh can’t be blamed for being ambitious as he’s got clear edge over Parrikar on many levels. While Parrikar has ruled a tiny state like Goa, Singh has governed Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest state, as chief minister.

While this is the first time Parrikar is serving in the union cabinet, Rajnath Singh had held an important portfolio even in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

There are murmurs in the party that entire controversy may have been orchestrated by those wanting to see Singh replace Modi in future.

One BJP leader said, “Rajnath ji has been loyal to Modi ji and had supported his candidature even while others opposed. He led the 220-club (BJP MPs who wanted Modi as PM) in the party while discouraging the members of 160-club (allegedly those close to LK Advani who allegedly wanted BJP to win just 160 seats to thwart chances of Modi becoming the PM) to support Modi ji. But, things have changed since last year. I wouldn’t blame Rajnath ji if he has now developed a personal ambition to become prime minister. As politician, who doesn’t aspire to become prime minister?”

It’s true that while Sushma Swaraj was perceived to be belonging to LK Advani camp, it was Rajnath Singh who proudly flew the flag for brand Modi in the run up to last year’s Lok Sabha elections. But it’s also true that 18 months is a long time in politics. Who would have thought that the brand Modi which annihilated all its opposition in the general elections would take such a beating 18 months later?