By throwing their weight behind the Guajarat chief minister Narendra Modi and vehemently claiming that the Supreme Court order to refer back the Zakia Jafri petition seeking to include Modi as an accused in the 2002 Gujarat riots to the trial court has absolved him, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party may has tried to get rid of the blot on its face. The BJP has, however, risked alienating potential coalition partners– most of whom are uncomfortable with Modi as a prime ministerial candidate – and the support of the minorities, a crucial factor in many states.
But it has reasons to do so.
The apex court’s ruling and the BJP’s knee-jerk reaction to it has proved one point – Narendra Modi is unquestionably the strongest figure in the party. Right from veteran leader L.K. Advani, party’s prime ministerial candidate in 2009 general elections to almost all the key leaders in the party took no time to come out before the television cameras to declare how a “misinformation propaganda” had maligned the party’s star chief minister and how he had been by the court. In her tweet, Sushma Swaraj used the same agnipareeksha simile she used to praise Advani’s acquittal in hawala scam to acknowledge the court order. The BJP leaders have conveniently hidden the fact that it is not the end of the legal battle for Modi. The apex court has suggested the trial court to consider the various reports including those prepared by the Special Investigation Team – which only means the process will take longer time to prove whether the party’s stance could be vindicated.
But there was no other option for the BJP.
First of all it badly needs a national momentum to come out of the so-called hibernation it has been in terms of political activity. The anti-corruption campaign, on which the party was hoping to cash in on but could not be pushed due to its internal strife has been hijacked by Anna Hazare and group. When it comes to corruption and black money - two issues that have captured the imagination of middle class in their anger against politicians, the BJP has no claims of a clean slate. Two out of its seven chief ministers – Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in Uttarakhand and B.S. Yeddyurappa in Karnataka - were forced to quit in less than two months on allegations of graft and the party leaders continue to evade questions over the measures its government had taken to bring back the illegal money stashed in foreign banks to the country during the six years it was in power from 1998 to 2004. Whether Advani’s attempts to embark on a ”rathyatra” to reclaim the corruption agenda from the self proclaimed civil society groups would yield results is yet to be seen.
It also desperately needs to project a person that can command national appeal.
It realized that the 83-year-old Advani, Lok Sabha leader Sushma Swaraj or Rajya Sabha leader Arun Jaitley cannot be the face of the party mainly due to internal rifts. It feels Modi is the only leader from its rank who could claim the national stature as a leader capable of combining development with governance – a plank on which its chief ministers have been winning the elections in states. Bringing Modi on to the national stage is more acceptable to the party than accepting Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar as its prime ministerial candidate. So the party virtually has no other option but to latch on to anything that would erase the blot on Modi.