It has become clear that post Bihar debacle, the BJP has decided not to make Modi the face of assembly elections. A few days ago, they named Youth Affairs and Sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal the president of the the party's unit in Assam, due for polls early next year.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the mike at 9, Ashoka Road on November 28 during a belated Diwali Milan lunch for the media hosted by him and BJP President Amit Shah, he looked pretty jaded and tired. Some even thought rundown—perhaps on account of the bashing that the BJP took in Bihar where he was the face of the party.
Modi's two-minute speech was less than routine: the kind when you speak because you have to speak. The BJP's best communicator who had cast himself as the motivator for all Indians in the summer of 2014, sounded dull and uninspiring, largely because he had nothing to say.
Possibly we, the media, from owners, editors to the beat reporters, were not as inspiring as the crowds in Wembley Park or Madison Square Garden. His face neither had the shine or the enthusiasm.
But then, that should not worry the party or the nation. It has become clear that post Bihar debacle, the BJP has decided not to make Modi the face of assembly elections. A few days ago, they named Youth Affairs and Sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal the president of the the party's unit in Assam, due for polls early next year. Sonowal was also declared the chairman of the party's Election Campaign Committee. Informally, this means, the BJP has declared him the chief ministerial candidate, and he will lead the party in Assam.
A week or more ago, the BJP also fought the Ratlam Jalua Lok Sabha by-election in Madhya Pradesh, without invoking Prime Minister Modi. The posters and campaign material had Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan's photographs, and Chauhan gave the main speeches. It is another matter that the Congress snatched the seat from the BJP.
While the party has realised that the face was one reason they lost in Bihar, they have not digested the fact that the message was wrong, too. The idea of reviewing reservation first, then the idea that reservation may go from some castes to another community, and, above all, the talk of Nitish's DNA. At the “Diwali Milan” lunch, many in the party suggested that the messengers should have been different but they stoutly defended the message. That instead of Modi talking caste, it should have been left to people like Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, MoS food processing industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and even the fringe elements in the party.
“They can crudely scream caste and community, people there will understand and appreciate. That is why they win election after election. What the PM and others in Delhi say is bound to be misconstrued,” said a party”s strategist, underscoring the difference between Delhi, the metros and rural India.
No wonder, the party tolerates all that we see wrong in some of their leaders' statements, and much of what those in the party fringes do.
No wonder, the party will never allow a parliamentary resolution condemning intolerance. Such a resolution can have a calming effect given the debate on intolerance, it can provide a catharsis, I suggested to a minister. Pat came the reply: “Where is the intolerance for us to debate it in Parliament? Has there been any communal riots? How many people were killed?”