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In his first public comments after the verdict, Narendra Modi included his party's central leadership, the BJP's karyakartas and all the people of Gujarat, in his moment of triumph. In a piquant way, that victor's gesture underlined both the scale and distinctive character of Modi's win. He has won votes across the state on the strength of a political appeal that scorned the traditional support structures that generally power the electoral bid of a regional leader in a national party. The BJP's high command was virtually irrelevant to Modi's campaign. So were vast sections of the local BJP and other sangh parivar outfits, including the RSS and VHP. Modi also ran on a platform that unabashedly addressed the Gujarati as Hindu, made no pretence of speaking to Gujarat's minority Muslim community. What Modi did was to combine his government's achievements on the development front with an insistent play on Hindu anxieties and stamp the mix with a strong signature style. It has worked for him, returning him to power for the second time, emphatically so.
But will it work for his party? Modi's victory in Gujarat is bound to give the Advani-led BJP at the Centre a sobering moment of pause amid the celebrations. Advani may feel a fleeting sense of vindication — he has been known to support Modi against his opposition in the party and he has himself run foul of the RSS — but the party-parivar equation has been tinged with a brand new uncertainty. Modi's successful effort to carve a political strategy that vaults over, even disrespects, the collective wisdom and diktat of the old men in Nagpur, is an unprecedented phenomenon. It will take some time and a lot of tact for sections of the parivar to cope with this audacious assertion of their dispensability. For the BJP high command, too, it will be a challenge to deal with a leader whose persona is likely to strain beyond the state's boundaries. A leader, moreover, whose patented political style is abrasively at odds with the party's attempt to enhance its coalition-friendliness at the Centre.
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