Uneasy balance in BJP as polls tilt the scales for Modi

FP

With Sanjay Joshi apparently asking to be relieved of all party responsibilities and BJP president Nitin Gadkari acquiescing to his request, the Gadkari vs Narendra Modi and Modi vs Joshi theatre in the BJP appears to have drawn to a close.

By first securing Joshi's resignation from the party's national executive at Mumbai and now his exit from party work, the Gujarat Chief Minister appears to have established his pre-eminent position in the Sangh Parivar.

But both the ostensible truce and the conspicuous assertion rest on some seething predicaments and fragile pacts. There are at least three versions of the truce, for one.

According to sources close to Gadkari, the decision to relieve Joshi of all party responsibilities was taken with the decision to ask him to resign from the national executive at Mumbai itself. In other words, the BJP president did bend to Modi's wishes but it was a one-time affair, in the interest of the party — not a prolonged and embarrassing capitulation.

Sources close to Joshi contest this version. If the decision had been taken in Mumbai itself, why would Joshi have subsequently gone to Lucknow, Meerut, Ghaziabad and Agra to involve himself in corporation elections there, they ask.

The third version is of the RSS. Joshi, Sangh sources point out, was given an implicit message to step back from all party activities at Mumbai, and then, when he showed no signs of fading away quietly, explicitly asked to step back from party activities four days before he made a public show of doing so.

In the Sangh perception, both sides — Modi as well as Joshi — are playing to the gallery. Both men are ego-driven and impatient, unwilling to take the long-term view, RSS seniors say.

In this case, the long term that is weighing on the Parivar's mind is December, when Assembly elections are due in Gujarat. The electoral test forms the backdrop to the current theatre in the BJP.

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