Everybody salutes the rising sun, or almost everybody it appears. Narendra Modi, the BJP's emergent power centre, turned up in Delhi on August 29 for dinner. He was invited to party president Rajnath Singh's house, as were other BJP MPs and functionaries. So enthralled were party MPs by the idea of dining with Modi and so worried were they about not making it in time that the BJP benches in the Lok Sabha emptied out fairly quickly.
Senior MPs preferred to miss the closing stages of the debate on the Land Acquisition Bill and even the vote on a legislative intervention that would replace a century-old law as well as have implications for the economic future of India. This was monumental parliamentary business but it was skipped just to make it to Mr. Modi's dinner. Interestingly, L.K. Advani preferred to stay in the Lok Sabha. Within hours his spin doctors and confidants were calling up Delhi journalists and telling them how seriously he took Parliament and, by suggestion, how he couldn't be bothered hanging out with a bunch of Modi cheerleaders.
While the entire second rung of the BJP has migrated to the pro-Modi camp and will hear nothing against him, Advani continues to lead a small but determined bunch of Modi baiters and Modi sceptics. Advani sees himself as prime minister in waiting. Sushma Swaraj sees herself as prime minister in waiting and is firing from Advani's shoulders. Murli Manohar Joshi wants to retain his seat (Varanasi) and is horrified that it is being considered for Modi or that he is being nudged towards retirement from competitive politics. Finally, there is H.N. Ananth Kumar, the Advani groupie who is desperate to stay relevant and knows a Modi ascension will be trouble for him.
Apart from this motley crew, the party seems to be backing Modi full throttle. In fact, for all its initial hesitation, the RSS is even more strongly behind Modi and wants him declared prime ministerial candidate. In the VHP, Pravin Togadia, allegedly with encouragement from some Congress leaders, is attempting to mock Modi but Ashok Singhal says he prefers the man from Gandhinagar.
In the BJP, it is becoming a little embarrassing to see those who have in the past attacked or been dismissive of Modi now applauding him. Arun Shourie, who had more or less given up public life for personal reasons and retreated to Lavasa, turned up in Delhi recently and gave a series of gushing interviews. In 2002, he had led the charge against Modi and wanted him removed as chief minister.
Yashwant Sinha boycotted the Goa meeting of the BJP, where the Gujarat chief minister was designated chair of the party's election campaign committee. Now Sinha goes out of his way to describe his relationship with Modi as warm and cordial. He even said so in a newspaper article a few days ago. Slowly the band that was identified with Advani's Prithviraj Road residence is being broken up.
During his trips to Delhi, Amit Shah - Modi's lieutenant and points-person for Uttar Pradesh - is being inundated with meeting requests. Some ambitious BJP folk from the capital have even turned up in Lucknow in the hope that Shah will give them time. As for the several daily flights from Delhi to Ahmedabad, almost each one contributes a new name to the BJP Switcheroo Project. In the old days it was said all roads led to Rome; in today's BJP, all flight paths lead to the Gujarati Caesar.
Till next time, meow!