BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi – better known these days as SuMo to rhyme with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s NaMo – is seemingly a worried man ever since his party made it clear that there won’t be a chief ministerial candidate ahead of the Bihar assembly elections.
The BJP has said that the party will fight the polls in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sushil Modi, who has been aspiring to become Bihar chief minister, was left disappointed with the party decision not to be projected for the top post.
Sushil Modi is a popular face of the Bihar BJP and is considered a natural choice and main claimant for the chief minister’s post if the BJP-led NDA defeats the grand JD-U-RJD-Congress-NCP alliance in the polls slated for September-October.
BJP leaders close to Sushil Modi said that he was upset with Ananth Kumar, the party in charge for Bihar, after the union minister said here on Tuesday that the BJP will not announce its chief ministerial candidate.
Sushil Modi was quick to contradict Ananth Kumar at a press meet here.
“Sensing trouble for him, Sushil Modi has clarified to media, hardly two hours after Ananth Kumar spoke, that…he refuted and denied the reports in some TV news channels that the BJP will not declare its chief ministerial candidate,” a BJP leader said.
Sushil Modi made it clear that the polls to the 243-member Bihar assembly will not be contested in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The BJP parliamentary board will decide in July about whether or not to declare the chief ministerial candidate,” Sushil Modi said, adding that Narendra Modi will be the party’s main campaigner like in other state polls.
This was in contrast to what Ananth Kumar had said: “The BJP will not announce its chief ministerial candidate. The BJP has several capable leaders for the top political post in the state but it will fight the assembly elections in the name of Narendra Modi.”
“Narendra Modi is the BJP face. Our party will contest the assembly polls under his leadership,” he said here during his first visit to the state after being appointed party incharge by BJP president Amit Shah.
According to BJP leaders here, Sushil Modi is from a backward caste and is an influential leader who commands respect even among upper castes. But his disadvantage is the fact that he was opposed by some upper caste as well as two BJP backward caste leaders, who are also dead set against him.
The BJP’s main rival – the ruling Janata Dal-United, the RJD, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party combine – declared Nitish Kumar as its candidate for the top post on June 8.
Ananth Kumar said that the party had, in the last one year, contested assembly elections in different states in the name of Narendra Modi.
However, without wasting any time, two senior BJP leaders – C.P. Thakur and Ashwani Kumar Choubey considered Sushil Modi’s rivals – publicly supported Ananth Kumar.
Thakur said: “Narendra Modi’s face will benefit the BJP in the polls and it will be an advantage for us.”
Choubey too welcomed Ananth Kumar’s stand and said: “It is good that we will contest upcoming Bihar assembly polls under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi.”
Thakur, in his early 80s and a Rajya Sabha member, has repeatedly said in the last one month that he will be happy to be a chief ministerial candidate if the party gives him the responsibility. Thakur belongs to the powerful landed upper caste-Bhumihars, who are said to be overwhelmingly backing BJP in post-Mandal politics in the state.
Choubey, in his mid-60s and a Lok Sabha MP, has regularly opposed Sushil Modi in the party. He was unhappy when Sushil Modi was made deputy chief minister in 2005 in the JD-U-BJP government led by Nitish Kumar. Choubey is an upper caste Brahmin.
In the caste-ridden politics of Bihar, over half a dozen BJP leaders from the upper castes and the backward castes have staked their respective claims for projection as chief ministerial candidate.
Ananth Kumar’s statement has again exposed a deep-rooted tussle in the BJP between upper caste and other backward caste (OBCs) leaders.
Perhaps realising the problem, the BJP top brass is taking steps to ensure that none of these leaders is allowed to dominate the public debate till the polls, fearing it may anger either of the group causing a loss to party’s social support base.
In sum, Sushil Modi has every reason to be a worried man.