The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, has said it is not worried about Narendra Modi's rising stature and it sees "nothing bad in promoting somebody who could get you votes".
"The RSS never said personalities cannot or should not dominate the political scene," RSS national spokesperson Ram Madhav told IANS Tuesday when asked if decision-making powers in the BJP were being concentrated in Modi, the prime ministerial candidate.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has been recently accused of sidelining its party veterans. Murli Manohar Joshi, former BJP president and sitting MP from Varanasi, was made to vacate his seat for Narendra Modi, whereas Jaswant Singh was not allowed to contest from Barmer. The BJP instead pitted Colonel Sona Ram Chaudhary from the Barmer constituency. The Jat leader crossed over from the Congress.
The decision was made public through a press statement and party insiders say it was influenced by Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, a Narendra Modi supporter who has had uneasy political equations with Jaswant Singh for a long time.
Jaswant Singh later filed nomination as an Independent candidate from Barmer after accusing the BJP of having become a fake party centred around a few individuals.
Madhav, however, distanced itself from the issue, saying that the RSS never interfered in the political decisions of the BJP.
When pointed out that the RSS is ideologically against personality cult in politics and has, in fact, been critical of the Congress on this score, Madhav said there was "nothing bad in personality cult in politics" so long as core ideologies are not compromised.
Madhav denied that the increasing clout of Modi was a cause for concern for the RSS. "We have always kept away from the internal affairs of the BJP, nor have we opposed dominance of the party by any individual."
He added, "There is nothing bad in promoting somebody who could get you votes; we have only said that principles guiding the party should not be diluted."
Manindra Thakur, professor of political science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and noted poll analyst, said that the BJP may not be sidelining the veterans without the knowledge or approval of the RSS.
"There is not much possibility of a scuffle between RSS and Modi. For the time being, the RSS has allowed Modi to take over decision-making as they believe he can win election for the BJP. But even if he did, the RSS must be having something in mind to stop him later. We will have to wait to see what that plan is."
However, other experts are of the opinion that the rising stature of Modi may soon become a thorny issue for the RSS too. Already, the old guard of the BJP is increasingly being sidelined and alienated, and have been vocally resentful of Modi's dominance of the party.
"There is a Modi wave going on in the sense that he is acknowledged to be the strongest candidate. But the RSS will eventually not like such a personality cult in the politics of the BJP," said Kamal Chenoy of the Aam Aadmi Party.
"Even if Modi won and became the prime minister, the RSS will try to stop him from becoming a larger than life figure. They may just prefer somebody from the old guard such as Advani again, if Modi fails in the election," said Chenoy, professor in JNU's School of International Studies.
The Congress, on the other hand, has been trying to hit the BJP on the ground that it has chosen a prime ministerial candidate who cannot think beyond 'I, me, myself'.
The Congress, which has been strongly favouring the marginalised sections and talking of empowering women and the poor, is likely to benefit if it manages to convince the electorate that the BJP is concentrating power in industry and tycoon friendly Modi.
Asked about this, BJP spokespersons Meenakshi Lekhi and Prakash Javadekar said they had been busy handling the party's campaign and refused to comment.
(Anando Bhakto can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)