There is also a section of the Sangh Parivar, particularly in Gujarat, which is miffed with Modi's style of functioning. If the so-called secular forces are opposing Modi over his alleged role or inaction during the 2002 post-Godhra riots, there are leaders within his own larger ideological family who are upset over his “dictatorial” ways. The manner in which he dealt with several senior state party leaders as also the once powerful Sanjay Joshi are cited as examples of his arrogance and rash style of functioning.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that notwithstanding the hype, he has put Gujarat firmly on the path of development. In the process, he has become a hero for the middle class across the country. While he may have offended the secular sections with his refusal to apologise for the post-Godhra violence, he continues to remain the poster boy of hardcore Hindutva supporters with instances such as his public refusal to wear a Muslim skull cap even during the much touted ‘Sadbhavana’ (goodwill) mission.
There are critics of his development model as well who point out to the farmer suicides in the state. They allege that Modi has given a free run to the capitalists under the guise of development. They point out that Gujarat has always been a progressive state.
There is also a strong view within the RSS, which is opposed to any individual gaining supremacy over either ideology or the organization that the BJP should project collective leadership as its core strength as opposed to the dynastic politics of the Congress.
The fact also remains that except for the much tainted Yeddyurappa, no other BJP Chief Minister has set Gujarat as the role model. In fact, there is a growing view that some of these chief ministers are doing exceedingly well in their respective states and that Madhya Pradsh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has the potential to bring in more seats in the Lok Sabha elections than Modi and he does not have the baggage of any sectarian violence with him.
Though Modi undoubtedly remains the most popular leader among the BJP cadres and core constituency, his first and foremost litmus test is to not only to retain Gujarat but to win his own home turf with a bigger margin. This seems to be a tough nut to crack this time around.
While on the one hand, the opposition Congress has shed its obsession with the 2002 violence and is confronting Modi on governance issue with a slew of promises to poor, women and farmers, on the other hand, party veterans such as Keshubhai Patel have floated their own outfit to take him head on.
According to observers, these leaders are getting good responses in their public meetings, particularly in the Patel stronghold of Saurashtra, but it remains to be seen whether the crowds translate into votes. Modi is eyeing the state’s tribal areas, a traditional Congress bastion, to make up for any loss in Saurashtra.
Modi has already launched his campaign ahead of his rivals. He knows too well that the outcome of the assembly elections later this year would be the real game changer.