The Indo-Pakistan cricket series planned by the BCCI in India late this year may have a peculiar political impact in Gujarat. There is a strong likelihood of one of the T 20 matches in the series being played at the Motera Stadium near Ahmedabad. If that happens, it will coincide with the election campaign for the State Assembly polls scheduled in December this year.
An Indo-Pak cricketing engagement in the midst of a hectic election campaign will likely to put Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the state unit of the BJP in peculiar political jam.
As the president of the Gujarat Cricket Association, Modi will have to play host to the visiting Pakistan cricket team.
And as the State CM, holding the home portfolio, he will also have to ensure a safe passage for the Pakistani visitors, and firmly deal with any possible attempts to prevent or disrupt the proposed cricketing encounter between the two traditional foes here.
Modi in this role will be seen as playing a second fiddle to political opponents like NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress spokesman Rajiv Shukla who call the shots in the Indian cricket establishment.
This comes as an irony for the man who has used anti-Pakistan rhetoric and “Miyan Musharraf” barbs to successfully woo the Hundu votes and win the 2002 State Assembly polls in the aftermath of the terrible communal carnage in Gujarat.
The BJP has, at the national level, resorted to a hyperbolic attack on the BCCI for the proposed series while the Gujarat unit has maintained a deafening silence over the issue. The BCCI move hasn’t gone down well with the party rank and file here. But they can’t afford to be vocal about it as it may be construed as an anti-Modi stance.
The only whimper of protest has come from the much mellowed Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) supremo Pravin Togadia, who has condemned the BCCI decision and termed it as the UPA government- backed “ramzan gift” to shore up the Congress Party’s Muslim vote-bank. The chief minister has wisely refrained from giving any reaction.
The presence of the Pakistani cricketers, and Modi playing host to them is sure to cause a lot of heart-burn even among the Chief Minister’s ardent supporters, apart from the disenchantment that will be felt within the Sangh Parivar itself here.
Modi had conducted a series of fasts spread over six months last year in the key Gujarat cities under what was termed as the Sadbhavana mission. Special efforts were made by the state administration to mobilize large number of Muslim community members to attend the venues of the fast, which resembled political carnivals. Modi intended this to be his reconciliatory move to win back the confidence of the community which bore the brunt of the 2002 riots.
However, Modi’s diehard urban supporters saw this as his distancing from the original commitment to the Hindutva ideology and aping the ‘phony’ secularism of the Congress. Over the past five years, civic authorities under the BJP dispensation and Modi’s personal directive, have ruthless cleared cities in the state of rampant encroachments, including Hindu shrines.
This was seen by VHP and other Sangh Parivari activists as yet another proof of Modi’s moving away from the Hindutva plank as a part of his image makeover to suit his ambitions of moving on to the national stage.
As it is, a sizeable section of the Sangh Parivar, including the RSS workers, today feel alienated as Modi has charted out his own independent path to serve his future ambitions. He has placed himself above the Parivar diktats, and sees no need to regularly engage with the Sangh honchos as he believes himself to be an expert in political statecraft.
This disenchanted Parivar section is now believed to be working underground with the rebel BJP leader and former Gujarat CM Keshubhai Patel who has made dislodging Modi from the high perch as his sole mission in the ensuing state elections.