The Vajpayee era has ended. But Vajpayee will not cease to be PM. He will be allowed to continue till the next general elections, less than two years away. He will of course have to follow the young Turks who led the Gujarat poll campaign. He should have little difficulty doing that. He is a great survivor. He has flexible opinions, no hard convictions.
The new generation BJP leaders during this interregnum will attempt to consolidate their hold in the rest of the country. Their sights will be set on the 2004 general elections. That is what Ashok Singhal meant by describing Gujarat as an experiment to be repeated all over the country. The rss will now bend to the dictates of the VHP. BJP leaders, including Modi, will speak with restraint. But the agenda on the ground will be set by Praveen Togadia. Next to Modi, he was the star campaigner. He will now become more strident.
Barring a miracle, L.K. Advani can kiss goodbye to his dreams of becoming PM. Vajpayee will directly deal with Modi. The latter will consider Advani expendable. Advani's loyalists will steadily drift towards Modi. After the Gujarat polls, the Congress is history. Sonia Gandhi's leadership will come under increasing strain. Her poll campaign was disastrous. When the BJP talked of terrorism and national security, the Congress talked of development and governance. The bjp will have to be fought on issues like terrorism and national security. The collusion of BJP leaders with terrorists, including Dawood Ibrahim, has frequently been exposed in this column. It will require reiteration. The public will have to be shown how the bjp is abetting terrorism and the designs of India's enemies abroad.
No current Opposition leader can do that with credibility. India's future depends on whether a new leadership will emerge which can do this effectively. If not, the bjp appears unstoppable in 2004.
After the polls,
The bell tolls,
Or Hindustan dies.