The BJP may have suffered a severe drubbing in the Bihar assembly elections, but the services of its undeclared chief ministerial candidate Sushil Kumar Modi, now virtually rendered jobless, may be utilised at the Centre. If party sources are to be believed, he may soon get a Rajya Sabha berth and may eventually be inducted into Narendra Modi’s core team as and when the next cabinet expansion takes place.
Faced with a talent deficit, Narendra Modi’s government would like to make optimum utilisation of Modi’s rich experience of being Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister cum Finance Minister. In fact, in the latter role, SuMo, as he is fondly known in Bihar, by virtue of being the state’s finance minister, was also the chairman of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers looking into the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Long Cherished Dream of a Cabinet Berth
Succeeding Asim Dasgupta, who was finance minister in Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s Left Front government in West Bengal as the GST panel head, Sushil Modi in 2011 had mooted several new proposals. These included raising the exemption threshold for small and micro enterprises and introducing a compensatory value-added tax (VAT) for inter-state trade, instead of the integrated GST.
But before heading the GST panel, Modi had proved his mettle as Leader of the Opposition in the mid-90s. This was one reason why it was suggested that he should be inducted into Vajpayee cabinet and was therefore, asked to contest the 2004 Lok Sabha election from Bhagalpur. Although Modi won his debut parliamentary election, the NDA was booted out of power in May 2004, thereby shattering Modi’s dream of becoming a Union Minister.
Later, he became Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister in November 2005, a portfolio he held till June 2013 when Nitish decided to part ways with the BJP.
SuMo’s New Innings
- BJP sources say that Sushil Kumar Modi may soon get a Rajya Sabha berth and eventually find a place in Narendra Modi’s core team.
- SuMo is known for his organisational skills and firm grip over finance-related issues, something that could be put to test in NaMo’s team.
- To win a Rajya Sabha seat, one needs to get the first preference vote of at least 41 MLAs which BJP is sure of with its 53 MLAs in the Assembly.
- Sources do admit that in the next Cabinet expansion, dead wood from Bihar in NaMo’s Cabinet may be shown the door.
- BJP has had a tradition of rehabilitating state leadership at the centre and the arrangement may work for Sushil Modi before things click in Bihar.
Utility in Union Cabinet
A soft-spoken and suave leader, who has a grip over organisational matters as well as a good understanding of economy, Modi’s utility could be put to test in Narendra Modi’s team. Though no BJP leader worth his salt would like to comment on such delicate issues, but sources did confirm that Modi may soon become a member of the Rajya Sabha when the biennial polls take place in a few months time.
Sources said five Rajya Sabha members from Bihar, including JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, RCP Singh, Pawan Verma, KC Tyagi and Ghulam Rasool Baliyawi, are slated to retire this year. Incidentally, all those whose term ends this June, are from the JD (U). But given the fact that Nitish has stormed to power with a depleted strength, he may be able to send only two of his nominees to the Upper House.
Sushil Modi Fits the Bill
To win a Rajya Sabha election, one needs to get the first preference vote of at least 41 MLAs. Since Nitish’s party has 71 MLAs and Lalu’s RJD 80, chances are that the RJD and the JD(U) may bag two seats each (with the additional support of the Congress). The fifth seat, falling vacant, may go to the BJP which can easily send one of its leaders to the Rajya Sabha. Though no name has been officially declared for the lone BJP seat, in all probability, Sushil Kumar Modi fits the bill. With BJP having 53 MLAs in the assembly, his victory could be a foregone conclusion.
Sources close to Modi prefer to remain tight-lipped on the issue lest it draws flak from the high command, but they did admit that in the next Cabinet expansion, dead wood from Bihar in NaMo’s Cabinet may get the boot. Under such circumstances, the junior Modi from Bihar may be elevated and find a place in senior Modi’s team.
The BJP has a history of such ‘rehabilitation plan’ when Atal Bihari Vajpayee rehabilitated Nitish Kumar after the latter failed to prove his majority and quit as Bihar chief minister within a week of being sworn-in as CM in March 2000.
After lying in the cold for few months, Nitish was asked to re-join Vajpayee’s cabinet where he proved to be an able administrator as railways minister, which, in turn, helped him, uproot RJD regime and become Bihar CM in 2005. Sushil Modi may also be eyeing the same route before his ‘big time’ in Bihar comes as and when the fledgling Grand Alliance crumbles under its own weight.
(The writer is a Bihar-based journalist)