Is it time to write former Bihar deputy CM Sushil Modi’s political obituary?
By 2025, when Bihar is scheduled to go to the polls again, Sushil Modi would be 73, an age quite close to the ‘Marg Darshak Mandal’ entry level
For nearly three decades, even before formally becoming an MLA in 1995, Sushil Kumar Modi has been the face of Bihar BJP and as such his sudden and somewhat dramatic marginalisation is no less surprising than the election result itself.
This is not for the first time that Sushil Modi has been unfairly treated by the party leadership. He was denied a party ticket in 1990 ostensibly for marrying a Christian woman. Again in 1995, when he was perceived to be the natural choice for the post of Leader of Opposition, Yashwant Sinha was para-dropped to occupy the post.
Despite these initial hiccups, Sushil Modi remained at the centre stage of Bihar BJP and the best known leader of the party outside the state. In a way, Sushil Modi made a place for himself even before the emergence of other regional leaders of the Hindutva party like Vasundhara Raje Scindia in Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chouhan in MP, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and BS Yedurappa in Karnataka.
For the more statistically inclined, Sushil Modi is senior to Narendra Modi in respect of legislative experience. Sushil Modi became an MLA seven years before Narendra Modi and entered the Lok Sabha ten years before him. Sushil Modi was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bhagalpur in 2004.
All these years, the survival instincts of Sushil Modi had been impressive as with almost all known faces of Bihar BJP including Ravi Shankar Prasad, CP Thakur, Ashwini Chowbey and Giriraj Singh arrayed against him, Sushil Modi held on to his own thanks mainly due to his suave personality, deft handling and perfect chemistry with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Sometimes questions were asked whether SuMO was more loyal to Nitish than his own party. This extreme proximity with Nitish, in retrospect, may have been Sushil Modi’s undoing.
Besides being media friendly, Sushil Modi, unlike almost all his peers in Bihar politics, did his homework extremely well and in a way became indispensable for the party in the state.
Sushil Modi’s downsizing should not be looked in isolation. In all probability, it is part of the larger design to decimate an almost helpless Nitish by first making him friendless.
Groomed in the Govindacharya School of Social Engineering, Sushil Modi was largely responsible for the expansion of a political outfit earlier identified only with the Lalas (Kayasthas) and Baniyas in the state.
Though it may have come as a shock for many, Sushil Modi’s marginalisation has not come as a surprise to Bihar watchers. It had to happen as at a time when Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat CM was dreaming big, Sushil Modi saw Nitish Kumar as being worthy of being the Prime Minister. Some observers of the Bihar scene also feel that while getting even with the Nitish-Sushil duo, BJP may have inflicted avoidable self injury. With just 19 per cent of vote share, BJP needed experienced hands with wider acceptance to further expand its base in the state.
It would be almost impossible for both Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi to earn a favourable comparison with their predecessor. Both on the political and administrative front, Prasad will be compared with the much more photogenic Sushil. Maybe several BJP leaders felt dwarfed in Sushil Modi’s presence and as such they favoured a political pygmy to replace the giant of Bihar politics.
Notwithstanding the proclamation of Devendra Fadnavis that Sushil Modi would be suitably rehabilitated, the chances of SuMO getting back his aura this time around are rated bleak.
By 2025, when Bihar is scheduled to go to the polls again, Sushil Modi would be 73, an age quite close to the ‘Marg Darshak Mandal’ entry level.