Race to Win Delhi
Narendra Modi has secured another term as Chief Minister of Gujarat. But his political acumen and popular support makes him a formidable threat to the PM candidacy.
centre. Modi himself is a RSS man, and was offered the BJP presidentship in May, but he declined, as he wanted to deliver Gujarat. The RSS abhors Modi’s brand image eclipsing that of the BJP’s in Gujarat, but is likely to be the first one to come to terms with Modi’s inevitability as the PM candidate.
On his part, Modi has begun to make tactical moves. Soon after the results were declared, he showed signs of rapprochement by seeking archrival Keshubhai’s blessings and by meeting senior RSS leader, Bhaskar Rao Damle who supports Patel. Modi’s victory speech, which he made in Hindi and not Gujarati, highlighted that he is just a spoke in the giant BJP wheel. He even offered an apology for his mistakes – a veiled reference to the 2002 riots.
In the meanwhile, the Congress has formed the party’s 2014 polls coordination committee with its scion Rahul Gandhi at the helm. After the Uttar Pradesh debacle, the Himachal Pradesh verdict is a shot in the arm for the Congress that was looking increasingly listless. The Congress has rolled out a direct cash transfer scheme, under which the Central and state grants for as many as 34 welfare programs will be directly transferred to the recipients’ bank accounts. The populist scheme starts on a trial basis in 51 districts spread over 16 states from this month and is likely to be a game changer for the UPA in the 2014 elections. The Congress will try its best to increase the reach of this scheme in 2013 to gain maximum electoral benefit out of it.
Given the abysmal state of the ruling Congress-led UPA and the BJP’s failure to get its house in order, the possibility of a third front cannot be negated. Regional parties are thus likely to adopt the policy of wait and watch before getting into pre-polls coalitions with either of the two main parties.
Modi’s ascent to Delhi is certain - if not in 2014, than in 2019. It therefore makes sense to accommodate him now and take the advantage of his popularity and political acumen. Instead of focusing on the risk of losing the secular/Muslim votes with Modi, the BJP should focus on his ability to consolidate middle class and Hindu votes. Modi will inspire hope and confidence among the youth who are protesting against issues that plague the nation – be it corruption or law and order. Besides, Modi with his excellent track record and charisma will score heavily over Rahul Gandhi who is still to get his political act right.
There are eight poll-bound states in 2013, including Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. If the BJP takes a quick decision on Modi, he can begin working on election strategies in these four states with a total of 90 parliament seats.
It is a given that a realignment in the NDA will take place if Modi is promoted as the face of the BJP. Parties like Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) will leave the alliance, but will be more than compensated by Jaylalitha, Navin Patnaik, Raj Thackeray and even Yedyurappa, with whom Modi shares personal equations. It remains to be seen whether the central leadership manages to project the BJP as a party with a difference or continues to be a party with lots of differences. Semu Bhatt is a Mumbai-based independent political analyst specialising in security and governance issues. She is the author of the upcoming book, “The modification of Gujarat.”