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.

Southasia - - India - By Semu Bhatt

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.