By Lovish Gidwani:
In June this year, we had our own little version of the The Game Of Thrones played out in front of us on our television sets. It all started with the appointment of Narendra Modi as the chief of BJP’s Election Campaign Committee, following which the cracks within India’s principle opposition party became awkwardly public. Sound-bites and tweets became breaking news and the media ran dedicated programs for days to discuss and analyze what they termed as the fight between ‘the Modi and the Advani camp’. The BJP’s subsequent split with the JDU, seemingly over this very issue of Modi’s elevation, has further set the tone for the upcoming general elections due next year. So now, one is only left to wonder, can Narendra Bhai Modi become the 14th Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy that we like to call India?
Many now believe that it’s only ‘a matter of time’ before Modi is projected as BJP’s candidate for the country’s top job and his recent elevation was, supposedly, the first of many steps in doing so. There is a section within the BJP (and RSS) which is of the view that he is their best bet in the general elections 2014. His image as a strong leader with immaculate ‘Hindutva’ credentials and his pro development stance does seem to galvanize the party cadre to stand behind him. The leaders, within his own party, might be wary of him but it is the party cadres, working at the ground, that seem to adore him.
Against the backdrop of five years of incompetent governance by the UPA-2, his good governance record makes him an apt choice to be projected as the PM candidate in the eyes of the BJP think tank. Additionally, his leanings towards the hindutva ideology and statements like ‘I am a born Hindu Nationalist’ seem to cater to the party’s core constituency and an attempt to consolidate their vote. His decisiveness has indeed won him many admirers. Both, small businessmen and big industrialist find NaMo’s development vision in sync with their own aspirations. Modi also seems to be garnering support of an increasing number of young professionals representing the middle class.
This section of the urban middle class, disappointed by the inefficiencies of the UPA-2, believes a Modi led government would humor their ambitions and would carve out a growth trajectory for them to follow. On the other hand, Modi’s biggest concern is his lack of appeal among India’s minority community. His lack of support among the Muslim community is well documented. Also, Hindu minorities, traditionally, have never been too welcoming of the notion of Hindutva and don’t really seem to be aligning their allegiances to Modi.
For the BJP, as the electoral calculus stands, going with Narendra Modi is a high risk strategy but one that can also yeild huge returns. Traditionally, states like Karnataka, West Bengal, Orrisa and Kerala have never been BJP strong holds. So, Modi or no Modi, the party expects next to zero seats here in these states, if not zero. However, the party is certain to do well in BJP bastion states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat and Chattisgarh. The whole electoral play then shifts to states like U.P, Maharashtra and Delhi. A good performance in these states can tilt the course of the elections in anyone’s favor. If the BJP manages to win anything above than-an unprecedented fleet of-190 seats next year, it will form the government with Modi at the helm. However, if it only manages a number of 150-170, then Modi’s fate would be entangled in the bitter permutation and combinations of the subsequent politics to form a coalition government. It is notable here that in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, BJP’s total tally was a mere 116 seats.
Another facet to the PM race is the support a candidate would garner from not only his own party, but also from other political outfits as well. And this is where the name ‘Narendra Modi’ would be challenged the most. In case the BJP fails short of its 190 plus seats target, parties like the JDU, TMC and BJD would come into play. Nitish Kumar’s stand on Modi is far from being called a mystery; leaders like Mamta Banerjee maintain their displeasure with Modi due to his communal leanings. Even Shiv Sana, a key ally of the BJP in Maharashtra, has always shied away from endorsing Modi’s name for the top job. It is this lack of support from other regional parties, which is BJP’s biggest concern. For a man who has an inapt ability to polarize not only the voters but also his own party-men, the notion of carrying forward a coalition-a weak coalition-government is bound to be an arduous task.
Nothing would be more catastrophic to the India story than a cloud of political instability due to formation of a week coalition government at the centre after the elections. A government preoccupied in protecting its own existence can never truly take bold-but necessary-decisions to address the needs of a young nation. In a conundrum that is Indian politics, a so called ‘decisive’ Narendra Damodardas Modi would prove more detrimental to our nation’s growth story than the appalling prospect of a certain United Progressive Alliance-3. I just hope you, the voter, makes a sane choice.