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09 July, 2013

Modi wagon slowing down?

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Has the Narendra Modi bandwagon launched with fanfare weeks ago at Goa run out of steam? So it seems. That however maybe too facile a conclusion. Modi is a never-say-die politician with a record of fighting his way up. Since the parliamentary elections in which he is to lead the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign is many months away, he can be expected to bounce back and reassert his claim to be recognised as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

What can be safely asserted at this stage is that the Sangh Parivar’s calculation has gone wrong. While younger elements in the party have been enthused by Modi’s projection as campaign head, there is little sign of its old warhorses sharing their excitement.

There are about 10 states where the fight is essentially a direct one between the Congress and the BJP. A better performance in the contests in these states will not give the BJP a big advantage as they together only account for less than a quarter of the Lok Sabha.

Modi has already indicated that he will not spare any effort to fully exploit the double incumbency burden which the Congress is bearing. It is in these states that the BJP’s effort to convert the 2014 poll into a duel between Modi, an administrator with three Assembly wins behind him, and Rahul Gandhi, a virtual novice in the field of governance, may not yield the expected results. The willingness of traditional Congress voters to accept the heir of their dynasty cannot be overlooked. In some of these states, the BJP itself is facing an incumbency problem.

While the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government is vulnerable to attacks on grounds of corruption, it is not as though the BJP administration’s record in several states like Karnataka and Chhattisgarh is any better. With more than one fake encounter case under CBI investigation throwing up evidence of Modi’s political sanction behind the heinous crimes, the attempt to juxtapose the personalities of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi may not yield the dividend that the BJP is looking for.

As yet there is no sign of any new partner being anxious to walk into the BJP’s parlour to make up for the loss of Janata Dal (United), which had been its long-time ally. The JD(U)’s departure, following Modi’s elevation in the BJP hierarchy, forced by the unseemly haste shown by the Sangh Parivar, has had two adverse effects. One it has reduced NDA to an alliance of Hindu and Sikh outfits, two, it has deprived the BJP of its role as a member of the Bihar ruling coalition.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who proclaimed Modi as a personal friend, has shown no inclination to build a political alliance based on this relationship. Parties like the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee and Biju Janata Dal of Navin Patnaik and the Telugu Desam Party of Chandrababu Naidu, who were partners with the previous NDA regime, are still talking of the Federal Front comprising the state parties. They are all reluctant to tie up with the BJP prior to the elections for fear of losing minority votes. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was not wrong in dwelling on the importance of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the context of the next elections. Together these states command nearly one-fourth of the seats in the 542-member Lok Sabha. The Congress and the BJP both have to contend with the presence of much bigger parties in these states.

There is little chance of the Modi magic in which the Sangh Parivar has placed excessive faith having any impact in these states as well as the ones where the small national parties and the regional parties dominate.

Some early pollsters have indicated that the BJP may have more members than the Congress in the hung Lok Sabha. Ordinarily in such a situation the BJP can claim the first opportunity to try its hand at ministry-making. At that stage it will have to reckon with the stark fact that in Modi it has a leader who lacks the veteran Atal Behari Vajpayee’s affability and appeal beyond the Hindutva frontier. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, July 9, 2013.

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