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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Will BJP project Narendra Modi as PM?

By Swapan Dasgupta

Opinion polls in India rarely tend to be definite: They are at best indicative of political trends. Even so, the latest round of the bi-annual Mood of the Nation poll sponsored by India Today must bring a measure of joy to the BJP and particularly those in the organisation who feel that the future belongs to a dispensation led by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The findings are no doubt much more encouraging to the BJP than to the Congress. In the event of a snap general election, the BJP is expected to win some 140 Lok Sabha seats, which is significantly more than the 110 seats the poll gives to the Congress. In the individual popularity stakes, it would seem that Modi has nearly doubled his claim to be considered as a future Prime Minister. Whereas he was the prime ministerial choice of only 12 per cent six months ago, his current acceptability is 24 per cent. More important, Modi is well ahead of Rahul Gandhi who is the choice of 17 per cent, a fall of four per cent from mid-2011.
However, before the BJP goes gaga celebrating its good showing in an opinion poll, it would be instructive to read the fine print which paints a potentially disturbing picture for the future stability of the country. The poll shows that the NDA (as it is presently constituted) would be only a whisker ahead of the UPA. Together, the two main alliances would account for two-thirds of the Lok Sabha seats. In other words, the Lok Sabha would be divided into three near-equal parts: The NDA, the UPA and members of the Left and regional parties who will hold the balance of power.
The next Government, in short, will be formed by the formation that is least unacceptable to the regional players. It will be the Naveen Patnaiks, the Jayalalithaas and the Chandrababu Naidus who will determine not only the composition of the Government but also the Prime Minister.
For the moment, that is not entirely good news for Modi. His candidature is likely to invite opposition from a section of the NDA and those outside the alliance that regard him as a polarising agent. This may exclude Jayalalithaa and, at a pinch, Patnaik, but will definitely include Nitish Kumar and Naidu.
There is another imponderable. The poll indicates that the BJP can get to 140 seats if it fights as a part of the NDA and without any clarity over its leadership. Will this tally improve or shrink if Modi is the candidate?
Conventional wisdom deems that elevating Modi to a prime ministerial candidate is fraught with risks. Modi is without doubt the most popular BJP leader in the country. His mere presence energises the committed and there is little doubt that he will be able to generate euphoria around himself. In a Modi-Rahul battle, the Gujarat Chief Minister will gain from the infectious enthusiasm of his youthful followers all over the country.
Yet, there is big question mark. Just as Modi will certainly galvanise any BJP campaign and attract an incremental vote from people who are looking forward to purposeful, no-nonsense governance, he will also help consolidate that section which sees Modi as an ogre and a personification of evil. The fact that this includes the dominant section of the media — miffed because Modi has no time for it — and the liberal intelligentsia will ensure that the attack on Modi will be shrill, alarmist and pitiless. Intellectual luminaries will be lined up to tell the country that a Modi administration will be a replica of Hitler’s Germany, with Muslims reduced to the status of non-citizens.
The purpose behind this shrill campaign will be to turn a general election into a referendum on Modi and divert attention from the pathetic quality of governance under the UPA. The Congress believes that with Modi as the BJP’s face, the entire non-BJP vote will rally behind it. Indeed, it has been suggested that the situation would resemble Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964. Goldwater was the darling of his party faithful but Johnson was more acceptable to the electorate.
It is impossible to know whether or not history will repeat itself but what is clear is that Project Modi has a greater chance of success if the enthusiasm for the undeniable leadership qualities of the man can be extended into a platform that brings a multitude of non-Congress parties under one roof. I don’t think any appeal based on highlighting Modi’s Hindu credentials can do the trick. Modi is already too much of a Hindu icon for this point to be emphasised and re-emphasised, especially by people who may end up making minorities and moderate Hindus jittery.
For the BJP, the future lies in fine-tuning and internalising the plank of federalism. Rolling back the frontiers of centralisation is the only plank that will unite the maximum number of regional parties. However, it would appear that many BJP leaders have not cottoned on to its potential appeal. To be fair, Modi has long acknowledged its potential. Now he needs to make many more strategic interventions on the same lines and complement his Sadbhavana Mission with a more tangible message for the rest of India.
Fielding Modi as the prime ministerial candidate constitutes an audacious step. The BJP has to calculate whether it wants the plodding approach or is willing to take risks.


Thought Process said...

Dr. D Bhide said...

Ideal scenario would be for, say, Sushma Swaraj as PM of NDA to appoint Narendra Modi as Deputy PM or at least in charge of infrastructure, Anti-Corruption (new) & Government Reforms ministries. If CONgress can be exposed of its corruption in 5 years, BJP could aggressively it's vacated space with the hope to get enough seats of its own to make Modi its PM in 2019 (with or without some partner's apathy for him). While this is easier said than done, it is not impossible if BJP stays united & focused.

Meraj said...

With Modi as Pm people wouldnt have to hire goons for contract killings...the PMO will do the needful ....

Umashankar Das said...

MY take on federalism

Jitendra Desai said...

BJP can wait till Gujarat assembly elections in December 2012.Mr Nitin Gadkari will have to vacate the post of BJP president by then for NaMo.
As BJP president,he will have enough leverage with existing and potential allies.
BJP and NDA don't have any other plausible face of a good leader.No. Nitish Kumar may not be accpetable to western India, comprising of Delhi,Punjab,Haryana,MP,Rajasthan,Gujarat,Maharshtra,Karnataka,Goa..These states can give 130+ seats to BJP if NaMo is projected as NDA candidate.
Elections of 2014 are most likely to be contested on issues of governance, speeds, growth and honesty.NaMo can promise all and more.

Anonymous said...

Modi for PM? He should be put in Tihar jail

Businessideas said...

Only God knows.Its very difficult to predict BJP.

Sonu said...

if making Modi, PM sound difficult it is because he has not shown his ability at national level. In this case, make somebody else PM, give any responsible position to Modi in central government and the country will watch itself with glory. make him HM, contry will not have to worry about internal security. make him Defense minister and problem of external security will start diminishing. if these also appear difficult, make him shipping minister and you will have Bharat becoming hub of ship making to breaking. This is no more about the ability of Modi but confidence of people in Modi.

Disheet said...

Dear Mr.Swapan Dasgupta ,
You have articulated your views so nicely ! I am spellbound and I always appreciate your writing.
I SINCERELY hope you and your pen play a much bigger role, may be a role for NaMo's strategy team before 2014 for him.....a person born on the 3rd of October may have great might and courage to stand up for what they think is right - like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi born on the 2nd of October - you could be a playing great great role in silencing the anti Modi one track mind people who are unable to see the world without their green glasses, and the so called liberal and self proclaimed secular intelligencia and media with a Kangress certified secular credentials.
Please Mr.Dasgupta intelligent - logical and balanced people like you are extremely hard to find in India, one battle for the Nations development under NaMo is totally worth it! I hope I have hit the cord exactly where it should have been hit. The truth about his statesmanship, his patriotism, his strategic mind needs to be harnessed, it’s the need of the hour for India.
I hope I have not gone overboard

Yours sincerely
Disheet A Shah
Mumbai -(Post Graduate Student on my way to become a scientist)
29th January 2012

Divya said...

I have always had a preference for the Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj duo...accepted Jaitley needs to win an LS and Sushma needs to be pan India in her approach.NM should first be given organisational responsibilities within the BJP (la LK Advani ).
As for the Congress, RG has much more of a democratic face than either his mother or his sister.

Inam said...

He couldn't provide security, and later justice, to the people of his state how can he represent the entire country! Good governance can improve my quality of life but I need to live for that.

This is just another smart move by the BJP to pamper their die-hard supporters. In any case they are not going to lose anything.

I've heard Kevin Rudd and Manmohan Singh say sorry, when would we hear Modi say so?

Gopal said...

A similar over enthusiastic idea killed BJP in the 2004 elections and also it thrust upon India one of the worst corrupt government for 10 years.

For Modi to be PM one has to create acceptance at the grass root levels. BJP has to mobilize the support base.

Also Modi should move over to the BJP national HQ and set his campaign roll for the 2019.

Also from BJP's National HQ should coordinate with other state govts. both BJP and friendly. Unless you create a mass base any exercise to capture power will be only temporary and Congress with the vast resources will come back to power and spoil the country beyond redemption.

Anonymous said...


Do we hear any sorry from any Islamic group including those who burnt trains in Godhra, Taliban, Al Qaida etc. There is not even apology for destroying thousands of hindu temples, creating Pakisthan or the genocide of Kashmiri Pundits.

DK said...

A very balanced and a well written piece. On Modi, well he has axed himself. The RSS is with him, thus galvanizing BJP rank and file by abd large, most BJP non RSS cadres too would be with hin in the absence of another leader; But not only will te anti BJP close rank and file against him the non RSS cadre within the BJP too will do so. Thus he will face opposition from with and without. Delivering good governance in a huge country indirectly needs considerable more skills than doing so by direct management in a state. Modi may have these skills, but such governance can be spread across the country only if the most obtuse are negotiated with not confronted. The RSS cadres have shown no such tact since raising and Modi has little support otherwise. Sadly a very good leader,wasted and staked to his own ideology and supporters. said...

We have launched a petition to request President Obama to reconsider US Administration’s stand on Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, India. Please visit MODI360.COM to review and sign this petition.