The Modi-fication of Indian politicsBy Amarnath Tewary Jan 31, 2013 11:48AM UTC
With the big battle of Indian politics bracing up for its ostentatious show in 2014, India has now started its churning process for the final selection. At its recent Jaipur session the Congress party elected its “PM-material” Rahul Gandhi as vice-president while the BJP, after lots of climax and anti-climax, made party leader Rajnath Singh its new party president. And, soon after his crowning glory Singh met Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, throwing enough hints that we’re in for a tough political bottle. Of late, a survey put the contest neck-and-neck with the figure 41 % for the 42-year-old “youngster” Rahul Gandhi and 49% for the 62-year-old “iron man” Narendra Modi. Modi recently played hat-trick in his state bolstering his claim to the throne at the Centre.
The Congress party, in all likelihood, has decided to play the biggest electoral match under Rahul Gandhi but it’s the name of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi which has been haunting the party the most. Not only the Congress party but the opposition BJP too, apparently, is heavily under the weight of Modi. For its parent body RSS the name of Narendra Modi has reliably grown out of its size. Its the Modi-fication of Indian politics, many say in India today.
The name of Narendra Modi has created more of a problem within the rank and file of BJP than the Congress and the party for sometime has been trying hard to come out of its sheer desperation. But the more it tries, the more it gets coiled. After the newly elected party president Rajnath Singh’s meeting with Modi in view of the “forthcoming Parliamentary poll and his role”, another senior party leaders Yashwant Sinha set the tone declaring that “Narendra Modi is the only leader with ‘mass appeal’ and he should be the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate in the upcoming poll”. Sinha’s statement created fresh debate both within and outside the party.
The other BJP leaders termed it as Sinha’s “personal opinion” but party insiders said it was ‘popular opinion’ within the party too. It also cannot be ruled out that there is a strong line of leadership within BJP that nurses some hidden aspirations themselves. For some, the name is party veteran Lal Krishna Advani, while for others, the name is Shushma Swaraj. But, the grapevine hints that some dark horse too could emerge from behind the line. And the name is Arun Jaitley, the master management guru who maneuvers things naturally for his party’s win in states. Gujarat too has not been an exception.
“But, they do not have mass appeal”, said Yashwant Sinha and many in the party agree. “The sooner it will be done, the better it will for the party’s performance”, said one of them.
But, it has not gone down well with the alliance partners of the BJP: Janata Dal-United in Bihar and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. The JD-U leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is widely known for his “Modi untouchability” and his party leaders have been openly saying if Modi is the PM candidate, JD-U will not be the part of the alliance. Nitish Kumar’s itch against Narendra Modi had come to the fore when he once had cancelled his dinner for BJP leaders in Patna. The Shiv Sena leaders threw their hat for Shushma Swaraj for the top post of the country.
It’s an open secret in India’s political firmament that Bihar chief minister and JD-U leader Nitish Kumar also nurses aspirations for the hot seat riding on his “populist development growth story in Bihar and secular image”.
“Narendra Modi cannot escape the blot of the Gujarat pogrom”, said a JD-U leader, asking how such a leader can aspire for the top seat of Prime Minister. “He is not acceptable,” he said.
The left parties too have echoed similar sentiment and apparently are bogged down with the name of Narendra Modi.
But, interestingly, apparently enamoured with the development of Gujarat the top Indian business honchos appeared to be standing solidly behind Modi for the PM’s post. At a recent yearly business meet in Gujarat all the top business leaders sang paeans to the name of NaMo [Narendra Modi].
Has BJP leader and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi become indispensible for the party and politics today? Has Indian politics become to be or not to be with Narendra Modi. The upcoming 2014 Parliamentary poll will finally lob the answer to the nation.