Monday, September 19, 2011

Can Narendra Modi become Prime Minister of India?

Can just a hug do it?
The hype surrounding Narendra Modi's fast has once again generated speculations that Narendra Modi is the BJP's next Prime Ministerial candidate but can Modi ever become India's Prime Minister?

Though it is not an impossible proposition, if things are analyzed in perspective, one would find that his chances of becoming Prime Minister are quite low, at least in the upcoming election 2014.

Speculation is not easy, at least in politics but one can try to do a dispassionate analysis.

To begin with, the BJP doesn't have even 150 seats in Parliament. In fact, it has a mere 116 seats in 545 member Lok Sabha. Did you remember this figure! The party knows it well. Even when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was at the helm, it could get 180-odd seats with difficulty despite his acceptability.

A Modi-led BJP can't have Mamata Bannerjee, Chandrababu Naidu, even JDU rallying around it. How will it manage to get the seats? The compulsion of coalition era politics is such that most parties in respective states wouldn't like to be seen as close to a party led by Modi.

In no Indian state, a regional party--ranging from Trinamool Congress to Telugu Desam or even JDU wishes to be linked to him. Let's imagine a situation where BJP manages to ride the anti-corruption wave, the anti-incumbency factor against Congress-led UPA and also somehow gets one or two allies [say J Jayalalithaa, even though she won't concede seats to BJP in Tamil Nadu where the party has little support], it needs real numbers in Parliament.

Unless electorate in Uttar Pradesh (UP), that has 80 Lok Sabha seats, suddenly get into a 'change regime' mode and dump Mayawati, the BJP can't hope much in terms of MPs figure in Lok Sabha. In Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, the party has already been getting optimum seats and still failed to get anywhere near to the magic number.
Will they let him go ahead so easily!

Undoubtedly, a section of the vocal urban middle-class supports him. The voice of this section always gets amplified and is heard. TV channels and media also commit the same mistake.

Remember, the India Shining campaign! The BJP had almost believed that it was going to get a second term but nothing worked out for NDA then.

The point is that even after Anna Hazare's anti-corruption agitation on the issue of Lok Pal, the failure of Congress in tackling terrorism and the rising prices, elections are an altogether different phenomenon. When a leader like LK Advani couldn't become acceptable, how could Modi ever be?

Rajiv Gandhi has received tremendous flak for his role in the anti-Sikh riots. But there was no satellite TV then. Even in LK Advani's rath yatra, the video news casettes had just arrived. But Gujarat pogrom--the communal riots on mass scale and the genocide--were all seen on live TV and thus they evoke far greater response.

True, Narendra Modi has now emerged stronger, has wider acceptability and has managed to change his image in popular perception as a chief minister whose sole plank is development. He has many supporters in the corporate world. But whenever his name is mentioned, the same media also starts raising questions.

When he began fast, it got great coverage. But the protests, detention of riot victims, issues raised by Mallika Sarabhai, again brought controversy to the fast. Leave the issue of asking for apology or questioning about riot victims' rehabilitation, the officers like Sanjeev Bhatt and B Sreekumar, will continue to play spoilsport for the BJP.

Then the verdicts in riot cases like the ones in which BJP ex-minister Mayaben Kodnani is charged are awaited. Besides, cases of extra-judicial killings and encounters in Gujarat are under various stages of trial in higher courts. There are many other issues.
Gujarat to Delhi: Can Modi make it?

Yet, Modi has succeeded in getting quite far in terms of image makeover. Even if BJP manages to get 200-odd seats and finds allies, the question is that whether the top leaders like Advani, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj let him wear the crown so easily.

Nitin Gadkari, who has managed to steer the party at the critical juncture, in the right direction, has kept a low-profile all the while, and kept divisive [communal] issues on the back-burner. Gadkari is an RSS favourite and only the naive can overlook him.

The Chief Ministers ranging from Raman Singh to Shivraj Singh Chouhan are almost as secular as other Congress CMs [except in cases when RSS makes a push]. Will they accept it?

The more media pushes his name, the more other top BJP leaders get insecure [privately]. And can the ambitious Nitish Kumar ever let it happen? Frankly, it doesn't seem too easy a task for Modi. It is really a long way for him. Of course, miracles can happen and if, as section of media is speculating, he is destined to create history, then nothing can stop him.

Personally I feel, 2014 elections are too near. I think despite praises showered on him, he is far from having that pan-Indian acceptability. There are lot of stumbling blocks in his way. He has clearly won over Gujarat but I think for Modi, Hanoz Dilli Door Ast. Of course, one can't be too sure for 2019. Let's wait and watch.

Right now, my hunch is that BJP [and Sangh] would use his persona and his strong pro-right wing [Hindutva] image to mobilize middle-class electorate [and a section of other voters] just to get more seats and for creating a wave in its favour but if it comes to forming government, the party would instead go for a 'moderate' or a 'choice of consensus'