The most debated topic in the country

"Will Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister of India"

To start of I am reproducing 2 articles to start a discussion on IREF

My sincere apologies to cricket commentators. I am going to borrow a few of your pet (read tired) cliches for the 'Will Narendra Modi be PM' debate. Here comes one - It's not over till the last ball is bowled. I don't profess to know where the Indian voter will finally press the button. But, since politics can be as full of 'glorious uncertainties' (note history of ousted governments - NDA 2004 prime example) as cricket, the final outcome will be known when it is known. Till then, all arguments pointing to why he cannot be PM have equally strong counter-arguments. And since the arguments have been laid out, it's only fair that counter arguments be given a chance too. People can choose what to believe as per their respective biases

One of the primary assumptions in many arguments is that Narendra Modi has jumped into this without a plan. He may be many things but even his worst enemies will concede the man can think. Now, here is a man who has battled the most hostile political attack in independent India's history for over 10 years (note: I am not going into the validity of the attack). He has managed to fight that battle and reposition himself to become a front-runner for the topmost position in a party which itself did not anticipate his rise.

For him, if the rewards of success are bountiful (PM's post & dominance), failure will be catastrophic. His own party will bury his political career forever, leave alone all the 'secular' cases that will come back to hunt him down. He is human & so has no magical control over outcomes, but it wouldn't be far-fetched to assume he must have a workable enough plan to get himself to 7, Race Course. Wouldn't it be fair to wait for the final stages of electioneering before writing him off and to know if his plan was good enough?

Even with its limited footprint, a BJP campaign focused on its strong areas & the yet to be conquered Uttar Pradesh, can get it enough numbers for a good bargain. It's easier said than done, but not impossible. It was a far more limited BJP which got 183 seats earlier. Oh, but SP/BSP will still push the BJP around in UP say some. Yes, they probably will. But, there are also indications that UP wants a credible alternative to them. That Narendra Modi can appeal to UP voters is also in the realm of possibility. Isn't it?

Another counter argument is that Muslims will view Modi as communal and not vote for BJP. This argument is sought to be strengthened further by arguing - as Nitish Kumar is fond of doing- that Narendra Modi even refuses to wear a skull cap. Now, that's a heads-I win-tails-you-lose argument. If he does wear the skull cap, the same set of people will dismiss it as a gimmick for votes - remember the famous 'mukhauta' of BJP, not even today's 'acceptable' Vajpayee was spared. Plus, no matter who the leader, BJP is unlikely to get too many minority votes. So many motions against the UPA have fallen through in Parliament because other parties didn't want to gang up with a 'communal' party like BJP even though it was being led by a now secular L K Advani. So, while minority votes would be welcome, they can't be BJP's main plank.

But, a leader other than Modi will make the NDA more acceptable, say many. That's another facile argument. If BJP does manage to get a reasonable figure by itself, the rank opportunists masquerading as secularists are likely to work out a face-saver in 'national interest' & to prevent another election. Plus, people can transition from being communal to being secular. The unacceptable, communal Advani of 1996-99, is now the acceptable 'secular' leader of 2013-14 to the same set of 'secular' parties. Some 'common minimum program' type of charades can always be handy when it comes to 'protecting national interest'.

But India is not a presidential election is another argument and a valid one at that too. It indeed is an aggregation of constituencies. But, if that's the case then why does the Congress stick to the Nehru-Gandhi family & the SP to the Yadavs? By the same logic, Sonia & Rahul shouldn't be important in a disaggregated election. But, they are. There is no reason why Modi can't be like them. He is today one of the most recognised faces (for good or bad) across India. He may not win the election on his name alone, but he can be central force of the BJP's campaign.

TV opinion polls? Oh well, they do pick the straws in the wind but can anyone say they are definitive? I don't see too many TV opinion polls considering the possibility of different voting patterns for centre & state level elections. Asking voters if Modi is communal is gamed to get a certain response. What if channels ask if all politicians in this country play communal politics? The answer to this question, as the view from my armchair goes, would be a resounding yes. The 'sab chor hain' argument (with due credit to Mr Kejriwal) could also extend to 'sab communal hain ji'.

Having said all this, it would be foolish to assume BJP or Modi will have a cakewalk. While the loss (if it happens) will be conveniently blamed on Narendra Modi, the real cause will be the party's lack of purpose over the last nine years. It is inexplicable that a party sits in opposition for NINE long years but doesn't work on its biggest weakness of limited geographical reach or a focused consolidation of areas it was strong in. How can it ignore the biggest contributor UP for such a long period of time? It perhaps deserves to lose for this callousness alone. It's only now, with rallies & with public outreach is BJP attempting to change the 'narrative', forcing the Congress to rethink how it will meet the 2014 challenge. We don't know yet if it's too late, but it may be. Finally, BJP needs to watch out for generous UPA give-aways - those can be fatal.

To cut the long story short & come back to cricket, Modi can, on his day, turn the match around. That alone will make 2014 interesting. And, we will know in that year if what Narendra Modi hit, stayed hit.

Source: (ET)
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