It is given that if Modi sweeps the coming Gujarat elections, he would have left other contenders in the party far behind. Conversely, if he is projected as BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister right now, it may help him no end in scoring another resounding win in the Gujarat Assembly elections.
The English media’s croak against Modi and Hindutva has been so harsh and so overpowering in recent times that a non-BJP person would think twice before coming out in support of the fall guy. The concerted and often one sided anti-Modi media campaign has been so pervasive that in the near future it may even influence the judiciary indirectly. In this battle with the media, Modi has had little support from his own party, except for some braveheart ‘senoritas’ who take-up the cudgels for him on television talk shows. The BJP and their allies would have to back him to the hilt, if he is to emerge as a credible candidate.
Modi should be given a chance if only for one term as prime minister. In these trying times, India needs a strong, non-corrupt and efficient leader to hold the country together. India’s population is about 1.3 billion and growing, and a large number of them are still below the poverty line. Modi is the need of the hour not just for the BJP but the country as a whole which is close to bursting at the seams due to pressure from its teeming millions on its infrastructure and civic services.
Detractors would say that he is divisive. If Modi can carry with him the Muslims, Hindus and other communities in Gujarat, why cannot he do the same nationally? As the recent State elections have proved, the Indian electorate is very wise and if they ever choose Modi as the prime minister, they would also be capable of rejecting him if he does not deliver or if he is divisive. Nothing is more divisive than poverty and the quotas.
If Modi had been divisive, he would have sought votes first on the basis of being an OBC and then on issues of governance. But that does not mean that the BJP should play down the OBC factor. His becoming the prime minister would no end empower the OBCs as he would be the one candidate who has come up on merit rather than quota. He would be one OBC candidate that everyone would like to bat for. He can be the Obama of Indian politics. But it is for the party to project this factor as Modi as a true statesman has never tried to cash in on the same and would probably never will.
That Modi’s good governance in Gujarat is a source of great worry for the other parties is no secret. Under his charge the State has become an economic powerhouse for the entire nation. His poll plank of good governance is beyond reproof. Performance plus caste goes for a heady mix in Indian politics. This is exactly the principal reason why other parties are mortally scared of Modi. They have over the years won elections mainly with the help of the OBCs, other backward groups (SC and ST) and Muslims who have been considered their vote-bank for decades. According to various estimates, OBCs, both Hindus and non-Hindus together, constitute 32 to 52 per cent of the Indian population. Any shift in the vote of the OBC segment to BJP by virtue of Modi’s projection as the future prime minister, would have disastrous consequences for the other parties. Going by his record in Gujarat, one can safely assume that once he comes to power, it may be very difficult to dislodge him in the years to come.
That said, it is surprising, that the BJP has not moved decidedly to name him as the party’s leader in the next parliamentary elections. Projecting Modi as the candidate would give the party an ideal opportunity to counter the allegations that it is the party of traders and upper caste communities. The other parties would find it difficult to attack Modi the way it does now, as it could be interpreted as an attack on a member of the backward class. Modi’s candidacy is also a historical necessity. It is a fact that the upper castes in India have lorded over the destiny of the OBCs, SC and ST for long, and have done little to distinguish that rule. These communities continue to be the weakest links in our society even after half a century of freedom, and unless we have a leader who can turn around their destiny in quick time, the future of our democracy would be fragile and fractured.
We are indeed running out of time
A lot of hullabaloo has been made about the Lokpal Bill. The need of the hour is not more stringent enactments but a clean leader like Modi who would enforce without fear or favour the existing anti-corruption laws. Whatever the allegations against Modi, sleaze is not one of them. Though Gujarat has seen considerable industrial development, he has not been accused of favouring anyone for personal profit.
The BJP would also do well to learn a few lessons from the recent Assembly polls. The party have lost heavily where it fought the elections alone. It has won well where it was in alliance with other parties. The BJP has forgotten the cardinal fact in the last two Assembly polls that it is alliances that win elections in India. Alliances would also be a moderating influence on any single monolithic party.
Of course, there will be many who will argue that Modi will not be able to live down the 2002 riots. The Muslims in India are more liberal and moderate than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, and a large majority of them still consider themselves as Indians first. I would think that if Modi goes to people, and that includes the Muslims, seeking their mandate for just five years, he is likely to get it. For that to come true, the BJP has to act now.