2014 RAHUL VS MODI
Following his victory in the Gujarat assembly elections, the rising tide of support among BJP cadres for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to be nominated the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate could be hard to quell as the next Lok Sabha election approaches introduces trends of Indian Politics.
But Modi’s victory, just short of his 2007 triumph, carries a note of caution: there is still much work left to be done. Meanwhile, the RSS will – however reluctantly – back the man who could conceivably return the NDA to power after a decade. The Nagpur-based swayamsevaks may have some 19th century social ideas but they have a pragmatic political streak.
Modi spent six years in Delhi under L.K. Advani’s tutelage learning to be the team player – first, as the BJP’s National Secretary (with five states under his leadership) and then, in 1998, as the party’s General Secretary (Organization). Much of this national tenure was during Vajpayee’s NDA government. In 1998, Advani put Modi in charge of directing future Gujarat election campaigns in – ironically – Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Modi also organised L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya and a march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.
The same man who behaves like a “dictator” in Gujarat appears flexible enough – and presumably sensible enough – to behave differently when leading a national coalition than a state. A group of senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Yashwant Sinha and others will however have to work closely and professionally together to outline the party’s policies on economic reforms, Pakistan, China, internal security and social development.
(Click Rahul vs Modi 2014 to listen the audio).
The 2002 riots took place four months after Modi was asked to go to Gujarat as Chief Minister by the BJP’s national leadership following Keshubhai Patel’s resignation in October 2001. Several Hindu-Muslim riots had occurred under previous BJP governments and – most virulently and frequently – during the near-30 years of Congress rule.
It took Modi three days to end the 2002 carnage in which over 1,000 people died, three-quarters of them Muslims. He must express regret at what happened on his watch. That does not mean accepting the charge of complicity. But expressing regret is necessary – not because it may or may not double the percentage of Muslims who voted for him in the 2012 assembly election (22%) but because it is the honourable thing to do.
Modi rightly says he works for six crore Gujaratis – not Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs or Parsis. It is the Congress that seeks to divide communities by segregating them into silos for special treatment. That is not secularism but communalism dressed up as secularism.
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Now to Rahul. Dynasty stunts a political party. Dynastic parties like the DMK,NCP,NC,Shiv Sena and SAD are bereft of the genuinely talented leaders. Once the patriarch is gone, the rest atrophy. Merit rises and then bumps its head up against a mezzanine ceiling. Everyone rises to the level of the family heir’s incompetence.
As Prof Ashutosh Varshney of Columbia University wrote in an article earlier this week, dynasty is inherently in the undemocratic and antithetical to good governance. He held – again rightly – Indira Gandhi responsible for the anti-democratic example she set with her policies.
Rahul is an unfortunate victim of this quagmire. By default, he might have to face Modi in the next general election. After a voter-friendly Budget topped up by cash transfers, the monsoon session could be the last of this parliament which may be prorogued in September 2013 following uncertainty over the SP’s outside support and Mayawati’s self-serving strategy. Elections could then be held in December 2013, four months ahead of the regular schedule.
Rahul knows Dr. Manmohan Singh, at 81-plus, will not be a contender for the Prime Ministership in 2013-14. Mr. P. Chidambaram has two Supreme Court cases coming up soon – a petition challenging his 2009 Lok Sabha election from Sivaganga by a wafer-thin majority and the Aircel-Maxis controversy. He would be a soft target for the opposition.
Sonia’s ill-health may rule her out. So Rahul it will have to be. But the Congress, stunted intellectually by its dynastic mezzanine ceiling, would prefer to protect him from defeat and preserve him for another day, another fight.
Can it? This is the dilemma the Congress will have to resolve in the next few months. But what if it does indeed boil down to a Modi-Rahul contest in 2014?
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