When hysteria dwarfs reason
At the end of Narendra Modi's Sadbhawna fast, it is evident that Modi has taken a clear and decisive lead in pitching himself as BJP's PM candidate for the 2014 elections. However, Mr. Modi's journey to 2014 is fraught with numerous obstacles, some foreseen, others invisible, at this point.
One, the moment you make your ambitions known, you make yourself vulnerable to conspirators. And in Modi's case, given the baggage he carries, there's never any dearth of people waiting to see his doom. One can thus expect newer and possibly graver allegations from Teesta Setalvad, Sanjiv Bhatt, Mallika Sarabhai, Mukul Srivastava and the ilk. Besides, the trial in the riot cases will obviously continue. Moreover, a section of Modi baiters have now realized that painting him as communal only works in his favor; hence they are shifting their focus to digging up instances of corruption and coercive acquisition of farmers' lands. The rate at which these new allegations are leveled will be directly proportional to Modi's growing national aspirations. And at some time, the party might be forced to think if a less controversial leader at its helm will suit its prospects better.
Two, Nitish Kumar's aversion to Modi is only too well known. It is apparent thus that Modi cannot become the PM with BJP-JDU government in Bihar intact. Can the party risk losing one of its oldest allies when it is desperately trying to rope in newer ones? After all, a bird in hand is always better than two in the bush.
Three, simple political arithmetic dictates that Modi cannot make a serious prime ministerial bid without quitting Gujarat. Gujarat, after all, sends only 26 MPs, which is lesser than what Bihar, Tamil Nadu and even Madhya Pradesh sends. This would give its potential allies from bigger states a ground to run down Modi's candidature. Thus, assuming that Modi wins the next Assembly elections in December 2012 handsomely, at some point in the 16 month period between then and the next Lok Sabha elections in April-May, 2014, Modi will have to take leave from Gujarat. He will have to shift base to Delhi and travel across the country as an 'unequivocally perceived national leader'. Will Modi be ready to risk losing Gujarat in a bid to attain power at the Centre?
Modi's path to the PMO, thus, is far more difficult than what the present hysteria would make one believe. Having said that, Modi relishes the challenge of making the impossible, seem otherwise. The least that one can say at this point is that the culmination of Modi's bid will be an absolute thriller. On the other hand, practical considerations rule that it's Arun Jaitley who will be BJP's best bet for PM. There are several factors which work in Jaitley's favour.
First and foremost, the party needs to ask itself a simple question. Can it better its best performance of 182 Lok Sabha seats? If it can't, it will need newer allies, besides retaining old ones. This is where Jaitley's deft networking skills would come in handy. Jaitley has excellent equations with both Modi and Nitish Kumar. That even a Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party or TDP has nothing against him, will be an added boon in a post poll scenario. Besides, if the Biju Janata Dal has to return to NDA, its chances are better with Jaitley at the helm than with Modi.
Secondly, the present leadership dilemma that the BJP is witnessing is reminiscent of early and mid-90s. Even then, while it was Advani's rath yatra and rigorous mass campaigning which had led the BJP to consolidate its position, ultimately the party had to bank on Vajpaypee's inclusive image to score the winning runs. So while Modi's charisma will definitely revive BJP's dynamism, a more moderate and universally acceptable face will be needed to ensure a clean finish. Jaitley's spotless credentials and unassuming personality again give him an advantage here.
Three, it is high time India gets a PM who can emerge as an international leader of significance. India's foreign policy goof-ups have led to other countries outsmarting us in various initiatives and negotiations. Jaitley is no doubt one of the best speakers in India's parliamentary history. His performance as India's Commerce and Industry minister at the WTO summit at Cancun in 2003 is stuff that international leadership is made of. India today needs a world leader who can get her a position of supremacy in world politics which is commensurate with its clout as an economic power.
There is of course a big impediment in Jaitley being seen as PM candidate and that is Mr. Jaitley himself. Jaitley needs to realize it sooner that the path to political glory in India travels through yatras and fasts. In howsoever contrived the suave Jaitley might find these means, unless he embraces them more willingly, history might end up talking of him as another truly deserving PM India never had.
More about Tuhin A SinhaTuhin A Sinha is among the best-selling authors in India, a columnist and a screenwriter. Starting in 2006 with his first book, That Thing Called Love, an unconventional romance set in a Mumbai monsoon, Tuhin has written five novels. They include The Captain (formerly 22 Yards), Of Love And Politics, The Edge of Desire and The Edge Of Power. Tuhin is acknowledged among the most prolific Indian writers with a maverick knack to experiment with new genres. While his first book was an offbeat romance, The Captain was a cricket thriller that explored the underbelly of modern cricket. Of Love And Politics was a political thriller. His last two books which comprise the Edge series can be called socio-political thrillers with a strong feminist skew. Tuhin is a screenwriter of several popular TV shows, the most noteworthy being Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai on Star Plus. Apart from his fiction novels and scripts, Tuhin is a keen political observer. His columns on Indian politics appear regularly in India’s leading dailies. Tuhin has a regular blog on ibnlive.com. He also appears frequently on news channels on discussions around politics and cricket.
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