The verdict is out

Is brand Modi on the ascendancy?

VIEWPOINT

ANIL ANAND

The verdict is out and there is nothing earthshaking about it. It was predictable that Mr Narendra Modi (without BJP) will emerge victorious the third time around in Gujarat. The irrepressible old warhorse Mr Virbhadhra Singh has single-handedly pulled a victory for his over a century old party the Congress in Himachal Pradesh.
Out of the two, the Gujarat developments are obviously more important and if the political pundits are to be believed Mr Modi’s victory has already catapulted him to the national main-stage of Indian polity. If they are to be believed, he is already there and has only to be anointed as the Prime Minister even before his candidature as the Prime Ministerial candidate has to be formally accepted by his party.
Certainly, the Gujarat victory has strengthened Mr Modi’s case within his own party and the euphoria created by him in the run up to the election and immediately after the poll results were out, has won him more fans. But it is nothing less than jumping the gun if an immediate judgement is delivered on his being the future Prime Minister of India.
It is imperative that before jumping the gun the experts, analysts and columnists need to study carefully Mr Modi’s style of functioning with a greater focus on his penchant for not allowing any dissent. In fact, he seeks pleasure in quelling any opinion or view which runs contrary to his self-perceived thinking. He may be right in his thinking, as some may argue, as he has been voted back to power for the third consecutive time. So was the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi returned to power by the same voters who had ousted him for having muzzled critics and destroyed the democratic institutions.
 There is no need to draw a parallel. One is neither raising an alarm nor questioning the will of the people which is supreme in a democratic polity. But at the same time emergence of brand Modi even at the cost of his own party and frequently adopting sectarian, regional and communal overtones, gives a cause of worry to those hemmed in true democratic traditions of unity in diversity.
The brand Modi is on the ascendancy thanks to his image managers and Mr Modi’s own oratorical and sartorial skills. Yes, three consecutive victories in a row is a milestone and it is a tribute to Mr Modi’s administrative skills. But is verdict 2012 in his favour is a landslide in the true sense of the term as many would like the people to believe? I am afraid it is not so.
After all Mr Modi has not been able to touch the magical figure of 107 seats, the tally which BJP had secured in 2007 despite his tall claims backed by the sundry opinion and exit polls that he was poised to secure a two thirds majority or even more. To the contrary, his arch-rivals the Congress increased its tally by a whisker even without slogging it out and questioning Mr Modi’s claims on the achievement front. The occasional Congress responses on this front were weak and muted against the decibel noise of the Modi brigade.
This scenario leads one to be believe, that the problem lay more with the Congress’ poll managers and strategists than anyone else. Singlehandedly Mr Modi had managed to scare the grand-old party and its top brass into hibernation. The “maut ka saudagar” argument of Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi forwarded by her in 2007 elections, still seemed to be haunting the party.
Withdrawing into a shell was never an option for anyone facing Mr Modi’s high voltage campaign aptly backed by the latest technology. In this era of media (read electronic media) proliferation one would do so at one’s own peril. And the Congress has proved it in Gujarat.
The Congress with a rich history of service to the nation, both in the pre and post-partition eras, has a vital role to play as it is embedded more in the principles of secularism than BJP and its saffron brigade. That brings more responsibility on the Congress as it has the onerous task of ensuring a critical balance to the country’s polity which is being overridden, particularly in this era of coalition politics, with shrill voices of regionalism, sub-regionalism, sectarianism and communalism.
Whether Mr Modi is able to take a centre-stage in the BJP or whether he is subsequently projected as its Prime Ministerial candidate, is no one’s problem. It is a question to be addressed by the BJP and it’s supporting Sangh Parivar outfits. There is no doubt about the parivar’s patriotic credentials but certain tendencies that run diametrically opposite to the spirit of India need to be observed carefully and fought back fiercely if need be.
If Mr Modi is being eulogised by his party and others, the Congress leadership should not only laud the efforts of Mr Virbhadra Singh for not having only saved the day for the party but also showing the way and teaching a lesson or two to them on how to be gutsy in the electoral arena. Mr Singh was right in his observations that had the high command handed-over the reigns of HPCC to him much before the elections, the margin of the party’s victory would have been larger.
Mr Singh’s victory has another lesson for the Congress high command that they should not ignore regional aspirations and allow the regional and state level leaders to grow. The outcome in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh has amply clarified that people want clear choices before them in terms of leadership and chief ministerial candidates.
The erosion in inner-party democracy has considerably weakened the argument that only the legislature, post-election, will elect the leader. The erosion on this count is total in Congress and the BJP is following the suit with Mr Modi’s self-projection, even riding above the party, being a strong indicator of things to come.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 24 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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