Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's graduation to the Centre will end drift and confusion, says Virendra Kapoor
If you follow the logic of the Congress leaders, Narendra Modi has actually lost Gujarat and the Congress has won it. How? Well, on Thursday afternoon, when not all the results were in, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that since Modi had claimed that he would win over 120 seats, but was only winning about 115, he had lost the election, so the Congress had won it.
It was as simple as that. Makes one wonder if Kamla Beniwal, the Gujarat governor, would next call the leader of the newly-elected Congress legislature party to form the government!
It should matter little that both the leaders of the Congress legislature party, Shaktisinh Gohil, and the state Congress chief, Arjun Modhwadia, have lost the poll.
Another 'joker' in the Congress pack, the scam-tainted External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, commenting on the Gujarat verdict, said that the 'skies are not open for Modi'. Having lost Gujarat, Khurshid has now challenged him to win 'at the national level'.
Once he wins at the national level, Khurshid will probably challenge Modi to win at the international level. Why cannot Congress leaders show a little humility and concede defeat? But then, being Congressmen, they seem to believe that the democratic process needs to be respected only in case it results in victory for them; loss is unacceptable.
Hence, the crazy mental gyrations.
Levity aside, in all likelihood, Modi might soon accept the challenge to lead the BJP at the national level. For, the main opposition party has been adrift at the central level for a couple of years now while its governments in major states such as Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, etc have given a very good account of themselves.
For sure, the leaders of opposition in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha have performed most competently, but it is the lack of the primus inter pares -- the first among equals -- which has resulted in much confusion in the party.
Modi's hat-trick in Gujarat will certainly strengthen his claim to lead the party at the national level. Even though (chief ministers) Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh have performed equally credibly in government, it is undeniable that Modi's appeal is stronger and wider.
The BJP rank and file wants him to lead the party. A very large percentage of uncommitted voters too see in him a strong, able and clean leader, a perfect foil to the weak and corrupt United Progressive Alliance leadership.
Yes, the Congress might seek to divide the people by raising the bogey of Modi's hardcore Hindutva; it might paint him as 'Gabbar Singh', out to gobble up the minorities; it might seek to wean away the BJP allies in the National Democratic Alliance by harping on Modi's unproven role in the 2002 riots.
Yet, if the people of Gujarat can return him to power thrice in a row with handsome victory margins, there is no reason why Modi should not appeal to the people outside Gujarat.
After all, he embodies in his persona the very qualities which are currently in short supply at the Centre: decisiveness, firmness of leadership, incorruptibility, strong economic development, etc.
As for his anti-minority image, it should be news to those who have made a career abusing Modi that out of the 24 Muslim-dominated constituencies, the BJP won in as many as 18.
Modi is keen to re-invent himself, shed the anti-Muslim tag foisted on him by his critics, but the secularists, who have thrived all along by offering nothing but the fear of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh/BJP to the minorities, are determined to mine the latent fears and insecurities of the Muslims for their own selfish ends.
Gujarat has moved away from the sordidness of 2002, but the secularists would like to keep that pot boiling for their own selfish reasons. How and when Modi will graduate from Gandhinagar to Delhi is a matter of timing, but after Thursday's handsome victory, his moving to the Centre does seem certain.
That should help end the confusion in the BJP and allow it to set the national agenda most forcefully in time for the 2014 parliamentary poll.
Meanwhile, if the Congress leadership is escapist enough, it would draw consolation from its narrow win in Himachal Pradesh. Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal failed to buck the trend in order to retain the state for the BJP.
Internal dissensions and the presence of several rebels did the BJP in. Dhumal's own image contributed to the loss, though it must be noted that no party has won power twice in a row in Himachal. Only the delusionary Congress leadership will believe that their tally -- 36 seats out of 68 -- reinforces their belief that neither corruption nor price-rise or, for that matter, mis-governance matters to the aam-aadmi.A complex skein of factors weigh with the voter in the polling both. In Himachal, it was the image of Dhumal and his son, Anurag Thakur, the member of Parliament from Hamirpur, coupled with the internal sabotage that gave the Congress the narrowest of victories. It did not matter that the Congress was led by the scam-tainted Virbhadra Singh. The voter was keen to oust the Dhumal regime and thus maintain the state's record for not returning to power the incumbent party.