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India is NOT Modi and Modi is not India

Last updated on: December 20, 2012 18:47 IST

Modi will only add to the struggle within the BJP

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Neena Vyas

Gujarat's asmita may have resulted in a hat-trick for Narendra Modi, but can he really speak on the behalf of 1.2 billion Indians, asks Neena Vyas

Narendra Modi has no doubt won handsomely in Gujarat for the third time. But has this victory paved the way for his entry into national politics, or more importantly, to the Bharatiya Janata Party's decision to project him as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election?

No sooner had trends started emerging --indicating a win for the BJP in Gujarat -- that posters appeared at the party's office in Ahmedabad stating that Modi will be the chief minister in 2012 and the prime minister in 2014.

This reminds one of the 1999 Lok Sabha election when similar posters declared Abki baari Atal Bihari, agli baari behen hamari (this time it is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, next time it will be Sushma Swaraj, since behen was a clear reference to her).

The net result was that this annoyed Vajpayee and senior BJP leader L K Advani had to intervene to ensure a Cabinet berth for Swaraj.

By pushing forward his ambition of becoming prime minister, Modi will only add to the struggle within his party. After all, senior BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are not going to sit with folded hands and watch Modi reduce them from 'hero to zero' status, as he has successfully done to all former Gujarat chief ministers from the BJP and every state party leader.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's normal instincts are against the personality cult and Modi's style is, in every way, the direct opposite of that.

The RSS leadership may also fear that if Modi were to somehow become prime minister, he would make the RSS itself irrelevant, as he has already done in Gujarat.

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Image: Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with senior BJP leaders M Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj
Photographs: Reuters

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Modi has to cross several hurdles

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At the same time, there is no doubt that the BJP's rank-and-file see Narendra Modi as the party's tallest leader and feel he alone can execute a BJP victory in the next Lok Sabha election.

A party declaration proclaiming that he is the prime ministerial candidate is bound to enthuse BJP workers. At the same time, his elevation would not be welcomed by numerous senior BJP leaders who are themselves in the race for the top job in the country.

Yet another factor -- and any journalist who covers politics knows this even if BJP leaders do not publicly admit it -- is the RSS.

What is the RSS thinking? As far as the Gujarat campaign is concerned, many senior RSS leaders and those of its affiliate -- the Vishwa Hindu Parishad -- were openly campaigning against Modi.

Did they have the RSS's permission to do so? If the RSS wanted Modi to register a huge win -- by winning 130 seats as initially projected by the exit polls -- why did it not rein in the various pracharaks siding with Keshubhai Patel, a former chief minister and a senior RSS man, who had openly revolted against Modi?

So, Modi has to cross several hurdles.

Firstly, the RSS and BJP leaderships have to agree to project him as its prime ministerial candidate.

Next will be the role of the BJP's allies in the National Democratic Alliance. Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar has made it clear in no uncertain terms that Modi as a prime ministerial candidate will not be acceptable to his party.

Following his protests, BJP President Nitin Gadkari stated on record that the party's allies would be consulted before taking any decision on this matter.

So the question arises, will Nitish Kumar veto Modi's name or will he walk out of the alliance?

Even the Shiromani Akali Dal will not be too thrilled at dealing with a leader, who, after all, is the face of hard-line Hindutva. The BJP may like to think of Sikhs as a denomination of the larger Hindu family, but the Sikhs themselves are proud of their very separate identity.

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Photographs: Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com

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Modi can't guarantee one Lok Sabha seat outside Gujarat

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The other hard fact is -- and this is neither hype nor emotion -- that Narendra Modi has never been able to deliver as handsomely in Lok Sabha elections as he has done in Gujarat assembly polls.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha election -- held against the backdrop of the communal carnage in Gujarat -- the BJP won only 14 of the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state; the Congress bagged 12 seats.

In the 2009 parliamentary polls, by when Modi had won a second assembly innings and his image had assumed larger-than-life proportions, the BJP under his leadership captured 15 Lok Sabha seats, with the Congress settling for 11 seats.

The point is: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh gave the BJP 10 out of the state's 11 Lok Sabha seats.

Then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh had once delivered over 55 Lok Sabha seats to the party.

Modi can't guarantee even one Lok Sabha seat to the BJP outside Gujarat. Former prime minister Vajpayee said as much when he lamented after the 2004 Lok Sabha results that Modi had won Gujarat for the BJP, but lost India for it.

It is easy for the BJP and its fans -- and even natural -- to get carried away by the 'hat-trick' performed by Modi in Gujarat. While no one can deny him that credit, the fact is that Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has already won elections three times for her party and will go to polls for the fourth time next year.

Then West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu won state elections many more times and even BJP Chief Ministers Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh have two wins each under their belts. They will be tested for the third time next year, before the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.

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Image: Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit
Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Saab Press

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Modi's development model helped the rich

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So Narendra Modi has not done anything extraordinary. In fact, the Congress has won the Maharashtra election three times in a row, albeit under different chief ministers.

There is yet another factor that will make the going difficult for the BJP in the 2014 general election. In a few months, Karnataka will go to the polls and there is every danger of the BJP's first bastion in south India falling to its rivals' hands.

If that happens, the BJP will once again be seen as a party of the Hindi heartland with a hugely diminished presence in Uttar Pradesh.

It will take days to fully grasp the details of voting patterns in Gujarat, but early indications point to virtually clean sweeps for the BJP in urban areas -- Surat, Vadodara, Ahmedabad -- but a very different picture emerges from the poorer rural hinterland.

In the rural areas, the Congress has given the BJP a fight, which also indicates that Gujarat was not shining as brightly for the poor in the state as it was for the affluent and growing middle-classes.

This election has certainly exposed to the people that Modi's development model helped the rich much more, while the poor, the hungry and the marginalised were left behind.

If one were to transpose this fact onto the rest of India, where urbanisation has been slower than in Gujarat, it is very possible that rural India will not buy the Modi development story as much as middle-class India has.

India is a diverse nation which boasts of plurality in religion, caste, language, cultural mores, geography, common law practices, food, and many other things.

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Image: Gujarat was not shining as brightly for the poor in the state as it was for the affluent and growing middle-classes
Photographs: Reuters

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Can Modi speak on behalf of 1.2 billion Indians?

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Gujarati asmita (pride) may have resulted in a hat-trick for Modi, but can he really speak on behalf of 1.2 billion Indians?

The manner in which he tried to make the Sir Creek dispute with Pakistan a local election issue is reprehensible and does not reflect a man deeply concerned about India's security.

Finally, Modi's Woman and Child Development Minister Mayaben Kodnani has been convicted for her heinous role in the 2002 riots.

Another confidant (former Gujarat minister of state for home) Amit Shah may have won this election, but that cannot make us oblivious to the fact that he is one of the main accused in at least two murder cases.

Modi may think he is Gujarat and Gujarat is Modi. But India is not Modi and Modi is not India.

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Image: Gujarat BJP leader Dr Mayaben Kodnani, imprisoned for 28 years for her role in one of the post-riots massacres


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