'...a more capable State -- one that operates with greater capacity, greater efficiency, and greater clarity of purpose.'
'But I also see a more despotic State -- one that places more constraints on speech, assembly, dissent, and critique.'
'It may run 'better', but on the regime's rules.'
"Time is working against the Opposition, not to mention they are at a technological, organisational, and financial disadvantage vis-a-vis the BJP," says Dr Milan Vaishnav, Director and Senior Fellow, South Asia Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"Where the rubber meets the road is in critical states where one party or another will have to make real concessions: Will the AAP and Congress call a truce in Punjab? Will the Left be willing to work with Mamata in Bengal?", Dr Vaishnav tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih in the concluding part of a must-read interview.
- Part 1 of the Interview: 'Biden has thrown out the rule book for India'
How is India going to change further if Mr Modi gets a third term?
History is rarely linear so projections can be dangerous. But I foresee a more capable State -- one that operates with greater capacity, greater efficiency, and greater clarity of purpose.
I see a much more developed and robust welfare system where citizens have greater access to basic amenities like sanitation, water, electricity, and clean cooking fuel.
But I also see a more despotic State -- one that places more constraints on speech, assembly, dissent, and critique. It may run 'better', but on the regime's rules.
I also fear that India's attachment to a certain form of pluralism may be getting lost. Some commentators like to say that the BJP wants a more pro-Hindu India, but not necessarily one that is, say, anti-Muslim.
In many domains, the latter is the flipside of the former.
Do you see the possibility of a Jagjivan Ram/Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna sort of faction happening in the BJP where old timers break away from the parent party before the next election because they fear marginalisation should Mr Modi win a third term or because they cannot co-exist with the Modi-Shah way of doing politics?
I don't think so. At this point, the Modi-Shah domination of the party is complete. I think any would-be breakaways will have a hard time getting out of the starting gate.
The incumbent has the benefit of mass popularity, a well-oiled machine, and the privileges of incumbency, which make the ED, CBI, and IT authorities very helpful tools for keeping dissenters in check.
There could be factional disputes, but I don't sense they will be fatal.
Can the INDIA alliance throw a credible challenge to the BJP?
I think the jury is still out, to be honest. INDIA on paper looks like a formidable alliance, but it has three core deficiencies -- the same ones that have plagued the Congress the last two general election cycles.
It has no clear leader, no clear message, and no clear organisation.
Of course, INDIA's leaders are trying to work on all fronts, especially the latter two. But it is not easy to find consensus on policy much less to ensure that erstwhile political rivals will start working hand-in-hand with one another.
So, time is working against the Opposition, not to mention they are at a technological, organisational, and financial disadvantage vis-a-vis the BJP.
Where the rubber meets the road is in critical states where one party or another will have to make real concessions: Will the AAP and Congress call a truce in Punjab? Will the Left be willing to work with Mamata in Bengal?
These are the tough questions we don't have answers to.
Apart from the usual names, who are the leaders who will make a difference or provoke tremors at the next General Elections?
There are rumours that the Congress will push to make Mallikarjun Kharge, the current party president, the face of the Opposition alliance.
I don't know whether other parties will go along with that, but a Dalit from Karnataka who is a machine politician will go a lot farther than Rahul Gandhi will in terms of winning backers.
Kharge is not a politician who is always front-and-centre, but I would not discount him.
I think you must look very carefully at Arvind Kejriwal, not necessarily as a prime ministerial candidate. but because how AAP behaves in Delhi and Punjab, in particular, will be instructive.
Will they seek compromise or take a more 'no holds barred' approach vis-a-vis the Congress and other coalition partners?
Furthermore, Kejriwal has an instinct for rabble-rousing politics which the alliance will need if it is to carve out some space in the media discourse.
Finally, I would look out for Naveen Patnaik, the CM of Odisha and the head of the BJD, the ruling party there. Patnaik seems to have a good sense of which way the wind is blowing. Right now, his recent statements suggest he sees Modi and the BJP coming back.
Just the other day, he told reporters that he would give the government an 8 out of 10 rating -- which is high after a decade. If he were to start to waver and perhaps flirt with the INDIA alliance, I think that is a sign that not all is well with the BJP's re-election campaign.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com