Importance of Narendra Modi in Indian politics
The political discourse in India is around Narendra Modi. His followers swear by him and his detractors swear at him. What is it about the man that makes him the centre of attraction? The man is honest, even his worst enemies accept that. The present UPA government has failed to perform. There is no doubt that those who feel that UPA will come back to power are decreasing by the day. There seems to be a tsunami for Narendra Modi. The political discourse is that of status quo versus development, about welfare economics versus developmental economics, between huge expenditure on social schemes vs jobs that will give Indians a sense of pride. The two approaches to run the nation are poles apart. Socialism has failed to arrest poverty. Whatever little progress that has been made is after liberalization of the economy. There are some who want to perpetuate license/permit raj. There are some who want more of government while Modi extols the virtues of less government but efficient governance. Narendra Modi believes that the 2014 elections will be fought on the development plank. The liberals and the secularists want to divert the political agenda away from development and on to secularism and then to social welfare. There is a tug of war going on and it is getting more intense by the day.
People have become fed up with doles that are these welfare schemes. They want development, they want jobs. The developmental model of Narendra Modi seems to have caught the imagination of people. Every day figures are thrown around as to how other states are doing better than Gujarat. They say that Gujarat model cannot work in the rest of India. Others who are on the far Left are more blatant in their anti-Modi rhetoric and claim that they do not want development on the dead bodies of minorities (referring to 2002 Gujarat riots) failing to point out the fact that the riots started when 56 kar sevaks which included women and children were burnt alive in a train.
The present UPA government is between a rock and a hard place. They have something called NAC (National Advisory Council) that is a hub of socialists and communists. They propound welfare schemes which their president Sonia Gandhi must listen to and implement. Then the reality check forces them to take a few hesitant step s towards reforms, which again is resented and rebuked by the Left lobby within UPA. Manmohan Singh, a proponent of reforms finds it difficult to justify such expenditure on welfare schemes which he knows are a drain on economy. He is moving in one direction and the decision makers within the government move in another direction. The situation has come to such a pass that the PMO is hardly noticeable and Manmohan Singh is made to look small again and again. The coal scam where he was the coal minister was a major embarrassment for the prime minister.
Rampant graft has been another problem for the UPA government. The credibility of this government is at an all time low. The most audacious and perhaps the ugliest case was when a former railways minister sold a plum board of director’s position for money. That was such a rude shock to the nation that whatever little credibility that remained with the UPAII government vanished. The prime minister was again embarrassed. The most amazing part is that all these graft charges seem not to affect the PM at all and he still continues.
The conflict within the government between the socialists and the reformists is so acute that nothing seems to be moving. The misuse of the RTI has meant that bureaucracy has come to a grinding halt. No decisions are being taken and those taken are being reviewed post haste. The icing on the cake is that laws, especially tax laws are being applied in retrospect which has given a bad name to the nation. Investment climate is so bad that almost $10 billion of investments have been scrapped by Arcelor-Mittal and South Korean steel giant Posco. The sharp fall in Re has been a major setback for the economy. India is no more a part of trillion dollar market cap. Imports are expensive and this is a drain on the economy. Inflation is unabated and rising. India is on a down swing.
The fight between those who want to see India move forward and those who want to remain in the pre-liberalization era is what is at the crux of the matter. And this is where Narendra Modi comes in. The importance of Narendra Modi lies in the fact that he is seen as the anti-thesis to all that ails this nation. Gujarat welcomes investment – the Centre shuns it. Gujarat model of development is aimed at job creation, the UPA model is that of socialism and massive government spending. Narendra Modi is seen as an incorruptible leader and stands as a stark contrast to the rampant graft in the UPA .Narendra Modi is seen as a go getter while Manmohan Singh government is seen as a sermonizer. Narendra Modi seems to be the answer to all that is wrong with the present administration.
There is another sharp contrast between the UPA leadership and Modi. None of the top leaders in the UPA have communication skills as good as Modi. Modi can silence a crowd with his oratory – Manmohan, Sonia and Rahul can’t match him. It is with much thought that Rajnath Singh has taken the bold decision of pitching Narendra Modi in the forefront. Not many would have taken the risk of putting forth Narendra Modi as their campaign leader – for this Rajnath Singh must be commended.
Expectedly, there has been a hysterical backlash from the Congress. There have been some voices from within the BJP too. It is the Congress and their Leftist allies that are shrieking from every roof top that amazes many. They fail to realize that the more they try to run down Narendra Modi the more gaffes they will utter and it will be Modi who will have the last laugh. With the Leftist their angst is more fundamental. They have to serve their masters from across the border. Contain India is their mantra. They do not want to see a resurgent India. They have therefore floated the Aam Admi Party. There are others like Nitish Kumar who want to play it safe and are vying for the elusive Muslim vote bank.
It seems that the way Narendra Modi has become the centre of political discourse will ensure that he is catapulted to power. BJP has announced a series of committees in the run up to 2014 elections. The challenge for Modi will be to oversee that each one of these teams works as per schedule and their targets are met. In modern day elections, it is as much about management as it is about policies. Modi micro-manages everything and that is his strength.
The challenge from within his own party may stunt his chances of leading his party to victory. There are many leaders senior to Modi and some of them have shown their displeasure at Rajnath’s decision to give Modi the mantle. The names are many. The latest outburst by Shatrughan Sinha is not an innocuous observation. He has been asked by members of his own party to say what he did. Even if Modi does manage to get the BJP and its allies the maximum number of seats there is no guarantee that he will become the PM. Elements from within the party will try till the very end to see to it that the man is denied the top job.
Whether Narendra Modi succeeds or fails in 2014, the fact of the matter is that the tug of war between the reformists and the rightists and those who propound a socialistic, Communist way forward for the nation is a very real one. For now, Narendra Modi and his doctrine seem to have caught the imagination of the nation. Will that translate into votes is another matter. The success or failure of Modi could be decisive for the future of India. I am not sure common Indians realize the high stakes in the elections of 2014.