Politics in India is rarely simple or straightforward – rather it is confounding, convoluted, complicated – however the media analysts and spin doctors seem to have reduced the next Loksabha elections into a simple contest between the BJP’s Narendra Modi and the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi. Assuming that these two candidates are representative of their respective parties’ ideologies and narratives; let’s examine the pros and cons of each of these leaders in as dispassionate a manner as possible.
Let’s start with Narendra Modi or NaMo as a possible Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 elections.
NARENDRA MODI’S IMAGE
Quite simply, the man is a huge hit in his home state of Gujarat. The development is there for all to see; and his slick marketing machinery has cemented his image as an excellent administrator, a magnetic orator and someone who consistently and effortless delivers while inspiring others to do the same. He is seen as hardworking, disciplined, committed and unwavering. His pro-development policies and high visibility at various international forums mean that he cuts quite a dash wherever he goes. The average Gujarati is completely gung ho about him (you could even use the word besotted); pride tinges the voice as they speak about him.
Yet, the current image which exemplifies progress and prosperity cannot gloss over the historical horrors of 2002. It is no use saying that both communities suffered – the riots of February and March 2002 were an organised pogrom, designed to exact revenge and cow down an entire community to “show them their place”. This is a permanent blot on his image; one that he has neither apologised for nor shown remorse for. Organising public gatherings where he felicitates various people from the Muslim community is worthless window dressing.
NARENDRA MODI’S TRACK RECORD
If you wander the streets of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar (as I have been doing the past few days), you would be forgiven for thinking that Gujarat is a Narendra Modi oligarchy. No other political leader seems at all visible here. Modi’s smiling visage beams down at you from various hoardings – in his trademark short sleeved homespun, perhaps in a colourful safa, even in a smart shirt and blazer (perhaps for the NRI visitor who seems as enamored of him as the local janta).
Now into his 4th term as the Chief Minister of what is viewed as one of India’s most progressive and safe states with a proven track record, no one in Gujarat can even contemplate a leader other than NaMo.
HURDLES NAMO FACES
The foremost hurdle that the man faces is that complex and difficult to understand, impossible to predict factor – the Indian voter. Will his undoubted pan-Gujarati appeal translate as effortlessly into pan-Indian appeal? What does the voter in West Bengal, in Kerala, in Orissa think of him for instance? Is he even a real contender at the national level?
Perhaps as significant (and perplexing) is the refusal of his own party to project him as the candidate for the top job in the next elections. And his party seems positively antagonistic to its most successful, most visible and popular leader; to the extent that public endorsements of NaMo can get one expelled from the party – witness the recent expulsion of Ram Jethmalani from the BJP for backing Modi and other alleged infractions.
So it’s easy to see that Narendra Modi is a formidable leader and a very real possibility for the nation’s top job – how does Rahul Gandhi compare? This question may be rather more difficult to answer.
Image Source : IANS