Lessons Narendra Modi can learn from Indira Gandhi Barring dramatic developments, Narendra Modi's further ascendance is inevitable. Whether he becomes prime minister or not is subject to several imponderables but indications demonstrate that the wind is favourable. For instance, the spectacle from Andhra Pradesh: arch-rivals N Chandrababu Naidu and Y S Jaganmohan Reddy outbidding each other in staking claims on a future Modi bandwagon. Coupled with J Jayalalithaa's cordiality with Modi, these statements demonstrate that he is no longer politically untouchable. All-New Modi Few parties would rush into pre-poll alliances, but over the next few months, we are likely to witness many regional satraps looking at only the positive attributes of Modi. There is already a palpable shift in the tone and tenor of the intelligentsia: busy for the last few weeks trying to perceive "softness" or "toning down" of the Modi persona. His decision to stay a safe distance from Muzaffarnagar, not join the ill-judged VHP's Ayodhya Parikrama and the "toilets before temples" remark have been cited as evidence of change of heart. But is it a change of heart or shift in tack? People, who are now willing to give Modi a chance because they consider him as the only viable political alternative to the moribund UPA, want to believe that Modi has changed. They would like to think that the divisive strategy adopted in the wake of the Godhra carnage was a momentary aberration. But for this to be true, Modi will have to initiate steps to ensure that social prejudices in Gujarat are not deepened further and schism between communities is reduced. Hate, it must be remembered, is the by-product of the two, and Modi has electorally thrived by pursuing politics that encouraged such sentiments. Erased from Dirty Picture So far, Modi has not opted for an overtly communal strategy because this would not have succeeded in wooing the likes of Naidu and Reddy. It will also act as a bulwark against further support from big business and urban middle classes, especially the youth. Growing polarisation and subsequent developments in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar demonstrate that Modi doesn't need to resurrect the phraseology he used in Gujarat in 2002 and 2007. There are others people and factors to do the "dirty job" â€” be it lesser leaders of his political clan or just accumulated prejudice in society. For now, Modi can limit himself to campaigning that in his belief, Bharat is rooted in the culture of the majority, which, in turn, is based on Dharma. This persona of Modi is acceptable for neo-converts because anything short of provocative phrases like "Mian Musharraf" and "baby factories" means he has turned his back on the hate diatribe of 2002! But this is also an opportunity for Modi to escape from his narrow singular image and become more broad-based. Without diluting the extreme Hindutva image, he can present a more palatable persona like he did in Gujarat and outside since October 2008 after Tatas set up the Nano car plant. Modi can continue his prime ministerial campaign by projecting an image of Development Man without jettisoning the likeness to a mass murderer. This gives one set of Modi supporters a choice: believe that the veneer is the new character, the "bad dream" is over. The other group knows that the development mantra is just another Modi mask â€” the core remains as divisive as always. He won't Caste his Vote Modi has taken the pole position in the electoral race, and this has generated signs that it has the potential to be a game-changer. Modi's future and the fate of the Congress party along with the "family" will be shaped by the parliamentary poll. But, more importantly, it will determine the extent to which a single individual and the issues he brings into the fray will dominate the proceedings. Since the 1990s, the final verdict of most Indian elections has been aggregates of hundreds of polls, at constituency and even booth levels. Will this trend get reversed and will it result in the emergence of BJP as the primary pole in Indian politics once again? Caste and other local factors are important but Modi will want to underplay this if he has to increase his national presence. He has an advantage: despite being from an OBC, Modi transcends caste and is India's first "casteless" political leader after a long time. But he cannot completely eschew identity politics as it is part of the political core. He may face a challenge from "the family" provided someone dons the war paint. Modi has similarities with Indira Gandhi. No identity, barring being a woman, stuck on her â€” not even the fact that the Gandhi surname came to her from a Parsi-born husband. But Indira did not play her innings when sub-identities were multiplying. She also played no role in subverting social harmony like Modi. She usurped power, became authoritarian and lost because of this. Modi will have to remember this and change these basic traits. It's a long haul ahead and personal moderation will benefit Modi greatly. Lessons Narendra Modi can learn from Indira Gandhi - Page2 - The Economic Times ************************************************ Does he really have any semblance with the Iron Lady of India? Or is this mere hype?