Narendra Modi has been been announced as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This happened despite allies deserting even at the thought of it, internal dissent especially from stalwart like Lal Krishna Advani and opposition from Secular parties .
There has been a sense of anticipation, a sense of elation among many in the country especially the youth and urban citizens in what they see is the solution for the lack of governance, economic bungling, rampant corruption and lax attitude towards security by the current UPA government led by the Congress.
Now that the decision has been taken, Narendra Modi will be under even greater scrutiny from various quarters including the media, intellectual community,analysts and commentators. Every move he makes, his speeches, his decisions, his actions or even lack of it, his body language will be subject to lengthy debates.
In this piece I am trying to analyze what this decision means for various sections of the citizenry and its impact on the chances of Modi being elected (well yes India is not a presidential form of democracy,but 2014 elections will be a clash of personalities) as PM of India.
Modi continues to carry the burden on the past, the 2002 Gujarat riots. So there will always be a good number of skeptics especially among the “left liberals” who will continue to question Modi’s role in the riots. These people have a good presence in the media which they will use to criticize Modi at every opportunity.
Then there are the fence sitters. People who are not decided which way to go. Influenced by years of scrutiny in the media on Modi, but also torn by the last five years of UPA rule which has left them disenchanted. They have generally voted for Congress or other non BJP parties or not voted at all. These people will be ones who will be decisive in the battle for 2014.
I will come to the fringe extreme right wing elements now. Its possible that these elements view Modi’s elevation as a mandate for promotion of hardline “Hindutva”, although Modi has all along talked about Sadbhavna, inclusive growth and India first. These elements can ruin it for Modi in their over zealousness especially scaring the fence sitters into voting against Modi which like i said will be the decisive factor in 2014. The basic and important factor in any election is security of life,livelihood and property. Perceptions matter in this regard. Anyone who comes across as a someone whose rule will promote violence, law and order problems will not get the vote, cutting across any religious, caste or regional divide. So if these fringe elements come across as ones using Modi’s elevation to promote their extremist ideology which may lead to riots,law and order problems, moral policing etc, it will hurt Modi’s chances.
The effect of Modi’s elevation on Muslims will be a factor. After Godhra, he has been much vilified and a hated figure among many in the community more so outside of Gujarat than inside as some of the election results have proven where Muslims have voted for Modi. His past will be used by the Congress and the other parties who call themselves as secular to drive fear into the minds of Muslims who like I said earlier, vote for safety first or at least those who they perceive as ones guaranteeing their safety. But over the years we have seen that those so called secular parties have failed in guaranteeing the safety of Muslims as seen in the recent UP riots. That apart, years of appeasement by these so called secular parties without any concrete policies to help the Muslims come out of their lower than standard living, illiteracy, employment opportunities is being understood by the Muslims as a vote bank tactic. Muslims have come out against the Samajwadi Party in UP for failing to control or prevent the riots.
On the other hand, stories of equal opportunity in Gujarat provided by Modi has been circulating. Gujarat has not seen any riots in the last 10 years under Modi. There seems to be a calm, sense of security (even if it may be uneasy security for some) for the Muslims trying to better their lives and it may be enticing many among the Muslim community to go with Modi and give him a chance. What percentage of Muslims remains to be seen.
Last but not the least and importantly I would like to explore the effect of elevation of Modi on external factors namely Pakistan, its controlled state and non state actors along with the fringe elements within the Muslims in India. Modi has been vocal against Pakistan, its sponsored terror and violations of LoC. Pakistanis and their media have always called Modi a killer of Muslims. Modi has presented a much harder line against Pak than the current government does. Pak will not be able to get away with what it has done all these years with Modi in power from the feeling one gets from Modi’s speeches.
Pakistan may use covert means to ratchet up trouble across India especially communal riots using fringe elements in India creating a fear psychosis attempting to make sure Muslim and vast majority of the fence sitters across the divide don’t vote for Modi looking for security guarantee from “secular” parties.
Worse still Pak may use its mix of state and its terror network to preempt Modi becoming the PM. We have seen in the past where a terror organization fearing a politician coming to power undertook a drastic step. Such a step will have very huge ramifications for both external and internal security. Such a move by Pak terror organizations cannot be ruled out as hyped up analysis as we have had prominent terror groups openly announce their hatred for Modi and also using Gujarat riots to brainwash people like Kasab to wage war against India. I do hope Modi’s security threat perception is taken a closer look and security provided accordingly without playing any politics over it.
One hopes and prays that the next few months in the run up of elections are peaceful for India.