Is BJP ushering in a ‘Modi-fied’ era?

“Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation...even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”
- Leonardo da Vinci

The above thought seemed apt for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the way it was conducting itself for some time now. However, by choosing Narendra Modi as the party’s poll campaign chief for 2014 General Elections over veteran leader LK Advani (the iron man), BJP has successfully changed the party’s image from an almost stagnant party to one which can take on challenges.

Inspite of Congress’ dismal performance in handling the issue of inflation, Maoist attacks, numerous scams, it seemed that it could still get away with anything due to the Opposition’s inaction and lack of new thoughts.

But with the tech-savvy Narendra Modi’s elevation as the chief poll campaigner, BJP has decided to take the fight for 2014 head on. It is projecting Modi as the face of the new and changing India. He is the only face in BJP whom the young and aspiring India can connect with. With all due respect to the old guards who have a problem with the rise of the Gujarat Chief Minister, I would say that the fight for the next General Elections will be a tough one.

Finally, the stage is now set for a virtual showdown between the BJP’s poll campaign chief Narendra Modi and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for the upcoming polls.

Though, neither Rahul Gandhi nor Narendra Modi have yet been named the prime ministerial nominee of their parties, it is clear that both will lead the charge ahead of the next General Elections.

The BJP party workers have been of the view for some time now that the Chief Minister of Gujarat is a reformer and man of action who should be party’s prime ministerial candidate so that NDA can defeat UPA and India can get a prime minister from the BJP after almost 10 years.

BJP president Rajnath Singh has also stated in clear terms that, “The BJP needs to prepare for the elections and Modi is the best person to lead the party as he is the most popular chief minister in India.”

But his elevation and endorsement by Rajnath have come at a huge cost for the BJP. An rise of the ‘shishya’ at the cost of the fall of his ‘guru’ has probably never got so much prominence as in the case of Narendra Modi.

Had it been the other way round, BJP’s chances to winning the next General Elections would have been very difficult and the party could have run straight into a blind alley with nowhere to go.

Modi’s rise will also strengthen the claims by the BJP that it is a democratic party and not a party who believes in dynasty politics. Many political parties in India believe that whether the person is capable or not, family hierarchy should be maintained and only the ‘Prince’ should be elevated to the top post.

Moreover, there is no point in running and manipulating people from a vantage point. Rather, a leader should take the role of providing guidance for a greater good. Politics in a democratic setup is definitely shaped by a popular will and not by individual perception. The party patriarch LK Advani, perhaps was trying to assert a hierarchical influence on the BJP but the party did well to make the correct choice.

Modi’s ascent to the national stage became inevitable when he emerged with a thumping victory for a third time in Gujarat Assembly polls. Narendra Modi has definitely struck the right chord with emphasis on developmental and progressive issues. His ideas have found takers in a huge way with the urban middle class, the engine that is propelling the country the most at this time.

While taking potshots at Narendra Modi, Union Minister Kapil Sibal said that “Delhi is distant. Who will allow you (Modi) to reach there? There are so many eying the post within that party, including the one (LK Advani) who has been standing behind the chair for year”. But instead of looking into BJP’s potholes, Congress should be careful with its own strategy. BJP has created enough noise by making the correct choice, now its Congress’ turn to come back in the game.

It is obvious that the competition will be tough as Modi and Rahul are contrasting personalities.

While Modi, 62, has had a huge advantage of winning three Assembly polls and has an administrative experience spanning more than a decade, the Gandhi scion, 42, has not held any administrative post in the government to showcase his ability. Moreover, Congress’ loss in Uttar Pradesh, where Rahul Gandhi put all efforts to rescue the party, was a huge blot in his resume.

Also, while Modi has had a humble start as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak and gradually moved up the ranks in the BJP, Rahul is viewed as one holding the present post largely due to his surname.

However, experts are not fully sure, if Modi and Rahul will be the prime ministerial candidates of their respective parties.

Both the national parties have quite a few hurdles to overcome before they can go to the people asking for votes next year. If on the one hand Congress is burdened with massive corruption charges, inflation and Maoist issues, BJP is fighting an inside war over the elevation of Modi as the face of 2014 polls.

Senior BJP leader LK Advani, who did not attend the Goa meeting, resigned from all top party posts accusing the BJP leaders of being "concerned only with their personal agenda." However, a day after he accepted BJP parliamentary board’s decision and took back his resignation. But it is still not clear whether he has he given up his prime ministerial ambitions or not.

The NDA also seems divided over the choice of Modi as the BJP’s poll panel chief. BJP`s key ally, the Janata Dal (United), which is opposed to Modi`s projection as the BJP`s prime ministerial candidate, is mulling separation from the coalition.

Post-Godhra, most Muslims and a large faction of secular people were against the anointment of Modi. But with his progressive mindset and work over the years Modi has managed to change the views of the people to a certain extent.

So like him or hate him, Narendra Modi just can`t be ignored. Gujarat has become a model state under his leadership. Earlier this year, the European Union re-established relations with Modi after cutting ties with him for more than a decade.

Interestingly, 2014 polls would not only be fought on the battleground but would also be a very tricky mind game. It remains to be seen whether Modi’s economic success will take BJP to the zenith or Rahul’s ‘Gandhi’ tag will work successfully for the Congress.