BJP president Rajnath Singh had to finally bite the bullet and name Narendra Damodardas Modi as the prime ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party for the 2014 General Elections, notwithstanding party patriarch LK Advani being vehemently opposed to the idea. Though Advani refused to budge, others in his camp like Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi relented after hectic parleys with top RSS and BJP leaders.
And so on September 13, 2013, the Chief Minister of Gujarat was anointed his party’s PM candidate, even as his mentor, in the evening of his life, probably realized that his era was actually over. The party top brass had no choice than to name Modi as the face of the BJP for 2014 as it could not ignore the growing clamour amongst the cadre for a strong leadership.
In spite of the fact that Modi is considered a polarizing figure, there was nobody in the BJP to match his leadership qualities and his oratory powers. There is no doubt that he energizes his men and there is also no doubt that he is giving sleepless nights to the Congress party, with questions being asked whether Rahul Gandhi can match upto Modi. But now that Modi has been named to lead his party in 2014 polls, his task has been cut out for him. There is a huge difference between state elections and national elections and probably nobody realizes this more than Modi at this moment.
Meanwhile, Modi and his supporters have all the reasons to rejoice and be proud of what has happened. Born on 17 September 1950, in a middle-class family in Vadnagar in Mehsana district and running a tea stall with his brother as a teenager, Narendra Modi has surely come a long way. A RSS pracharak in his young days, Modi has always been recognized as a master strategist, so much so that when Advani embarked on his rath yatra in the nineties, he entrusted Modi the responsibility to organize two important events - the Somnath to Ayodhya rath yatra and another march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.
However, when he became the CM of Gujarat in October 2001 following Keshubhai Patel’s resignation after the BJP was defeated in the by-elections, was his real big moment, a point from where he has never looked back but has only grown in strength. Months after the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002, he rode back to power in emphatic style, winning 127 seats in the 182 member Assembly and was again re-elected for a third term in December 2007, which he had famously dubbed as “referendum on his rule”.
However, when he lead his party to a resounding victory in Assembly elections last year in November, trouncing the Congress, Modi in a way staked his claim to be named as BJP’s face for 2014. He knew that if he wanted to leapfrog from state to national politics, he had to deliver and he did. Party workers too started chanting his name and coined a slogan calling him ‘Desh ka sher’ instead of ‘Gujarat ka sher’. The RSS too warmed up to him and things almost started falling in place for Modi.
Even though other BJP CMs like Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chauhan have also had a good run in their respective states, they could not match his charisma and leadership style. It is said that if there had been primaries like it happens in US presidential elections, Modi would have won hands down. And with general mood of the public said to be swaying towards Modi, the writing was on the wall and everyone within and outside the party knew that it was just a matter of time when Modi would be garlanded as BJP’s PM candidate. Infact, things had more or less become clear when he was named his party’s poll panel chief in the Goa conclave and only few stumbling blocks like Advani’s opposition to him remained.
On the other hand, ever since the Goa conclave, Modi has been deliberately positioning himself as the man whose time had come. He has been taking on the UPA government for non-governance and corruption and he has been throwing direct challenges to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by tearing into his personality and his leadership qualities. When Modi tore to shreds PM’s speech delivered on August 15 this year, it was probably his way of sending out a message to the people of India as to the choices that they should make.
It cannot be doubted that Modi has the ability to judge the pulse of the people. Remember, in 2002, he projected himself as the savior of Hindus and targeted enemies like ‘Mian Musharraf’ and in 2007 he used Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s reference to him as the “Maut ka Saudagar” to his advantage. Modi is very active on social media as he knows that he can connect with the youth on this platform. He is said to be popular amongst not only the youth but also the middle class and if this could translate into votes, then his road to the top post in the country will become easier.
The country may be divided into Modi-lovers and Modi-haters, but it cannot be denied that in spite of the sword of 2002 riots hanging over him, something that he has never apologized for, maintaining that he had done no wrong, the Gujarat CM was BJP’s best bet for 2014. Whether the move will get them dividends, will only be unraveled after the last vote is counted next year, but one thing is sure, the Congress will have to get their house in order and come up with a face to counter Narendra Modi.
Post Script: After Modi won the elections in Gujarat in 2012, his mother Hira Ba expressed her wish that her son should become the Prime Minister of the country. She told Zee News – “He has worked hard, he should now become PM.” “He does what he says,” she added. Well, who knows, the man who seems to be oozing with confidence at this moment, may just lead his party back into power next year and in the process, fulfill the wishes of his mother.