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Nitish as PM, why not!

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Friday, September 23, 2011 - 18:44
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

BJP’s king of controversies aka Narendra Modi is back in news. Be it his recently concluded three-day fast titled ‘Sadbhawana Mission’ and a similar fast by Congress arch-rival Shankar Singh Vaghela, or the war of words between Sushma Swaraj and Mehbooba Mufti over praise, denial and accusations involving him or the US Congressional report lauding his achievements, he has been making headlines.

Much more so, that the speculations about Modi becoming the future Prime Minister of the country have been doing the rounds. What has further stirred up the BJP cauldron and triggered debate over Modi’s suitability for the top job has been a Supreme Court ruling in which it asked the trial court to probe the extent of Modi’s involvement in the post-Godhra riots in 2002.

Clearly, the apex court’s ruling was in no way a clean chit to the BJP leader, yet it was projected as a big breather for saffron leader, who is known more as the main poster boy of the right-wing Rashtriya Swyamsewak Sangh’s (RSS) Hindutva ideology.

There is no one denying the fact that today Modi is probably the tallest among the gen-next leaders of BJP. His hold on the saffron brigade, his appeal in the larger Sangh Parivar, his state’s excellent growth statistics, his immense popularity among the masses and his image as an honest and visionary leader are undeniable. But still, his prospects of becoming the Prime Minister of India looks like a farfetched thought.

His image as a hardline leader of the majority Hindus, his strong association with the RSS and the controversies surrounding him with regard to the communal riots in Gujarat are the biggest roadblocks in his ascension to the post of Prime Minister.

His calibrated attempts to woo minority Muslims will not go down well with the central leadership of the RSS, as it wants him to continue as the champion of the Hindutva ideology. Moreover, the hidden ambition of several BJP stalwarts to become Prime Minister and the ensuing infighting between the supposed power centres in the party will further complicate Modi’s election as the consensus candidate for the top job.

Another challenge, which the BJP will face if it projects Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, will be keeping the National Democratic Alliance NDA intact. BJP will lose out to several crucial allies like the Janta Dal-U, Shiromani Akali Dal and BJD etc. since they all see Modi as the biggest threat to their own existence and a blot on their secular credentials. So, in all probability, Modi will not be acceptable to BJP’s partners in the NDA.

This is the reason why the main opposition party is in denial mode on the subject and examining the pros and cons of projecting Modi as its consensus candidate.

So the million dollar question which faces BJP at the moment is: who could be the NDA’s universally accepted candidate in the prime ministerial race. After pondering over the names of several NDA big shots, I personally believe, one man who can fit the bill is Nitish Kumar-the new messiah of Bihar.

The Janata Dal(United) leader is a seasoned politician and is capable of providing a national leadership to the NDA alliance and usher the country into a new era of progress and prosperity.

The way Nitish government has transformed Bihar and pulled it back from utter poverty has been appreciated even by his staunchest rivals. Bihar'seconomic turnaround in the past five-six years during which it registered an astounding over 11 per cent growth rate is an eye-opener for those who once said that the state will never come out of the dark ages.

Bihar has truly been a great success story for the India of the new millennium. The state has now become a new model of progress which is evolving at an astonishing pace and is now among the fastest growing states of the country.

The government of Nitish Kumar has ended the jungle-raj, improved the law and order situation and generated more employment opportunities for educated, but jobless Biharis as well as for illiterate labourers through his highway projects.

The credit for reviving the fortunes of Bihar undoubtedly goes to the good governance, sound policy making and economic vision of Nitish, who has improved the overall environment to such an extent that the state is now attracting investments from big industrial houses of the country.

The biggest change which has come under the leadership of Nitish Kumar is a new sense of pride among the state’s residents over their association with Bihar. Being a Bihari is no longer a matter of shame, instead it’s matter of pride for people now. Nitish has brought back the lost self-respect of Biharis and this is why the dynamic leader got his people’s mandate for a second term as Chief Minister.

Even if BJP decides to project Modi as Prime Minister, it would still require the support of its alliance partners, which will not accept him at any cost. It is also a far-fetched thought that BJP will get a thumping majority on its own in the 2014 General Elections to be able to dictate terms to its NDA allies.

Nitish Kumar is a deadly match for the Gujarat leader since both are seasoned and charismatic politicians with mass appeal, both are known for their tough stance against corruption, and represent states where growth parameters have stunned all.

If Modi has a solid grip over BJP, Kumar is an insurmountable figure in the NDA but given the former’s anti-Muslim image, the latter clearly has an edge over him due to his secular credentials. Thus, in all probability, Nitish Kumar appears to be the safest bet for the main opposition party and the NDA at the moment.

Who knows that after careful deliberations, the NDA leadership ultimately chooses a soft-spoken and suave Nitish Kumar over hardliner Modi as its consensus candidate for the top-job.

First Published: Friday, September 23, 2011 - 18:44

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