The next General Election is not far away – it could be held on schedule in the first half of 2014 or it could be a snap poll considering the troubles that keep raising their head for the corruption-besieged UPA government.
And in the run-up to the all crucial polls – it could be a hat-trick for the UPA or the NDA’s moment of glory after two consecutive drubbings – the two main national parties are in altogether different modes of preparations.
While on the one hand the BJP appears to be consolidating its leadership structure following the Nitin Gadkari episode, the Congress on the other is not just looking like a divided house but also a party with a confused leadership.
With less than a year-and-a-half to go for the national polls, it is fast becoming clear that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would be (or could be) the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Leader after leader from the main Opposition party has come out lauding Modi, his governance style in Gujarat and his capability as a leader who could take up a national role. Be it LK Advani, Arun Jaitley or Rajnath Singh – not to forget the VHP and the RSS - all have heaped praise on Modi – directly or indirectly.
All recent national meets of the Bharatiya Janata Party have seen Modi become the focus and talking point. Not just the senior leaders but also party workers from across the country see Modi as their best bet to return to power at the Centre. There is a belief within the party that from the current leadership, only Modi has the enigma and the power to win votes, notwithstanding his alleged involvement in the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
Modi too, on his part, has been consolidating his candidature for an inevitable national role. His third consecutive victory in the Gujarat Assembly polls put a stamp of approval on his eventual move to Delhi. His interactions with the corporate world and rolling of red carpet for the industry in Gujarat have helped him win accolades from the business world as well. Couple this with Gujarat’s growth record and Modi has a point to make – that he knows how to manage the economy and its players.
Voters would surely view this achievement as a positive sign, as rising prices and a slowing economy under the UPA-2 regime have made life difficult for the common man.
There would be critics claiming Modi would not do justice to India’s secular image in and outside the country, but the fact is, in today’s world most voters care for development and better standards of living than anything else. More than a leader’s ideology, they look for his capability to run the government and take forward the development process.
Meanwhile, the Congress - after being in power for two consecutive terms - appears to be eroding its support base – both current and prospective. Its image has been marred by humongous corruption scandals and the failure of the leadership to speak in one voice has only worsened the matter.
Rahul Gandhi – the Congress scion widely viewed as the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the next elections – seems uninterested in the job. Rahul recently said he should not be asked questions on him taking up the post of PM, suggesting the same was not his priority. “Asking me whether you want to be prime minister is a wrong question,” Rahul said.
The remarks came just weeks after he was anointed the vice president of the Congress party, officially naming him as the second most powerful in the Congress after mother Sonia Gandhi. The move was seen as an indication that Rahul was finally readying to take up a bigger role in national politics.
However, Rahul’s remarks that he was not aiming for the PM’s post have only created more confusion.
Only a day after Rahul made the remarks, the All Indian Congress Committee (AICC) came out with a statement saying he was “the most appropriate candidate” for the PM’s post.
What do these varying statements suggest? That either Rahul himself is not sure about his role in politics or he is being forced into the role by his ‘loyal’ party workers.
Whatever is the reason behind such a confused state of mind within the Congress, one thing is sure that it is doing irreparable damage to the support base of the party aiming for a third successive win.
Unlike Modi, Rahul does not have much to boast about while seeking votes, apart from the fact that he belongs to the Gandhi family. And that too is a quality for only those who believe in dynastic politics – it would be hard to say the youth of this country would vote for a family over a capable leader, whoever it may be.
Rahul has also failed to connect with voters at the time he should have. One glaring example is the Delhi gang-rape case. During massive protests led by the youth, Rahul ought to have spoken to the demonstrators. Instead, he chose to stay mum.
Modi may have had a controversial past but his ability to connect with voters has won him support. His innovative 3D campaign in the recently concluded Gujarat polls was an attraction for voters.
But what does Rahul have to show to voters? I think, literally nothing! He even appears to be lacking the conviction to become a people-friendly politician, with whom voters would want to connect or look up to.
Even a recent poll by a market research agency put Modi as the most popular choice for the PM’s post (43 per cent); Rahul was the second best choice at 36%.
It’s high time the Congress set its house in order and brought in clarity in the leadership structure. The dilly-dallying over Rahul Gandhi has the potential to sink the Congress ship in 2014 polls.