Saturday, November 10, 2012

His cup of woes runneth over

His cup of woes runneth over
Drought. Rebellion. Corruption. Gujarat CM Narendra Modi faces troubles in every corner in a crucial election year, says Rana Ayyub
ON 28 July, Narendra Modi returned from his much-publicised trip to Japan. The chief minister’s office in Gandhinagar issued a press release, boasting of the impact the Modi-led business delegation and Brand Gujarat had apparently made on the Japanese. The following day, representatives of business houses that had been part of the entourage to Japan — including Reliance Industries, Torrent and the Adani Group — addressed the media to list Modi’s accomplishments.
Midway through the media conference, there was a commotion. Farmers and members of various agricultural cooperatives barged in and started shouting slogans against Modi, accusing him of favouring rich businessmen and ignoring the plight of the drought-stricken farming community. Government officials were taken aback, as were the corporate executives. The press meet had to be called off.
The incident was telling. After a decade of dominating Gujarat politics and winning two successive terms, why does it appear the 2012 polls will be Modi’s biggest challenge? Broadly, there are three reasons.
First, the economic conditions of the state, particularly the ongoing drought, have brought to the fore the divide between the haves and have-nots. Second, the rebellion against Modi in the state BJP family and the wider Sangh Parivar has reached critical mass. It threatens him like never before. Third, Modi’s own positioning — his attempt to precariously balance his identity politics in Gujarat with an inclusive image necessary for the 2014 General Election — has caused confusion and disgruntlement even among his erstwhile friends in the state as well as New Delhi.