Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Five Questions That Haunt Narendra Modi

Maun Ke Saudagar!

Poll pundits and pollsters are predicting a clean sweep for chief minister Narendra Modi in the December assembly elections. Yet, it is the complacency among cadres and the silence of his rivals that is unnerving Modi. Harit Mehta raises a few questions that are clearly weighing on the mind of the ‘Vote ka Saudagar’

1 Will people march out to vote if Modi’s victory is taken for granted? 
At least two reputed poll surveys have given the BJP a sweeping majority, triggering silent celebrations within the party. But, a few are discussing the fine-print of these polls. One is the popularity of Keshubhai Patel, which has more than doubled as compared to 2007. Besides, fewer people feel that the situation is tough for Modi today than it was in 2007, when his supporters had voluntarily poured out to ‘save’ the CM who said he was being “targeted by enemies of Gujarat”. 2 Are party workers over-reliant on Modi and not putting in much effort? 
Narendrabhai will pull a trick out of his hat at the last minute,” is a common buzz among BJP cadres who are convinced Modi is still hiding a trump card. Those who have seen BJP grow from strength to strength in Gujarat say never before have workers been so confident of victory. A cadre-driven party, foot-soldiers have
    been BJP’s real strength as they bridge
    the divide between voters and
    polling stations. 3 Does the no-attack policy of Congress blunt Modi? 
Unlike elections in 2002 and 2007, this time around Modi is fighting a poll devoid of any emotive issue. Riots and the ‘Maut ka Saudagar’ comment on fake encounters had fired up the previous two elections. This time around, no senior Congress leader has reacted to Modi’s repeated provocative comments against Sonia Gandhi, Robert Vadra, Shashi Tharoor and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who he refers to as ‘Maunmohan Singh. The Congress is not getting into a debate Modi is so keen on. “He is waiting for one loose ball to hit a six. But, it is not coming,” said a senior BJP leader. 4 If the voters don’t like Congress, is Keshubhai’s GPP a viable option? 
For the first time after 1995, when BJP came to power on its own, the Congress is showing resolve. Congress workers are putting up a united front, innovating on the go with their campaign. They are at their aggressive best. Keshubhai’s Gujarat Parivartan Party is another factor senior BJP leaders are wary of with the grand old man poised to become a rallying point for all anti-Modi forces in the Sangh Parivar. This is the first election in which Modi has a triangular battle on hand, with a clear third force which threatens to eat into the BJP vote-bank, even if his cronies believe this is ‘a one-sided fight’. 5 Is there a gap between the hype around Modi’s claims and the real Gujarat? 
The run-up to this assembly polls has some similarities with two of the biggest upsets in Indian politics in a single year. One, the ‘India Shining’ campaign by Atal Behari Vajpayee-led BJP and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandra Babu Naidu’s loss in 2004 despite him having the image of the state’s development-oriented CEO. Both campaigns painted a picture which wasn’t true on the ground.