narendra modi is the only alternative

There is unanimity that Narendra Modi is by far the most popular leader in the BJP. The pre-election anxieties across regional parties over a Modi-led Government are well known, given the propensity of the Congress to drive a wedge in the hope of consolidating Muslim votes. But if Modi were to do a Erdogan, it could prove to be a game-changer The current political impasse in New Delhi has the punditry’s imagination running wild in search of parallels. While parallels with Jallianwala Bagh and Emergency have run their course, a more familiar parallel is beginning to do the rounds in New Delhi. India in the year 2014 may not quite look like India back in the year 1989 or for that matter India in the year 1996, but that has not stopped Delhi’s ever-imaginative pundits from floating the Nitish Kumar trial balloon in their hopes of finding an acceptable alternative to the Congress. Then, of course, the disingenuous Delhi pundits fail to remind you of the steep price India paid every time the Tail Wagged the Dog in the corridors of power in Delhi. It is one thing if Delhi’s punditry demonstrated some boldness to go with their imagination by calling on the JD(U) to merge with the BJP for us to take this wishful thinking with some seriousness. But bold imagination is not to be found in Delhi. Hence we are fed on this fiction of a Nitish Kumar-led future without any one of these worthy minds telling us how exactly a party with less than 30 Members of Parliament will lead a Government that would be any more credible than a HD Deve Gowda-led United Front or any more stable than a VP Singh-National Front or any more respectable than a lightweight IK Gujral-led Third Front Government. Let us be clear: A JD(U)-NDA would be no NDA but merely a rerun of that sterile idea called the Third Front, albeit propped up by the BJP instead of the discredited Congress as was the case in its previous two avatars. The Delhi establishment’s infatuation with the Third Front is understandable. It gets them a soft Left-liberal agenda without any of the Congress’s dynastic arrogance. The relatively weak nature of the coalition will make for all kinds of ‘civil society’ interventions that sustain the NGO economy in New Delhi with perhaps a more level playing field unlike the current NGO-isation under the UPA regime which has seen disproportionate benefits accrue to only one segment of the Left-liberal NGO eco-system. Unlike the National Front and the subsequent United Front experiments, both of which saw the BJP rise in the wake of their untimely and unceremonious demise, a third coming of this experiment with the JD(U) at the helm will be no boon for the BJP. In fact, if anything it will further stunt the growth of the BJP and here is why. A Third Front propped up by the BJP will be bound to collapse under the weight of its inherent contradictions. The blame for the ensuing instability will largely accrue to the BJP for two reasons. The Congress, having served two listless but full terms, will go to town on the BJP’s inability to offer a seemingly stable Government while the JD(U) leadership will get to play victim. Barring the irrational sentiment of anti-Congressism at any cost, there just is no realpolitik in the BJP propping up a JD(U)-led Third Front Government to the detriment of its own enlightened self-interest. Speculation in some quarters over the BJP projecting a Vajpayee like acceptable figure ahead of the 2014 election may have been spiked if recent reports in the media are anything go by on the party’s decision not to project a candidate for the Prime Minister’s job. There is wisdom in the BJP taking this tack, if indeed those media reports are true. By doing so the BJP shifts the focus away from the internecine battle over succession in a post-LK Advani era. It also sets a high bar for prospective candidates with aspirations that they will not go into the election with a sense of entitlement but instead would have to earn their right to lead, based on both the perceived and real value addition to the BJP’s performance. While the BJP may not have institutionalised its mechanisms for a pre-election process of electing a popular leader by tapping into the sentiment across its base via a primary of sorts, there is unanimity across political commentators that Mr Narendra Modi is by far the most popular leader. The pre-election anxieties across the regional parties over a Narendra Modi-led Government are well known, given the propensity of the Congress to drive a wedge in the hope of consolidating the Muslim vote-bank. However if Mr Modi were to do an Erdogan it could prove to be a game-changing move. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has charted an arduous path to the country’s premiership for the third time last week. If there is one parallel that can be made over the current political environment in India, it is with Turkey back in the early-2000s with the fundamentalist secular elite seeking to disbar Mr Erdogan from holding high office. A similar veto by default is being exercised by New Delhi’s elite punditry against Mr Modi with this talk of acceptability of a prospective NDA leader sans actual mandate backed by hard electoral votes. The parallel with Mr Erdogan does not end with the secular veto. Both Mr Erdogan and Mr Modi are performers on the economic front given their appeal among the aspirational middle class voters. Drawing on Mr Erdogan’s path to power, Mr Modi could don the mantle of leading the political movement against the UPA come next election while opting to stay out of office. In Mr Erdogan’s case reconciliation came via a constitutional amendment that paved the way for him to hold office. There is no constitutional bar on Mr Modi occupying high office. Reconciliation can, however, come from suitable political moves once the UPA has been voted out. While the details need to be worked on what such a political framework for reconciliation might be, the BJP cannot be in denial over the impulses that have led to the framing of the Communal Violence Bill drafted by the National Advisory Council led by Ms Sonia Gandhi. A framework for national reconciliation could be the BJP-NDA’s answer to the flawed Communal Violence Bill from the NAC. By championing the political process by which such reconciliation takes place while opting to stay out of office, Mr Modi could chart a path to Delhi, drawing on the Erdogan parallel. In the bargain India will get a stable political alternative to the Congress with a track record of economic performance having reconciled communal fault lines, instead of another VP Singh who might further micro-mandalise Indian society while perpetuating the entitlement economy.

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