It may not be Rahul Vs Modi
Ever since the US think tank expressed the view that Narendra Modi, the controversial Gujarat chief minister could be the BJP’s choice for Prime Ministership in the next Parliamentary elections, all newspapers and TV channels have been speculating whether it will be Modi Vs Rahul in 2014 (or earlier).
What has amazed me is how a Think Tank’s perception can be taken so seriously by the media as both the respective parties, the Congress and the BJP have yet to decide whom to project for the PM’s position during the next round. Many political pundits had even in 2009 thought that after the Congress/UPA win, Manmohan Singh will make way for Rahul to take over the Prime Minister’s position. They seemed to forget that unlike 2004, Manmohan Singh was projected as the PM candidate by the UPA/Congress and therefore the mandate in 2009 was as much for the party and its allies as it was for Singh. And therefore it would not have been an easy task to replace him with Rahul who despite being a Gandhi has many hurdles to cross before he can even think of assuming the top position. The hurdles are within his own party where a section, which enjoys power, may not easily let it go. This section realizes that there is no guarantee in politics that after a change of leadership, status quo will remain at every level. The second obstacle could be from allies who will spell out their positions at an appropriate time. As things stand today, Manmohan Singh is the biggest cementing force within the UPA despite a lot of inner contradictions and the fragile nature of the party and the alliance. Any attempt to move him or replace him could lead to an intense power struggle and I shall not be surprised if it even results in the fall of the government.
There are too many contenders for Manmohan Singh’s position within the UPA and this is where the danger lies. I am not suggesting that parties should not look beyond their present leaders but things have to be handled deftly and without incurring damage of any kind. The scams and scandals have left the UPA vulnerable and the credibility of its government is at its lowest. It is also not to suggest that Manmohan Singh is going to be the permanent PM candidate of the UPA as long as he lives but any attempt to dislodge him is not going to be easy and will not be without inherent dangers. In this context, political pundits can only speculate who the Congress leader of the future is. And therefore Rahul Gandhi’s name is spoken about as there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that he will certainly succeed his mother as the next Congress president. And if the party does well in the next elections, he will certainly be an automatic choice for the PM’s position. My guess is that he will feel more comfortable if Congress was to come to power on its own and be not dependent on any other political party. But this is an era of coalitions and it is not easy to achieve a single party majority.
For Modi to come on to the national centre stage, he will have to first and foremost get the RSS nod and later the support of the allies. He will have to be picked from a field which has Nitish Kumar, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari besides L.K.Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi. His supporters feel that Modi was the only leader in the BJP stable who can get votes on the hindutva plank even outside the Saffron sphere of influence. He could propel BJP to its highest tally in the Lok Sabha and more than182, the number the party achieved under Atal Behari Vajpayee, its tallest leader. These are all in the realm of speculation and let us wait for the elections to be announced to really know as to between whom the final contest will be. But interesting times are here. One thing is certain that the next Prime Minister of the country will be decided by the people of this country and not by any Think Tank in India or abroad.