Will Modi’s projection help the Congress more than the BJP?

Three times Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi continues to be a controversial figure and for the right or wrong reasons he has been consistently hitting the headlines. His visit to the Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) is being seen as his first attempt at launching himself on the National stage from the capital. The college where he made his speech is known for its academic excellence and has also served over the years as the cradle of many Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leaders who shot into prominence subsequently. Starting from Prof. Shriram Khanna followed by Mr Arun Jaitley, SRCC is also the alma mater of many others including Mr Vijay Goel and Mr Sudhanshu Mittal. So the choice of the venue was apparently the result of a plan, which was very well thought through.

Modi obviously enjoyed his visit to the college and tried to project himself as a development man wanting to extend his success in Gujarat on the national stage also. Inside the college, the students and the faculty received him warmly but outside in the University Campus protests broke out highlighting the chief minister’s communal streak. A large number of students (remember DUSU is controlled by the NSUI), particularly from the Leftist organizations clashed with the police to lodge their strong protest over Modi’s Univeristy trip and demanded that he should be tried for genocide of Muslims in Gujarat.

What went in Modi’s favour was that the electronic media in particular showed the speech live and followed it up with discussions in the evening where some channels billed him as the challenger to Rahul Gandhi in the next Parliamentary polls. This was indeed surprising as neither the Congress nor the BJP have officially announced as to who would be leading them in the polls and so far as Rahul and Modi are concerned they remain as the favorites till this date but not the official nominees.

Within the BJP, the Modi camp and some others are making a strong pitch for the Chief Minister whose divisive politics has earned him some very strong friends as well as enemies. The BJP, which is hoping to emerge as the single largest party in the next round of Lok Sabha elections, is still in double mind on what to do with Modi. There is one section, which is backing him out rightly, but another section believes that his candidacy may help the Congress since the Muslims who are now divided while supporting regional parties may unitedly get behind the grand old party to defeat the Saffron Brigade. Secondly, some of the allies of the BJP may distance themselves from the NDA once this happens. There are people within the Congress too who are of the view that Modi will help the Congress to re-energise itself and prevent the slide which seems inevitable now. If there is no Modi to polarize the votes, the Congress could end up with its worst performance in Parliamentary polls. Modi supporters are not willing to buy this argument and are of the opinion that the next general election will belong to Modi and no one else. The Congress has yet to make its strategy in dealing with Modi’s ambitions known but going by the halfhearted reaction from the party’s spokesman on Wednesday, the Congress has a long way to go.

Within the BJP, party chief Rajnath Singh has already made it known that the final decision will be that of the Parliamentary Board. The point to be considered is that will Modi’s candidacy help the Congress more than the BJP. The answer at the moment is blowing in the wind.

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