Monday, 4 March 2013

NaMo- To PM or not to PM

Based on recent developments, it would appear that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is going to be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections. As you would expect with 'NaMo', the social media is already abuzz with talks of an unstoppable force. Is it really quite as simple as that? Let's do the maths.

In the 543 member Lok Sabha, any party wishing to stake a claim to form the government needs the support of at least 272 members. There is little in the BJP's recent track record to suggest that its going to get even close. 

Even in the late 90s, when the party's popularity was at its peak, its count never crossed 182. Its seat count in the 2004 elections shrunk to 137, dipping further to 116 in 2009. Given such a background and the sorry state of party (ageing leadership+ weak agenda+ contention among workers) today, chances of BJP substantially improving its electoral performance are slim.

Even if one were to assume that the so-called magic of Modi does work and the BJP manages to get 180 seats in the Lok Sabha- a wildly optimistic scenario there- it would still leave them  92 seats short of the magic figure of 272. Needless to say, in such a situation, the party will need allies to form a government. As I see it, only smaller parties like BJD and Shiv Sena are likely to offer them assured support, among all their allies. 

We can safely rule out any support from the two Yadavs (Mulayam and Lalu), who have a substantial Muslim support base and therefore, are not going to support a man who is widely perceived to be responsible for the anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002. We can just as well rule out Nitish Kumar, who has long since made his intention clear as far as Modi's candidature is concerned. Another significant player, Mayawati, is highly unlikely to support Modi for precisely the same reason, which means that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, electorally the two most important states, are out of the picture.

Another significant block, the Communists, are surely not going to support the BJP, given the history of mutual (and frequently bloody) antagonism. Support from Jayalalitha's AIADMK is largely unpredictable while Mamata Bannerjee's Trinamool Congress is at best a poisoned chalice, leaving NaMo counting on (possibly) a handful of independents. While the BJP might manage to secure their support in normal circumstances, its doubtful whether any of those leaders will take the risk of supporting a polarising figure like Narendra Modi- that would be a massive political risk.

You can now imagine the himalayan obstacles that NaMo has to surmount, quite apart from his own reputation. What actually happened in 2002 may still be under debate, but voters decisions are guided by perception, not facts and even his most ardent supporter would agree that the general perception of Mr. Modi's past is far from positive.

I think standing for prime ministership will be the biggest mistake of Modi's career. Defeat, which is more than likely, will debunk the myth of his being unstoppable. In the event of  victory, the tiger of Gujarat will find his wings clipped by dictates of coalition politics, delivering a fatal blow to his 'iron man' image. Either way, Modi faces a lose-lose situation. The wisest thing he could do right now is to pull out of the race. 


MS said...

You have very candidly summed up the ground realities. The article is very well researched and written. Kudos to you.

Swamy said...

Modi will find it hard to win in 2014 given the coalition politics emerged in the last decade. Politics today is driven by caste/religion basis and no where Modi can make it to the national.

You have summarized well with all possible options where Modi can fail to be a consensus PM candidate.

My other thought is that let Modi make amendments to 2002 and also change the ground realities on malnutrition in Gujarat. He has age to his side and should work hard to get his way to North Block in Delhi.