Monday, July 08, 2013

Why Narendra Modi Has More Realistic Chance In 2019?

By Avinash Avasthi / Delhi

For Narendra Modi‘s supporters there is nothing beyond the 2014 elections. So every alliance broken, every leader brushed aside and every political leader who criticises is meant to be set aside as the Gujarat Chief Minister’s campaign machinery rolls on towards the 2014 polls. But are the numbers against him?

In an excellent analysis of the ‘Modi phenomenon’ in India in the Indian Express, Ashutosh Varshney notes that the Gujarat Chief Minister would need to be a trailblazer of sorts rarely seen in India before and maybe his supporters and BJP are being a bit too hopeful of an impending victory in 2014.
He points out that the BJP has seen its vote share decline over the last three elections to 18.8 percent, and though the party can hope for 18 to 20 percent of the vote share to get to 180 seats, a more practical assumption would be that Modi needs to raise the party’s vote share by 5 to 6 percentage points.

What is that in numbers assuming an electorate of 800 million votes in the 2014 polls? 25 to 30 million votes.

It isn’t impossible to raise one’s vote share by that much, and Varshney points to three instances when it happened: in 1984 for the Congress after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, in 1991 for the BJP over the Ayodhya temple issue and in 1998 for the BJP, because of allies who delivered the numbers.

There is a strong anti-incumbency wave among the electorate against the Congress and the UPA but would it be one that would result in 25 million votes going in Modi’s favour?

Varshney, maybe rightly, points out that it is unlikely given the Gujarat Chief Minister’s personality cult is one that is still resonates only with urban voters. He says:

First, beyond Gujarat, the rural folk, who still determine India’s election results, have not heard of the Gujarat model. And it is virtually impossible to turn rural constituencies around in a matter of months. It is a longer political project. Second, it is also not clear that, beyond Gujarat, the urban poor share the urban middle class passion for Modi. And the numbers of the urban poor are substantial. Third, in southern and eastern India, even in cities, the BJP’s presence is minimal.

While Varshney finds fault with the numbers against Modi, in an editorial in the Hindu, Harish Khare finds more wrong with the personality cult of the Gujarat Chief Minister, something he claims the BJP has tried to ride on in the past and failed.

Pointing to the support of the cadre in favour of the Gujarat Chief Minister, he says:

Modi is equally entitled to his personality cult. But make no mistake. Mr. Modi is a different personality, not easily amenable to democratic moderation. We should get used to “Rambo” type yarns, as the polity seeks to redefine itself in the next general election.

Khare says that the Gujarat Chief Minister may seek to harness the strong anti-incumbency but warns that the drowning voices of dissent against anything anti-Modi doesn’t augur well for the democracy that is India.

The liberal perception and numbers may be against the Gujarat Chief Minister and it may explain why the BJP 2014 campaign chief is urging his party members to find allies quickly to create the numbers the party needs to come to power. The Gujarat Chief Minister may also, in some corner, be willing to play along with alliance politics to forgo the Prime Minister’s chair for a later innings in 2019 or after. The question is, will his supporters be able to wait?