Why Modi could mean trouble for national BJP

by Akshaya Mishra  Dec 4, 2012 20:02 IST

#BJP   #Narendra Modi   #PoliticsDecoder  

The adulation for Narendra Modi borders on the farcical. Scratch the surface and read beyond the effusiveness, you will discover the deep-seated insecurity in the amorphous entity called the Indian Right. Implicit in the desperate promotion of Modi is the lack of trust in the present set of leaders leading the BJP. These leaders have left the faithful confused about the ideological orientation of the Right and its long-term political viability.

Let’s not fool ourselves into believing that the support for Modi online and other media is the voice of the entire urban educated middle class which is supposedly fixated on the ideas of growth and strong leadership. The easy rebuttal comes from the followers of people like Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare who also belonged to the same social and education bracket. The tone and tenor of the support for Modi reflect a pattern which agrees completely with the thought pattern of the followers of the Right.

It must be obvious to the followers that Modi, assuming he is really a miracle worker, cannot change the India story overnight or over a decade. It’s simply because the India reality is far apart from the Gujarat reality. But even that would happen only when he establishes himself as the undisputed leader of the country with overwhelming popular support. Let’s not be in denial, that won’t be easy. There are many challenges for him before he gets to that position and opposition within the Sangh Parivar and the BJP could be the smallest of these.

The adulation for Narendra Modi borders on the farcical. AFP

Let’s forget his massive image makeover exercise and come to the basic questions. Is it possible for Modi to separate himself from Hindutva inside Gujarat and beyond it? Take the Hindutva base away from his politics. Let’s say he disowns the Sangh Parivar aggressively. Can he fight and win elections on the development plank alone? No. Hindutva and development make a potent combo for him. This combination is a product of social processes that are unique to Gujarat. There’s little chance that the same formula will work in case of other states with equal impact.

To hog the national stage, Modi will need to abandon his hard line Hindtutva image. This would be necessitated by the simple fact that he needs political allies and the pan-Indian audience is much less enthused about Hindutva than the audience in Gujarat. The failure of the BJP to emerge as a strong all-India party despite the Sangh Parivar having a branch network that reaches deep and wide is proof of the reality. Will the diehard followers of Hindutva accept Modi deserting the core cause? Senior BJP leader LK Advani tried this and a paid a heavy price.

And if he is not a hard line Hindutva leader then how is he different from others? That should take us to his other poll plank: development. A part of the national audience is bowled over by the Gujarat growth story. Let’s forget that there many holes in the story and that it develops on the backdrop of the unique socio-economic setting particular to Gujarat, and assume that the Gujarat growth model, driven by industrialisation and private player participation, is the best model available to the country.

The supporters of Modi outside the state are diehard advocates of one particular economic agenda. His model fits into that. But it is difficult to ignore that opposition to that agenda is building up and spreading across the country. Protests over land, forest right and water across the country and the expanding civil society movements based on people’s rights over natural resources are proof of that. A new Left movement, far more inclusive and expansive than the earlier one, is building up. And it is attracting a lot of urban educated middle class converts. The very rationale of the idea of growth is being questioned in different circles.

The UPA, despite being more amenable to dialogues and compromises, has failed to work its way around the problem. How would Modi, known to be impatient with opposition, manage that? If he goes too hard at it, there are chances that the BJP would end up losing voters beyond the urban middle class. Can the party afford that?

Modi could turn out to be a big risk for the BJP at the national level. First, he would alienate 'secular' parties which are crucial to forming a government and then he would alienate people beyond his urban middle class base. He could end up making things worse for the party than they are at the moment. It is not possible that his supporters, particularly the educated ones, are not aware of the risks involved. It is likely that they just want to him to be at the helm in the BJP and bring some coherence to its functioning.

They are insecure and desperate. They want a deliverer and Modi works just fine. They won’t mind going to farcical extents to make their case.