Why the media furore over Rajnath's 'Modi' comments is an overreaction

The buzz surrounding the BJP and Narendra Modi is getting louder and louder, with speculation rising that the Gujarat Chief Minister will be declared Prime Ministerial candidate sooner rather than later. However, it seems to be the media that is seeing the Prime Ministerial nomination at every corner.

Earlier this month, a report in the Economic Times said that the party was going to make a formal announcement in this regard by the end of July.

The report said, “Narendra Modi will be formally named BJP’s prime ministerial candidate by July end, ending all ambiguity on his projection as the party’s face for the next general elections and setting the stage for a direct contest between the Gujarat chief minister and Congress scion Rahul Gandhi.”

It also said that the RSS has announced its backing for the move, and had conveyed its approval to the senior BJP leadership.



And with political reporters watching the BJP top leadership like hawks, it is little surprise really that comments by party president Rajnath Singh on Sunday have been construed to mean a 'virtual appointment' of Modi.

The comments in question were made at a press conference in New York where the party president praised Modi and said, “He is a crowd puller not only in Gujarat but also in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – from North to South, East to West. He is one single leader with national appeal. His popularity will help the party in the elections,” he said.

“Seven months before the elections, I have nominated Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as Chairman of the party’s Election Campaign Committee. What is unusual in that? We have nominated Modi like other parties do and why read between lines. I have named him as campaign head in view of his image, popularity and commitment to the party", he added.

There was no direct endorsement of Modi as PM candidate though, and these same comments have been construed by other media outlets to mean that the party is not yet ready to name him as its aspirant to the top post.

Which brings us to the question: is the media more keen than the BJP to see Modi named as PM candidate?

As Firstpost noted earlier, there is little doubt about the fact that the BJP will leave no stone unturned to bolster their prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Given that the Congress has served them issues to exploit during the poll campaign on a platter, BJP will be looking forward to covering up whatever mess is their on its own tracks. One of the issues that the BJP will need to battle in these polls is the Congress’ constant reference to their communally divisive nature.

The cost of declaring Modi as PM candidate is not a small one, as it is bound to affect the likelihood of other parties joining hands with the BJP in the run up to the elections and could adversely affect the likelihood of coalition partnerships.

Both the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, which depend heavily on wooing the Muslim vote, will not want to be allied with a Modi-fronted BJP. The JD(U) has already split from the NDA and although Jayalalithaa has declared Modi a ‘personal friend’ the party will also be hard pressed to do very well in the South.

However, it is evident from popular political discourses in mainstream media and social media that if there is one person who can propel BJP towards victory, it has to be Modi. Like it was observed in this Firstpost article, if the electorate in individual states have to be compelled to look beyond their local concerns, they have to be drawn into a dialogue with a leader who has pan-Indian appeal. From the looks of it, no other BJP leader seems to have that kind of an appeal as Modi has with some sections of the society across India.

Finally, as Firstpost editor R Jagannathan pointed out, unwilling allies will cross over to the BJP’s side if Modi ends up leading his party to victory without them.

“Even the consensus against Modi may be ephemeral: it will hold only if Modi takes his party to defeat. If he fares well, opinion on him will change. The one thing on which all Indian politicians have another hidden consensus is this: if you have the numbers I will change my tune. Power builds consensus like nothing else. Narendra Modi‘s splendid isolation will end the day he demonstrates power in numbers. The right excuses will be found to align with him when that happens”

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2013 15:03 PM

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