State of affairs of Modi’s push for 7, RCR
Let’s take a look at the three big challenges that Narendra Modi faces in the time that remains to the 2014 election.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate will be filling in his schedule for the next seven months, and he will need to spend energy and effort on these, his main concerns.
They are: bringing in BJP dissidents, ensuring returns from the states where the BJP is strong, and third, keeping allies and prospective allies onside.
The main internal issue is to bring about reconciliation in Karnataka. This southern state surprisingly returned the most BJP MPs, 19 in all, to the Lok Sabha in 2009.
But the performance of the party in this year’s Assembly election portends a disaster for next year. The BJP came third, behind Congress and H.D. Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal faction. The damage to the BJP came from the Lingayat leader and former chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, who split the party and the pro-BJP vote. His return is necessary for the BJP to claw back in the state and though his personal equation with Mr Modi is very good, much work will be needed by Mr Modi to bring him into the party again.
Mr Yeddyurappa’s take-it-or-leave-it demand was that he be put in charge of the state unit entirely. Mr Modi cannot accept this demand now without serious opposition from both the other Karnataka leaders, such as Ananth Kumar, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He will need tact and guile to resolve this quickly.
If Karnataka stands resolved, Mr Modi’s problems on the state front recede considerably. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat are each expected to give the BJP a healthy number of seats. The two states where work will then be needed are Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Uttar Pradesh is the keystone state. If Mr Modi is able to revive the party there he will become Prime Minister. We must remember that the only time the BJP has swept India’s biggest state is when it has been in uncompromisingly Hindutva mode and the state has been divided along communal lines and polarised, as it was during the Ayodhya movement.
The recent riots in Uttar Pradesh may indicate a return to the early 1990s mood that saw the rise of the party there. Mr Modi has deputed his most trusted aide, former deputy home minister Amit Shah to Uttar Pradesh. Mr Shah’s job will be to get the traditional BJP voting castes, such as Thakurs, Bhumihars, Jats and the upper castes to rally behind the party. This will be tough, but it is achievable because the BJP has retained a somewhat healthy vote share in the state over the years.
Bihar gave the BJP 12 MPs and at the moment, despite the bravado of the state unit, this seems like a write-off. The party base in Bihar is primarily upper class and not large enough to deliver seats without an ally.
Mr Modi will need to keep his namesake, Bihar’s party leader Sushil Modi, enthused. He will also somehow need to make sure that Nitish Kumar keeps his options open after the election. Bihar is too large a state for
Mr Modi to give up if his party does not perform well there.
Among the other potential allies, J. Jayalalithaa of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will have no problem going with Mr Modi if he delivers the numbers. That leaves three important states where Mr Modi must build bridges: Andhra Pradesh (with Jaganmohan Reddy), Orissa (with Naveen Patnaik) and West Bengal (with Mamata Banerjee).
He cannot, and he will realise this, depends purely on getting 200-plus seats and expecting the rest to fall into place. He must soften those parties who will bring him close to 272 and he must start doing this immediately.
Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist