Issue of secularism may gain spotlight in ’14 polls

With the BJP projecting Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, the issue of secularism appears to have come into the spotlight. Congress leaders maintain that there would be sharp polarisation, particularly in Uttar Pradesh where there are 80 Lok Sabha seats at the stake, and the party could benefit in the end.

JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav put across his views that the issue of secularism would gain prominence in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. With Mr Modi baiters set to unleash charges related to the post-Godhra riots, regional parties, particularly the Samajwadi Party, appear worried that the Congress could become a choice for the Muslim voters as anti-incumbency factors against the ruling UPA may take a back seat.
With UP already in the grip of riots and first hints of communal polarisation in sight, the SP leadership has begun damage control to win back the dissident Muslim leader Azam Khan, who was seen to have caused much damage to the party in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by working behind the scene for the Congress.
“Mr Modi as the PM candidate suits us as the nation will judge him on his deeds during the post-Godhra riots. As the electoral battle will be more on the core secularism issue, we may take comfort in the fact that the negativism surrounding the alleged scams could take back seat. In fact, Mr Modi can help the Congress to be the principal foe of the BJP in states like UP by diminishing the importance of the regional parties like SP and BSP,” said a senior Congress leader.
But political observers are of the view that it would be a tough task for the Congress to repeat the 2009 Lok Sabha victory in UP when the party bagged 21 seats as the win was due to clean and pro-growth image of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
While the BJP hopes to win the urban vote base by riding on the popularity of Mr Modi, the Congress would like to consolidate the rural base by selling the big ticket right based entitlements in the forms of food security, rural employment.

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