Not Just NaMo or RaGa, 2014's Wrestling Bouts Will be Between Many PM Aspirants
The PM copyright has expired. Copycats rule. Narendra Modi is no longer the only declared Prime Ministerial candidate of a political party. The liege lords and ladies of the AIADMK, TMC, SP and Congress have begun confabulations with their paladins to declare themselves as contenders for India’s top job. Surprisingly, NaMo’s monopoly was effectively challenged by none other than one considered his natural ally in the run-up to the 2014 elections. Last week, the general council of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) unanimously passed a resolution that the party would like to see its supreme leader, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, become the Prime Minister. Their justification in staking the claim was purely regional. The party claimed that only a Tamilian could protect the interests of other Tamilians. Though Jaya has been speaking extensively on national issues and taking on the UPA government even on international subjects, it was for the first time that the AIADMK invoked local sentiments to project her as the most suitable candidate to lead the nation. If the BJP leaders are to be trusted, Jaya’s surprise gauntlet has shocked the party. Tamil Nadu sends 39 MPs to the Lok Sabha as against 26 from Gujarat. Like NaMo, Jaya is also known for her decisiveness, economic liberalism and running her state with an iron hand. She believes in free market economy and single window clearances for all projects. Her second term has been the most effective, and she has been delivering on many fronts. The similarity between 63-year-old NaMo and 65-year-old Jaya doesn’t end there. Both have successfully decimated their opponents in the state. The Southern Queen may not be crisscrossing the nation and addressing choreographed rallies like her Gujarat counterpart yet, but she has been making the right noises about federal character, UPA’s faulty economic policies while keeping away from controversial issues.
It wasn’t just Jaya’s candidature, which disturbed the high stakes game of selecting India’s next Prime Minister. L K Advani left tongues wagging with his unilateral declaration to contest Lok Sabha elections again from Gandhi Nagar in 2014; and no one has, till now, advised him not to enter the fray. Of late, Advani is seen more often in NaMo’s company, but his presence in the next Parliament would mean new partnership options would open for current and future allies. In case the NDA falls short of the magic number of 200 seats, Advani would be the front runner for Prime Minister, not NaMo.
While the NDA is busy putting its house together, the Congress and non-NDA parties have also started thinking in terms of how to challenge Modi. The buzz in political circles is that those who expect to win 30-plus seats will be the ones to declare their national intentions. They have already announced their distaste to partner with either the Congress or BJP. This triumphant trio is Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Jayalalithaa. Each of them is capable of winning more than 30 seats on their own in their states. Jayalalithaa’s singularity is that she enjoys the Left’s support and maintains good relations with Sharad Pawar, Naveen Patnaik and Chandrababu Naidu. Opposition to her will come from North Indian leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar and even Mamata. Jayalalithaa enthusiasts expect that she would need to muster the support of over 80 MPs from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to be Prime Minister. Odisha, Maharashtra and the NDA may extend support to her. In another scenario, the Congress and Left may prop her up to keep the NDA out of power. The nation may see over half a dozen visibly declared candidates on the oratorical skyline by the time the dates for the General Elections are announced. Some of them will try social engineering by forging caste and religion. Others could seek an ideological mandate. Once again, the choice of India’s Prime Minister is no longer limited to candidates from the two national parties. In 1996, regional outfits favoured the regional satrap H D Deve Gowda because none of the national leaders such as V P Singh or Jyoti Basu were willing to accept the responsibility of being a precarious Prime Minister.
But the Congress hasn’t given up on its claim to govern India for the third consecutive term. Since it has announced the date of the AICC session in advance, speculation is rife about Rahul Gandhi being formally declared as the party’s challenger to NaMo. The 41-year-old inheritor has decided to take the plunge and lead the party from the front. He may not be formally declared the party’s prime ministerial candidate before the elections. But the Congress could also project a Dalit or a woman with clean record as the party’s face for 2014. Rahul’s only objective and mission is to block the BJP from becoming the largest single party and stop the relentless advance of the NaMo juggernaut in its tracks. The young Gandhi and his team are convinced that their party’s future lies not in the gains it makes in 2014 but in its ability to demolish NaMo’s larger-than-life hologram. Hence, they are thinking of even supporting a non-Gandhi Congressman as Prime Minister or perhaps adopt one from a non-BJP coalition. Taking a cue from its mauling in Delhi and elsewhere, the Congress plans to retain and woo the minorities which stood by it in the Delhi Assembly polls. 2014 is as much a make or break opportunity for RaGa as it is for NaMo. Do not expect a war of ideologies. Welcome to the desi political ring of Indian-style wrestling between home-grown opponents. The one with the most innovative manoeuvres will be the victor.
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