Monday, October 13, 2014

By Winning Assemblies, PM aims, ..... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/October 12, 2014

Modi addresses a rally at Pimpri in Pune

By Winning Assemblies, PM Aims to Decimate Regional Chiefs and Capture Rajya Sabha

Normally, after winning a war, losing a few minor battles shouldn’t bother a warrior. But PM Narendra Modi and his trusted party chief Amit Shah are treating the upcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana as yet another war to be won in order to consolidate their control over India’s political market. If the colour and character of their campaign are indications, it is a fight between Modi and the rest—it’s Lok Sabha election redux, with the BJP projecting NaMo as its only candidate in all the 288 and 90 Assembly seats in Maharashtra and Haryana respectively.
Never since Independence has a PM become the lone star of a local election. Starting from the Delhi border with Rajasthan on one side and Uttar Pradesh on the other, all roads, walls and hoardings carry only Modi’s redoubtable visage. The name and picture of the local candidate is hardly visible or advertised. The BJP’s election slogan has also been chosen thoughtfully. If the war cry in the 2014 General Elections was Abki Baar Modi Sarkar (It’s time for a Modi government), it has coined an extended slogan, Chalo Chalein Modi Ke Saath (Let’s move with Modi) for the states. The party and its leaders, whether it is Shah or any Cabinet minister, never disclose the name of the CM candidate in a state poll. Instead they ask voters to vote for a government, which will work with Modi. Modi promises a Team India comprising CMs from his party alone. This is contrary to his announcement during the Lok Sabha election campaign that all CMs, irrespective of their political affiliations, would be co-opted. But the tone and tenor of Modi’s speeches during the Assembly poll campaigns reflect a resolve to establish his control over a large swathe of political India. His discourse sounds exactly like Indira Gandhi’s, who promoted a strong Centre and weak states during her reign. Modi himself was as a chief minister for 12 years. Now that he is India’s PM, he would like his model to be implemented unchallenged. If the Congress sans Indira or any other Gandhi is like a vehicle that has run out of fuel, the BJP without Modi is like a fish out of water. Modi has credibility and vigour to be numero uno, while the BJP lacks any of these virtues. The party couldn’t find winnable candidates in over 30 per cent of the constituencies in Haryana and Maharashtra. When the public simulacrum reflected a massive defeat for the BJP minus a charismatic local chieftain, it decided to invoke Moditva. It is for the first time that a PM is addressing such a large number of rallies during any Assembly poll.

Modi is aiming at more than a decisive victory in the two states. He sees an invincible opportunity. If he wins both, it would be the beginning of the BJP seizing better control not only in the states but also in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in a hopeless minority. Moreover, a victory will also provide him with the authority to impose CMs of his choice in Maharashtra and Haryana. Currently, barring Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel, the previous establishment had chosen the remaining three CMs in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Modi decided to take charge of the Assembly campaign after the party suffered humiliating defeats in the by-polls held in Bihar, UP and Rajasthan in July. Soon after his return from a highly successful trip to the US, Modi decided to defy the convention of the PM’s minimum participation in regional elections. He sent clear signals that he would be available for any number of rallies in any part of the two states, even at the cost of getting a sore throat.

NaMo is neither a compromiser nor a reconciliator regarding his principles or mission. Contrary to general belief, it was only after his nudge and nod that the party broke its 25-year-old alliance with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and a decade-old relationship with Haryana Janhit Congress led by Kuldeep Bishnoi. Modi wanted to send a clear message to his (diminished) detractors in the party that he doesn’t need them and that his dependable party chief can deliver the states without the help of allies. Its political divorces have left BJP without any significant ally in all the major states. Earlier, it had broken ties with Nitish Kumar in Bihar. At the moment, it has picayune parties like the Akali Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan as partners, along with Chandrababu Naidu. The viciousness of the speeches being made in Haryana by saffron leaders against the Akali Dal is an indication of BJP’s strained relationship with the Punjab party.

Modi’s road map is clear. He wants the BJP to jettison needling regional allies and capture as many states as possible alone. His real purpose is to improve the BJP’s strength in the Rajya Sabha, which can happen only if it gets a majority on its own in the states. If they continue to remain under non-BJP control, the party wouldn’t be able to increase its current number of 43 MPs to 60 in the next 10 years. Maharashtra sends 19 members to the Rajya Sabha, the second highest after Uttar Pradesh, which has 31. At the moment, the BJP has only three members from the Maratha state. Modi wants to treble his party’s tally. Before his five-year term expires, 20 states would have gone to the polls. Modi has targeted Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Karnataka, which account for over 90 seats while the BJP has just about a dozen from these states. Once he captures Maharashtra and Haryana, no party would be able to stop the Modi juggernaut from capturing the other states. NaMo has already set new records in politics. But for him, even the sky is not the limit. When challenged, Modi’s posture becomes even more determined. His current endeavour seems to be to decimate regional leaders and become India’s most feared and adored national leader.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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