In the 1st post on Elections 2014 we take a look at BJP (the leading opposition party), recent events, internal politics and prospects.
BJP Takes a Punt – Declares NaMo as Head of Election Campaign Committee
BJP has gambled big time by declaring NaMo, three times Chief Minister of Gujarat, as its Chief Election Campaigner. It was feared that this move could increase infighting in BJP, alienate Muslim voters as well as some NDA partners. There was a lot of resistance and debate internally before appointing him (after all BJP is a democratic party).
The fears appeared to be true when sulken BJP patriarch Advani resigned (only to take it back in 48 hours) and long time ally JD(U) broke ties with BJP.
Feel the decision to nominate NaMo is a bold one, however it’s also true that BJP had no choice and he is party’s best bet. Its like putting your best batsman (Tendulkar) forward to open the innings when chasing a huge total. NaMo is party’s most popular leader, thanks to development work in Gujarat, a smart / effective PR campaign and has a strong appeal among urban voters and youth. However he lacks rural support.
Rajnath Singh (a novice in national politics till now and a compromise candidate for BJP Party President), with the help of RSS, saw an opportunity to emerge stronger within the ranks by taking sides with NaMo in the internal power struggle. Post NaMo anointment, Rajnath has grown in confidence (as evident from election meetings, press conferences, interviews) and has increased visibility.
NaMo’s Elevation: Casualty No. 1 – Advani Resigns, Only to take it back in 48 hours
Advani (aged 84) sulked post NaMo’s anointment and resigned from all party posts. After 50+ years in party and himself being a RSS pracharak, he suddenly realized that BJP is being run by RSS and is also interfering in its day to day affairs. This he felt was not good.
It was like a son fighting with his industrialist father in old films – “Papa aap mere liye parchun ki dukan kholo nahin to main ghar se bhaag jaunga”. In the last elections BJP projected Adavni as its PM candidate and lost. Please give space to young blood. But I don’t blame him, he sees 2014 as his last chance of becoming PM, even Manmohan Singh (MMS) is aged 81 and is PM of a country whose 60% population is in the working age group (29-35).
He threw in the towel without fighting Rajnath-NaMo camp. Anything can happen after results are out and he may emerge as consensus candidate (possibility remote). Better sense prevailed and he took back his resignation. Ummeed pe duniya kayam hai.
Prediction: Advani may not be fighting this time from Gandhinagar, and will look for a safe constituency in MP / Chhatisgarh.
NaMo’s Elevation: Casualty No. 2 – JD(U) breaks ties with BJP and commits Harakiri
JD(U), BJP’s long standing ally of 17 years, called an end to its alliance post NaMo’s anointment. Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav suddenly realized that BJP is not a secular but a communal party. They felt NaMo’s elevation would alienate its Muslim votebank.
However, the real reason is that with talks of emergence of a Third Front, Nitish and Sharad both feel that they can become PM. Nobody can stop them from day dreaming. My friends if Deve Gowda and Gujral could become PM with 20 seats why not Nitish / Sharad. Plus Nitish for some reason doesn’t like NaMo (perhaps jealousy).
Nitish and Sharad are worried about the 15% Muslim votes in Bihar. Is desh ka durbhagya hai ki koi 85% Hindu votes ke baare mein nahin sochta hai. They feel that they would get a major share of Muslim votes after the break up. They forget that this vote will be divided between JD(U), Congress and Lalu’s RJD. JD(U) can’t have a pre-poll alliance with Congress as it would kill their Third Front chances. Plus they would also loose BJP votes. All in all a bad arithmetic. They are bound to lose seats I can bet.
Sharad as confused as ever, even declared post break up that they could rejoin NDA if Advani is made leader. Advani a secular and NaMo a communal? Did he forget that it was Advani whose Rath Yatra for Ram Mandir brought BJP into national arena. Pure excuses, as they don’t have any reason. Yeh to public hai yeh sab janti hai! People of Bihar will teach them a lesson.
If Nitish has any self respect he should have resigned as CM and gone for a fresh mandate. People of Bihar had voted for NDA and not JD(U) alone. He would not as he would want to have malai for another 2.5 years.
Prediction: If NaMo does well, JD(U) will split post 2014 national elections. Sharad has a soft corner for BJP and he is not getting any malai while Nitish is having it all alone. This will be one of the key reasons for a split. If NaMo does badly, state BJP will split.
NaMo Declared PM Candidate
BJP went ahead to take benefit of Modi’s popularity and named NaMo as its PM candidate. This has rejuvenated the party cadre and stumped the opposition parties. Allies Shive Sena and Akali Dal have also backed him. He is expected to hold a number of rallies all over th eocuntry to garner support.
NaMo – Difficult Road Ahead
NaMo has won the internal party struggle, however it is now time to perform. He will face opposition from Advani camp (Sushama Swaraj, Joshi, Ananth Kumar etc.) as also the Godhra riots will be in limelight once again. While he has charisma of a national leader and inspires party cadre / youth, his weakness is that he is CM of a small state (Gujarat sends only 26 MPs to Parliament, <5%).
Further he lacks rural support, his support base predominantly being through social media. While attending conclaves, industry summits provide visibility, they don’t fetch votes as people who attend these seminars don’t vote. Majority people who vote are from lower strata of society who I bet would not even know him outside of Gujarat. Remember in last elections he campaigned in 300 constituencies out of which BJP won only 25 (<9%).
However, this time it’s different. He has successfully become CM 3rd time trouncing Congress, his visibility and confidence levels are high, his model of development is being talked about (nationally / internationally) and there’s a lot of hype / hysteria around him. He has the backing of RSS and BJP President. Dissidents will fall in line as elections get closer as everybody would like to be in his good books. Will he perform or not. Only time will tell.
NDA (BJP + Shiv Sena + Akali Dal) Prospects Post Results in 2014
There are four possibilities for NDA post 2014 elections:
(i) NDA gets majority (272+ seats): Nothing can stop NaMo from becoming PM, though admit that probability is remote.
(ii) NDA gets 200-220 seats: Here again, NaMo could emerge as PM, with support from long time friend Jayalalitha (Amma) who is expected to get 30+ seats.
(iii) NDA gets 180 seats and emerges as single largest alliance: Here, BJP would need support from Nitish, Mamta, Naveen Patnaik, Mayawati etc. and NaMo would not get a chance. However, since NaMo would play a key role in getting 180 seats, PM candidate would be from his camp (Jaitley, Rajnath). Rajnath could get NaMo to support him in a quid pro quo deal. Readers could say, how can Rajnath become PM. My friends if Deve Gowda, VP Singh, Chandrasekhar and Gujral could become PM why not Rajnath. At least he is legible to dream. Sushma could emerge as a consensus candidate here.
(iv) NDA gets 150 seats: Here, BJP would sit in opposition and NaMo could continue as CM of Gujarat, go into oblivion or could resign as CM to take a national role to take a shot at 2019 elections.