Come May 16, Narendra Modi’s fate will be sealed one way or another. He has declared that he will go back to selling tea if he doesn’t make it to 7 Race Course Road, the official residence of the prime minister. Cocksure as he may be of realising his dream, he also knows that failure will mean the death of his political career. No matter what the outcome, the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign will be remembered for Modi’s emergence as the most talked about leader who rendered his own party irrelevant in an aggressive bid to fulfil his prime ministerial ambitions.
Firstpost spoke to Modi’s biographers about what they thought of his campaign and asked them what kind of a PM Modi would make, should he get the numbers. It was a campaign, they say, that was much as much about ‘Hindutva’ as it was about ‘development’ and one that was tremendously helped by the foot soldiers of the RSS, which ran a highly organised campaign to ensure that the ‘Hindu vote’ rallied behind Modi. Has Modi concentrated as much on Hindutva as development? PTI “He did not abandon the basic politics that has created the hallmark of Modi as a hard, aggressive, no-nonsense, pro-Hindutva leader with the right mix of development. He stuck to the basics. He did not dilute either the ‘Hindutva’ or the ‘development’ plank or sacrifice one for the other,” says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times. Citing examples of how Modi kept the ‘Hindutva’ card alive during his campaign, Mukhopadhyay said, “Modi kept referring to the UPA government as the Delhi Sultanate.
He kept calling Rahul Gandhi Shehzada. He linked Pakistan with A K Anthony, AK 47 and AK 49. Why call UPA the Sultanate, why not Bharat ka Samrajya? Why use a language that is known for its Islamic connotations? Why Shehzada, why not Yuvraj or Rajkumar? In this subtle way, he went about it.” Kingshuk Nag, author of The NaMo Story: A Political Life, described Modi’s use of ‘development’ as only a “top-up strategy” to the main draw of his campaign, which was ‘Hindutva’. “Basically, he has the Hindu vote in his pocket. Development was only a top-up strategy to take advantage of the disenchantment that the middle-class had for the government and its corrupt ways…In the last ten days, he went back to religious symbolism. For example, he began his campaign in Andhra Pradesh at Tirupathi.
He then went on to offer prayers at another temple in Srikalahasti…At the end, he went back to the Hindutva strategy,” says the Hyderabad-based senior journalist. An important factor that defined Modi’s campaign was the role played by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP. “I have never seen such seamless integration of the entire Sangh Parivar network in an election campaign in a long time, at least not since 1991. Not at any place, did I notice any discordant voices,” Mukhopadhyay said. Nag points out that the role of the RSS was not limited to supplying foot soldiers for Modi’s campaign.
“It was the RSS that was responsible for making Modi BJP’s PM candidate. His efforts would have borne much less result had the RSS not supported him. Only because of its support was he able to side-line leaders like Advani, Rajnath Singh or even a leader like Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He had the full support of the RSS at two levels: One, in making him the PM candidate and two, in terms of the organisational support of the workers, who were the backbone of the campaign,” says Nag. Both biographers rate Modi’s chances of becoming India’s next PM as high. But what if government formation by the BJP should hinge on Modi’s stepping down as PM candidate in order to win coalition partners? Will Modi play along? “I don’t think he’ll step down. For Modi it is either me or nobody.
He would rather sit in Opposition than let anyone else take the limelight. He’ll not have a Murli Manohar Joshi as PM unless the RSS is able to overpower him. And it is too late in the day for even the RSS to overpower him. And once he becomes PM he will have problems with the RSS too. He has dictatorial tendencies. He likes to grab all power,” says Nag. Mukhopadhyay, however, has a different take on Modi’s reaction in a situation where the BJP has to come up with a compromise PM candidate to win allies. Modi, he says, will have no choice but to play along if he fails to get the numbers. “If he does not get sufficient number of seats what can he do? If the BJP can form the government minus Modi, the others will not allow the opportunity go by. Those who sense having the chance to become PM will not allow Modi to have a say. In order for Modi to maintain his position, he has to win seats,” says Mukhopadhyay.
There is no disagreement, however, among those who have studied Modi on the kind of PM he would make should the BJP manage to win enough seats. Leading a coalition, they say, will be Modi’s biggest challenge. “It goes against the basic temperament of Modi to work with coalitions,” says Mukhopadhyay. He added that the kind of PM Modi will be will depend on the size of BJP’s tally. A Modi government, Nag predicts, will consist of technically competent but politically weak ministers. “He will have ministers who are not very powerful but who are technically savvy.
He’ll want to give a good administration but he’ll not want politically powerful guys who will overshadow him…At one level, he is also a practical sort of guy, so he won’t start rocking the boat from day one.” Describing Modi as an ‘unknown quantity’, Nag said, “By looking at the record of the NDA government between 1999-2004 one can’t predict what Modi will do from 2014 to 2019…Also much will depend on how many seats he gets. If he gets a wafer-thin majority, he will try to balance it for some-time. But if he gets a good majority, which is unlikely, then of course, he will become totalitarian. That is what his basic tendency is.”