Monday, December 09, 2013

Big question, loud buzz: What was the Modi impact?

New Delhi: The BJP leaders are careful not to emphasise overmuch the role of the party’s prime ministerial candidate and chief campaigner in these assembly elections, Narendra Modi. The Modi factor is a double-edged sword. The BJP victories in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are countered by the close calls in Chhattisgarh and in Delhi. So, did the Modi charm work in two states and failed in the other two? That is not the kind of a complex, mixed signal that an advertisement campaign can accommodate. That is why, BJP leaders are more inclined to assert politely that the victories belong to Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh, Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and Dr. Harsh Vardhan in Delhi. The BJP does not want to go the Congress way, where all victories are attributed to party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, and defeats are placed at the door of local candidates. Of course, mother-son duo avoided doing that when Sonia and Rahul interacted with media on Sunday evening. On Sunday evening, BJP president Rajnath Singh handled the issue deftly saying that Modi’s popularity in the assembly elections has been a great help and left it at that. He has also correctly claimed that the election results in the four states showed BJP to be the clear alternative to Congress, and he sees this as a portend for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Singh is clearly extrapolating the assembly victories into projections for the Lok Sabha. The poll campaign in the assembly elections in these four states has been a warm-up exercise for the party’s PM candidate Modi, and the party is of the view that Modi has proved his popularity stakes though it cannot assert that Modi is the architect of the victories in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Modi’s popularity was hedged in by the surprising surge of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi. The Delhi verdict shows that Modi is not the unchallenged leader of urban middle class India and newcomers like AAP have share in it as well. Of course, there is no AAP factor in the urban centres. But the Delhi experience should give pause to the admirers of Modi that urban youth and the middle class are discerning voters and they would not be carried away by the sheer charisma of Modi. And that if there is a viable alternative as there has been in Delhi, voters would consider the alternative with equal seriousness. Right now, the BJP can take solace in the fact that there is no AAP in the rest of urban India. In Chhattisgarh, the Modi impact does not seem to have helped chief minister Raman Singh much. Singh has survived the Congress scare on the basis of his government’s performance, and there was not much that Modi seems to have to have done to conjure away the Congress challenge. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh remain curious cases. It can be asserted that it was BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chauhan won the elections on their own steam and they were not in need of the push from Modi. The BJP is not saying that Modi has helped win the assembly polls in these two states. Modi still remains the most acceptable prime ministerial face in the country and there is as yet no competitor in the field. Whether this factor alone would propel BJP into power at the centre is not as certain.

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