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Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Emperor's New Pagdi

The hype, hoopla and media glare around Narendra Modi's coronation as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, seems much like a real-time adaptation of Hans Christen Anderson's short story, The Emperor's New Clothes, but not in a stage drama but in real life.  It is indeed a lofty spot, virtually condensing the power of the entire opposition in one person. So one may expect that the part anointing it's prime ministerial candidate would have number of seats in the Lok Sabha, closer to that of the ruling dispensation and have presence throughout the country. Even to command a simple majority in the People's House a party needs support of at least 272 representatives. However, the BJP actually has 117 seats in the Lok Sabha. Even with all its existing allies,it barely manages to reach even half of the numbers of seats required to command a simple majority !

Then there is the question of pan-India support a PM aspirant and the party should command. In a highly heterogeneous, multicultural and pluralist nation like India, it is imperative that the leader of the nation enjoy support from all communities  and groups which of course  can be verified by looking at the number of seats the party hold across the length and breadth of country. How does Modi's BJP now fare in different parts of the country ?

South India -  In the South, Karntaka is the only state which has seen BJP win seats (has received severe drubbing in Assembly election but I am taking into account Lok Sabha seats only), it draws blank in populous states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

North East - Barring 4 seats in Assam, the party has not won a single seat in any of the other six states of the region. 

East - Except for Darjeeling  held by Jaswant Singh, (not on good terms with the Sangh) the BJP is as conspicuous by its absence in West Bengal and  in Odisha it has been wiped out by its erstwhile ally the BJD. What remains to be seen is, if the JD(U) does the same thing in Bihar or actually becomes the victim. 

North - One might suppose, that the saffron brigade is popular in the North, except Jammu and Kashmir but it has not won a single seat in Delhi and Haryana. It is doing relatively well in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand  but is no longer a major player in UP.wich used to be its bastion.

The BJP draws bulk of its power from the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Undoubtedly. both Gujarat and Madya Pradesh are big states but India is bigger still !  A motley collection 
of parties like the Left Front, SP,JD(U),TMC, BJD can easily cobble up a number greater than that of BJP seats in Lok Sabha now but does that mean they should declare a Prime Ministerial candidate too ?  And I  am not taking into account parties like DMK, AIDMK, BSP,TDP and other regional parties which haven't indicated willingness to join the NDA but there is a low probability. 

The best thing about Indian elections is that  the results are notoriously unpredictable. I won't be as arrogant to say if the equations and seat tally would remain same. But with the current tally of seats and the fact that there are nearly a dozen of states from where BJP hasn't won a single seat, shouldn't the BJP feel embarrassed making such an announcement ? Not really,denial and self-deception are inbuilt defense mechanism of our psyche usually preventing us from falling to depression and despair but in case of over-ambitiousness, it can make us imagine things that are not really there. In BJP's case, the popularity of Modi among the urban middle class, mostly on social media and 24x7 TV news (not even in print media) may have blinded it to the fact that social media represents only a section of a segment of the voter population.In fact some of the most vocal fanboys of Modi are not even based in India. If the number of one's Twitter following reflected eligibility to take the top job ten Shashi  Tharoor should have been Indian Prime Minister few years back (and me, a corporator if not the mayor of my city  :P)

Of course, I haven't said anything which hasn't been said before,so isn't the BJP leadership aware or are they being  over-optimistic ?
The fact  is that Modi enjoys tremendous support among the cadres and the mother organization of the Sangh Parivar- The RSS. As a matter of fact, the loyalty of his acolytes is so great that he has been considered by part of media as more popular than LK Advani or even AB Vajpayee ever were. However, I am inclined to take this with a pinch of realism, Modi's main propaganda platform, the social media, did not exist during Vajpayee's. Further, wind has it that , given track-record of Modi's autocratic ways , senior national leaders are not eager find themselves in a situation with Modi  in absolute power. Sure enough, the senior leaders did not show much enthusiasm during the press conference.

In the beginning I have given the analogy of the short story, "Emperor's New Clothes" but a closer analogy to the ceremony would be that of a gathering of family members and relatives in honor of a senile but billionaire heir-less great grand-uncle whose monetary assistance  helps the family/clan to survive. Since everyone in the room depends on the old man's wealth, everyone just humors him along, regardless of whether his statements make sense or not!  Similarly , Narendra Modi may enjoy huge fan following but that hardly reflects  number of Lok Sabha seats it can capture, but any BJP leader pointing out this flaw in thinking is likely to come under vicious attack from the party's workers as LK Advani appears to have learnt. But that doesn't change the fact that currently there is very little reason to present Modi as "PM-in-waiting", unless of course, they are just feeding Modi's king-size ego, especially when he appears to be in a power trip. Megalomania is not much different from senility   

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