DELHI DIARY: Race To The Racecourse

Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi warm up for the starting line but the two front-runners face identical hurdles before they could even eye the finishing line

Feb. 10, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 06 No. -16 Feb. 08- 2013 (Magh 26, 2069)

RACE-2 is the latest Bollywood flick to hit the bulls' eye. Trade pundits have declared the Abbas-Mastan directed sequel to the 4-year-old action-thriller as the newest member of the coveted 100cr-club. No clear winner is predicted on another turf. It's the battle for the Ultimate of power in the land of the world's largest democracy. The stage is set and the battle is about to begin. Well, almost!

Even as ‘prince charming’ Rahul Gandhi witnessed an elevation in the party ranks last month, having been promoted to the post of Vice President of the Congress Party, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month echoed his higher aspirations when he landed in Delhi to meet the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Rajnath Singh. The two events hinted at the same direction:  that both the leaders are now being considered seriously by their parties as their respective Prime Ministerial candidate and might lock horns in the 2014 election. 

Gandhi and Modi have been tipped as the future Prime Minister for quite some time now. The former, for the sole reason that he inherits a legacy of a family which has led the country since its independence and the latter, for being by far the most legitimate candidate for BJP (thanks to his national and international attention-seeking  performance in Gujarat). While nothing has been finalized as yet, the recent shuffle in both the parties hints that speculations might actually come true. Political pundits have already started churning out analyses while verdicts and clamor within both the parties seem to be growing slowly. 

Mammoth tasks lie ahead of both the leaders if in case the party decided to take a final call on them to get ready for the battle royale. Ironically, both face similar challenges. Firstly, the two leaders are expected to play the role of a change agent within their parties, both of which are in a shambles.  BJP, on its part, has yet to show its mettle to sway the people on its side. As five of the major states go into election this year, the BJP will have to first pull itself together and perform well particularly in the major state of Karnataka where it is in a mess due to internal problems. If he went to win the prime ministerial race, Modi would have a tough job of managing the already troubled party which would be in government then.  The Gujarat Chief Minister would also have to aim to widen the party’s support base which till now has typically remained the upper middle class.  Congress, on the other hand, has more damage control to do.  Thanks to the recent scams, the party’s image has taken a huge beating requiring an urgent refurbishing and on this ground, Gandhi has a difficult task at his hand.  If he is indeed chosen as the candidate, it would have double trouble of looking after the Congress and focusing on his Prime Ministerial ambition. One problem that has been pointed out with Congress is that it has been unable to produce any substantial regional leaders. Again, Gandhi should look towards building a strong regional leader especially if he expects to win the 2014 battle. 

A second challenge facing both is their haunting past. As far as Modi is concerned, the taint caused by the 2012 Gujarat riots still continues to blemish his image. This might act as a big disadvantage. The Muslim population still remains skeptical about voting for the BJP, particularly Modi. The fact that the much celebrated CM was denied visa into the US is a proof that the international community too is also not ready yet to accept him. A highly developed and affluent Gujarat is what Modi considers is his strength which he so highly boasts of. However this will not be enough to ensure that NaMo (as he is referred to by his supporters) will make a strong candidate. He lacks experience and this too might contribute a lot to his weakness.

On the other hand, Gandhi hasn’t had a good run in political career till now. His past election campaigns in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Modi-led Gujarat have proved to be a complete failure. In fact, many accuse that his rise in the party has simply taken place due to his mother. His past political stints, like visiting the sites of farmer agitation and Dalit homes, has been slammed for being publicity mere stunts. Like Modi, Rahul also has the inexperience in running the country from Delhi to his disadvantage. Rahul, who considers his youth image as his USP, may not suffice to make up for the experience deficit. Inexperience apart, another common disadvantage the two shares is the daunting challenge of dealing with the coalition partners.

Abijit Sharma

Abijit Sharma

SHARMA is Associate Editor of New Spotlight News Magazine.

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