Modi Boosts His Chances To Be BJP Standard Bearer In 2014
After this week's elections in Gujarat, India's main opposition party, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), has a choice on its hands as it looks towards the 2014 general elections.
Gujarat's chief minister, the 62-year-old Narendra Modi, easily won his third successive election for the top state post. Does BJP, the Hindu nationalist party, go with a candidate who creates tremendous enthusiasm among his admirers, but at the same time produces extreme animosity among his detractors?
At a time that India's Congress party is combating a stagnant economy and plagued by corruption charges, Modi would appear to be a total contrast. He has never been charged with corruption and his state is considered a model of business-friendly government. Infrastructures such as roads and electricity function well --a far cry from the situation prevalent in other parts of the country.
Modi's supporters believe that this success can be transposed to the national level and they greeted his victory with chants of "Delhi, Delhi," meaning that they would like to see him ensconced in the national capital.
His critics recall the ethnic violence in Gujarat that occurred in 2002. When Moslems were suspected of causing a fire on a train that killed 58 Hindus, they Hindus went on a retaliatory rampage killing more than 1000 Moslems.
Modi was accused of condoning the killing and he is still persona non grata in the United States. This has made him an object of fear and loathing amongst Moslems and secular Indians. When he won his second term in 2007, Sonia Gandhi campaigned against him and called him a "merchant of death". This tactic boomeranged against Congress and Modi won by a landslide.
Even while winning handsomely, the breakdown of the vote accentuated the candidate's strengths and weaknesses. Modi built his victory in the cities and he was the clear choice of young middle-class voters. At the same time, rural voters were much less enthusiastic. Rural voters are more inclined to subsidies, price controls and other forms of government intervention.
Following his victory, Modi claims that "good economics is good politics". In other words, he feels that his small-government approach could appeal to other parts of India.
As it lacks alternative candidates with Moody's profile, the BJP may have little choice but to let Modi put his convictions to the test in 2014.