Modi: An eye on 2014

The Sunday Story

Last month, Narendra Modi told a crowd in Kutch district during the Swami Vivekananda Yuva Vikas Yatra, "The Centre has betrayed Parliament by deciding on FDI in retail overnight. Ab toh chaney-mamrey Bhuj ka vyapari nahi bechega, koi gora aa kar ke bechega (now the small trader in Bhuj will not sell snacks, but a white man will come to sell it). Industries and businesses will close down. Youths will be unemployed."

Is this the same FDI-toting Modi who never tires of selling Gujarat to the world? Analysts see his anti-FDI positioning as a clever ploy. They say Modi knows that Gujarat's strength is its penchant to put business before everything else. So whatever he says about FDI would not worry Gujaratis, but he has to be with the Bharatiya Janata Party for the bigger battle of 2014.

With an eye on the Centre, Modi seems to be fighting the 2014 elections in 2012 itself, for the outcome of this year's Assembly elections will determine Modi's prospects in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014.

The billion-dollar question for the six-crore Gujaratis today is not who will be the next chief minister but who will be the chief minister if Modi shifts to the Centre after the 2014 elections. Foreign missions have been sending officials to Gujarat trying to gauge who would replace him in the state where they have huge stakes.

Modi has found his power in shapeshifting, so his bid at the Centre is seen as a ploy that quite fits in with his strategy from the beginning.

In 2001, when Modi took over after Keshubhai Patel's unceremonious ouster, there was a great deal of excitement in the BJP camp, which had steadily been losing the by-elections to the Congress. After two thumping Assembly victories—in 2002, remembered for Modi's 'ame paanch, amara pachees (we five, our 25, in reference to the population growth of Muslims)' remark, and in 2007, for Sonia Gandhi's 'maut ka saudagar' rhetoric—Modi is focusing entirely on development this time. The closest he came to making a communal remark was about the Centre favouring beef exports rather than cotton exports.

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