Modi said it

The Gujarat chief minister throws his claim in the ring. But the Modi vs Rahul hype is misleading

When Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi announced that they had talked about the 2014 polls in their Sunday meeting, they were publicly confirming, for the first time, what has been widely suspected for long. So far, the Gujarat chief minister's impending national role has mostly been read between the lines. Not much was left to the imagination, however, after his latest campaign in the state. In the assembly polls he won handsomely in December for the third time, Modi preened and postured for the national audience, ignoring state-level rivals, pointedly targeting the Congress's national leaders. Now that it has been said, almost in so many words, all that would appear to be left is for the BJP to prepare a road map for Modi's inevitable transition. But that may be an incomplete picture.

In fact, the near-coronations in both the Congress and the BJP in the last few days lift the curtain on new uncertainties and curiosities even as they appear to bring an end to the suspense. Both the Congress's new vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, and the BJP's national leader-to-be are likely to find that the flattering neatness and inflatedness of the much talked about Modi versus Rahul contest does not travel very well to a ground teeming with regional players, parties and interests. For Rahul and the Congress, the realisation that is waiting round the corner may be this: notwithstanding the Gandhi at the helm, the Congress cannot go back to its dominance of the polity in an earlier time. Today, it can only hope to grow by taking modest steps, simultaneously reaching out to other players and doing business with them, while the Gandhi family keeps the house in order. In the foreseeable future, the first family's primary role and responsibility may arguably be that of housekeeping within the party, rather than of mascot or as battle cry.

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