Narendra Modi talks development, but for how long

So Narendra Modi has set the agenda for the December 2012 campaign. In the BJP vs Congress, Modi's BJP vs the other BJP, and UPA vs NDA game, Modi is pitching himself as the next prime ministerial candidate on a yatra that ostensibly celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

If it was Hindutva in 2002 and Sohrabuddin Sheikh's encounter in 2007, this time Modi's message is all about development. Still, the feeling is that closer to polls, the Gujarat CM will change his tune. "What will Modi do to turn the whole scenario communal?" is the question everyone who saw him milk Sonia Gandhi's 'Maut ka Saudagar' remark in 2007 is asking.

However, Modi knows that if he has to fight for the country's top job, it will only be by selling the development mantra and making it about Gujarat-vs-India. The Google Hangout where Modi chatted up young and gushing fans from across the country (hardly any were from Gujarat) and abroad was a part of that plan. Questions were handpicked to give a platter to all his successful ventures in Gujarat, including one where the CM was asked to define secularism even as another asked him about the elusive US visa.

Although younger members of the BJP, like Dhara Trivedi, a doctor who came from Ranpur taluka in Ahmedabad district to listen to Modi at Sanand on the first day of his yatra, felt the CM was ready to step into the prime minister's shoes, there are senior members who too feel that simply talking about "Gujarat as the growth engine of India" may not give BJP the necessary leverage to win the state. Some even fear the 'India Shining' kind of disaster suffered by the NDA in 2004.

Moreover, they argue, while talking development provokes the Congress to react and bust claims, the latter has few answers for a Modi in Hindutva mode.

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