The distance to Delhi

The win in Gujarat has made the chorus louder. The steady chant of "PM, PM" that was heard all through Narendra Modi's victory speech unambiguously expressed the sentiments of his supporters. But will this expectation be realised? While it would be nave to ignore the clamour for Modi to be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections as the desire of a small obscurantist fringe, democracy may still play spoilsport.

It is not the social composition of our society, its religious diversity (and the accompanying need to have the support of all communities), which may be the stumbling block for Modi. Rather, it is the success of the democratisation process that may stand in the way of his march to New Delhi.

Modi's hat-trick, beating the anti-incumbency factor and internal dissidence, is no mean achievement. He can rightfully own this win and take credit for it. So, it is not surprising that this is being seen as proof of his stature as a political leader, deserving recognition at the national level. But what is puzzling is that his qualities as a leader, on which his projection as PM is based, are being ignored, and the success in Gujarat is being attributed to his agenda of development.

There is no doubt that his focus on development may have made some difference, just as fear and anxiety on the part of some and the need to move forward on the part of others may also have mattered in the choices people made. But in all this, the role played by his image of a strong, decisive and authoritative leader cannot, and must not, be discounted. If we think that an authoritarian personality only appeals to social conservatives and orthodox men, then we need to think again.

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