With Modis at the helm

Come 2014, BJP will serve each state a different Modi. There will be at least three

The BJP hopes to derive an advantage from the elevation of Modi to the national level. It has certainly prompted the party rank and file, not to mention the public, to surmise that Modi would be the BJP's choice for leadership at the national level in future. So it is worthwhile to assess Modi's possible contribution to the BJP's electoral fortunes in the approaching general elections. What is the advantage that Modi may bring to the party?

In the short period that he has been operating at the all-India level, Modi has brought three themes into sharp focus. First, development and governance, second, (Hindu) nationalism, third, anti-Congressism — vikas, rashtravad and Congressmukt rajneeti. The three themes are expected to appeal to three different social sections and can have differential impact on popular choices.

Modi won the last assembly elections in Gujarat on the plank of development and governance. This theme has become quite attractive to a cross section of society. In the aftermath of the cynical non-performance of Lalu Prasad, based on a belief that governance does not matter if you talk the language of social justice, governance has become a key component of the repertoire of political parties. The idea of vikas appeals to most voters, so Modi's emphasis on development is expected to work wonders. However, this electoral dividend will accrue only if his performance is highlighted in different states of India. But many state governments — including those governed by the BJP — will claim to have brought development to the state. So, in order to project himself as the messiah of development, Modi will have to invoke Gujarat, which will inevitably underscore his image as a state level, rather than national level, leader and his Gujarati pride will be counterbalanced by the regional pride of different states.

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