Why 2019 Lok Sabha polls is time for Modi 2.0

Modi must reappear in a new avatar as the dream-merchant par excellence if the BJP is to win again.

 |  5-minute read |   09-01-2019
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Narendra Modi, whatever many may think, is not a mere person or even a personality. Arguably, what he represents is a unique and unprecedented force in Indian politics. Those who dislike him may try to dismiss him as a mere political animal and, if they really hate him, the great political beast.

On the other hand, those who love, even adore him, pronounce him a political genius. In either case, he is more than an ordinary individual; he signifies a larger power, energy, vigour, and influence. How should Modi take advantage of this larger-than-life persona in the 2019 elections?

The art of winning

Before proceeding, it is important to reflect on what is meant by a force larger than an individual or person. And how does Modi qualify? The crucial piece of evidence here is that more than any other political figure or leader in a long time, Narendra Modi has a feel, an instinct, and a penchant for Indian politics.

He comes into his own when he is in front of a large crowd, in the rough and tumble of a campaign. When his opponents criticise him, he knows how to turn that to his advantage, hitting them harder with their own armoury.

He not only has his finger on the pulse of the masses, but he actually relishes the joust, the battle, the clash at the hustings. If Indian politics is a carnival, a circus even, Narendra Modi is the ringmaster, the man who cracks the whip to make all the other players dance to his tune.

modi-it-copy_010919055011.jpgIf Indian politics is a carnival, a circus even, Narendra Modi is the ringmaster. (Photo: IndiaToday)

What is more, he is also an extraordinary and able administrator, a workaholic who is driven to deliver on good governance. It is this combination of electoral appeal and administrative competence that makes him so special. NaMo has had an unprecedented 18-year run as a winner in Indian politics, thrice as chief minister of Gujarat starting in 2001, and once as India’s Prime Minister since 2014. Is he invincible? No. Politics is a game of chance, quite unpredictable, not to mention uncertain.

The public can be capricious. Solidly supportive now, it may unceremoniously ditch their “beloved leader” in the next election.

What is more, politics, like any other game, can be rather unfair: winner takes all — that is its ultimate outcome. The “also-rans” are forgotten; no one cares when another one bites the dust. It’s a brutal and unforgiving sport, almost gladiatorial. But if so, more than anyone else, it is Modi who has the keenness, the inclination, the passion, even the killer instinct in the fight.

PM is the party’s hope

But his toughest challenge lies ahead of him. The coming elections constitute a “do or die” for Modi. In the 2019 campaign, he cannot rest on his laurels.

He cannot harp on his past achievements. He cannot keep reminding the voters what he has done for them. One doesn’t have to be highly knowledgeable or politically savvy to realise that the general elections of 2019 are actually up for grabs. What can the BJP do to win?

The answer is simple: for the BJP to win, Modi must lead from the front. Without him, the party despite all its strengths – not to mention backing of a disciplined RSS cadre – cannot pull off another victory. If Modi misfires, the 2019 tussle for power will be lost.

The party will once again be relegated not just to second place but will have to bide its time in the shallows and backwaters of Indian politics, with many of its plans and projects unfinished or abandoned. Worse, as some have warned, the destiny of 1.3 billion people will once again be in the hands of the unscrupulous – if not unpatriotic – some of whom will not hesitate to sell or pawn national assets for a few shining pieces of silver.

BJP needs Modi to win in 2019. But not Modi of yore, not the old Modi, with the same tried and tested, now tired, mantras of ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’. The demand of the times is a new, rejuvenated Modi; Modi as the comeback artist. Politics is not only the art of the possible; it is actually the craft of the impossible.

A great leader must be not just a great communicator or populist purveyor of promises.

modi-mask-copy_010919055032.jpgA great leader must be not just a great communicator or populist purveyor of promises. (Photo: PTI)

Time for NaMo 2.0

He has to be a dreamer — or, rather, the seller of dreams. Modi must reappear in a new avatar as the dream-merchant par excellence if the BJP is to win again.

None other than Modi can do this. He has to go back to the people with a new vision for a new India. A vision that both the masses and classes can relate to. This vision, though simply articulated, must contain a deep truth.

It must be believable, not just possible. It must inspire faith and confidence. It must rouse and rally; it must trigger a resurgence, a wave, a tide. It must be a vision that can galvanise a nation. Modi must project and portray himself as the maker of a new India. It is this messianic idea that can propel him and his party to victory.

Can he do it? That remains to be seen. But nothing less will do. Modi must lead from the front; team-Modi must back him to the hilt. That is the BJP’s surefire formula for success in the 2019 sweepstakes.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Modi’s foreign policy: Look beyond ‘travel bills’, the PM did some excellent work


Makarand R Paranjape Makarand R Paranjape @makrandparanspe

The writer is director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. The views are personal.

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