The third consecutive victory of Narendra Modi in Gujarat assembly polls despite all political odds during assembly polls is attributed to his charismatic personality as well as good governance and development in the state. Adverse economy gripping the country though, Gujarat has emerged synonymous with development and kudos goes to Narendra Modi. Even people outside Gujarat have acknowledged Modi’s robust effort of putting the sate on development plank. When Modi was appointed as the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, the following year’s Godhra carnage and its immediate aftermath—communal riots—stacked adversary against him. Modi was vehemently targeted for the communal violence in the state and even after a decade of the incident, he is facing fire from a section of political hues and media. Except for BJP, Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, no other party is ready to go with him. During the campaign for 2007 assembly elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi went on calling him ‘Maut Ka Saudagar’. However, Modi gained political mileage from this blistering comment. Notably, Modi’s charisma has overshadowed all anomalies. It is pertinent to ask how come Modi could be so popular in Gujarat even though disparaging remarks being made about him. In this assembly election, many of the BJP candidates have registered victory in minority dominant constituencies in Gujarat. It is difficult for the Muslims of the state to forget their pains of Gujrat riots, however it seems that they are ready to join Modi for the sake of their own prosperity.

It is really a difficult task to analyse perception of the Gujarat Muslims, but the minority of rest parts of the country will acknowledge him only when he make foray into national politics. Scores of BJP leaders have been projecting Modi as Prime Ministerial candidate, but biggies of the party have been found maintaining stoic silence over it and some of them are said to be fending any question in this context. This is especially when Modi has proved his abilities as the most popular leader of the BJP to be projected as party’s nominee for the PM post. However, despite his immense popularity, the fact cannot be overlooked that his leadership has been tested only in Gujarat. Getting popularity in a state as a successful Chief Minister and able administrator and running the whole country as a Prime Minister are quite different thing. It is relevant to ask- If the allies of BJP accept Modi as a contender for the PM’s post? Until a satisfactory reply comes, it is difficult to be reassured about his candidature.

Next general elections are likely to be held after one-and-a-half year and in present scenario it appears almost impossible for the BJP to think of getting absolute majority to form a government on its own. Projecting Modi’s name for the PM post by a section of party leaders could be a strategy of the BJP. Actually, Modi is seen as radical Hindu leader; therefore, it is possible that BJP would project his name to woo Hindu voters the way it had done during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, which had played a vital role in BJP’s emergence as a major political force. A vast section of Hindus backed BJP only because of the emotive issue of Ram Janmabhoomi, but they got disenchanted with the BJP when the issue was kept on backburner. Given the fact that BJP can no longer gravitate Hindu voters in the name of Ram Janmabhoomi issue, it will be interesting to see whether the party would be able to consolidate its political and electoral ground by projecting Modi’s name for the PM’s post. Modi has his own way of functioning and going by the remarkable development of Gujarat, it is easy to believe that BJP’s strategy for Lok Sabha polls could prove successful if it decides to contest under Modi’s leadership. If this happens, Modi can become the Prime Minister of the country.

BJP cannot overlook the fact that it won’t be able to win Lok Sabha polls by mere polarising the Hindu votes. BJP is not only required to remain united but it also needs to join hands with its previous allies once again besides consolidating terms with present allies to emerge victorious in the next general elections. The intense bickering within the BJP at present reflects that the party has forgotten to stay united under one leader. It is difficult to conclude at present that party’s top brass would be able to evolve unanimity over the issue of its leadership. It is also not yet clear that if Modi is allowed to wield similar freedom at the national level after becoming Prime Ministerial candidate as he enjoys the same in Gujarat unit of the party. It would be a big challenge for Modi to decipher the ground realities of politics of the rest parts of the country and lead the party successfully in the next Lok Sabha elections. If the BJP wants to nominate Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, it needs to involve him actively in the national politics. It is also necessary to ensure that RSS and the BJP would throw their weights behind Modi. At present, there is hardly any good rapport between BJP president Nitin Gadkari and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is also required to develop a better coordination with big leaders of BJP besides party president Gadkari. Besides this, Modi is also required to bring together all Chief Ministers of BJP ruled states besides increasing his acceptability among other non-Congress parties.

As far as the Congress is concerned, it has won Himachal Pradesh assembly polls, but its debacle in Gujarat points out that the condition of the party which is leading ruling establishment at the Centre is also not in cozy position. Congress is preparing to contest next Lok Sabha polls under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, but its defeat in Gujarat and  UP assembly polls early this year puts a question mark on the party’s strategy. Gujarat assembly poll was dubbed as a semi-final of 2014 general elections, but Congress failed to bring any kind of change there. Lok Sabha polls are far away, but coming months could witness a lot of big changes in the national politics. It is difficult to predict political developments in near future, but Rahul vs Modi like situation is emerging for next general elections.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on December 23, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)