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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014
The Top Job: does Modi have it in him to be PM?
Aakar Patel
November 12, 2012
First Published: 08:20 IST(12/11/2012)
Last Updated: 17:12 IST(12/11/2012)
Narendra Modi addresses an election rally in Kangra while campaigning for the BJP in Himachal Pradesh. Shyam Sharma/HT

What sort of prime minister will Narendra Modi make? The answer to this question is important because it is thought that if he wins again, Modi will have clinched the matter of his claim.

Let us assume Modi decisively wins this election, his third consecutive sweep. And let us assume he becomes the BJP's undisputed contender to take the PM's post in 2014. Let us make a third assumption, that enthused by Modi's candidature and by the corruption and incompetence of Congress, his fans give BJP victory.

After these assumptions, we will have two scenarios. That the BJP gets an absolute majority or has to work in a coalition.

To know how Modi will do in both scenarios, first let's examine his strengths and weaknesses. His strengths are his discipline, ability to work hard, ability to communicate, his lack of interest in making money, his clarity about what he wants, his effectiveness in implementation and execution.

His weaknesses are the inability to share power (he holds all of Gujarat's top ministries except finance), his incompetence at running the home ministry, his lack of a quality education, and his ego.

All of these, both positive and negative, are in view and there's no point in examining them here. Let us just assume we are right about these strengths and weaknesses and see how they will affect his functioning. In an absolute majority, as he inherited when he became CM in 2001, Modi will again shine. But on one condition.

That is that the national BJP become totally subservient to him. In Gujarat, he put away all the other senior party leaders so that he could control all ministries and the party. This will be a little more difficult to do at the centre.

The BJP in Karnataka, for instance, does not owe its success to Modi. It is a caste-based party dominated by Lingayats. It will not be easy for Modi to brush aside leaders like Yeddyurappa, as he did Keshubhai Patel and Kashiram Rana.

However, it is true that Modi's strengths will make him stamp his authority on the Cabinet and the administration. The areas under his control will be governed well (except the home ministry). He will be decisive about policy. He will be tough on Pakistan, and perhaps dangerously so.

Modi has no appetite for sharing power and for building consensus. This will make it difficult for him to manage well those areas of government where other BJP leaders want to assert themselves. Modi has never been in that position before, but I anticipate lots of sulking from him if he doesn't get his way. This is why he will also not be a particularly good leader of a coalition. He has no experience of managing different interests, and he has no love for compromising. He will not enjoy the experience of managing Mamata, Jayalalitha, Nitish and so on.

I think another problem he will have is his lack of a quality education. His reading is poor, both on the side of history and economics and on the side of international relations. These were unimportant in Gujarat, but running a nation of India's size is different.

He will not know what to do in matters of high finance, as Manmohan does. His very strong will and ego will count as a negative. This is because self-interest is linked to pragmatism, unless one is a very powerful state and can bend the world to its will, which India isn't.

Whether Modi will be able to transform himself when in a different situation, and make our assumptions (and therefore our predictions) false, is a question for which we must await the answer. But for all of us, it will be fascinating to see whether Modi can repeat in Delhi what he has done in Gandhinagar.

(Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist. The views expressed are personal.)


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