There is no longer any speculation about whether Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is a contender for country’s top job or not. However, the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi shows that Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 elections, needs to modify and recalibrate his gameplan for the coming elections.
Modi certainly galvanises the voters with his thunderous speeches. He targets his opponents, mainly the Congress, with words like ‘Shehzada’, ‘Mama-bhanja’ and ‘Delhi ki Sultanate’. This approach may work in the hinterland of the country but may not work in another key constituency: the youth of the country. Unsurprisingly, his existing gameplan has allowed the AAP to steal the BJP’s thunder in Delhi. If Modi continues to use the same language, then be ready for more surprises by AAP-like regional parties in the next general elections.
Going forward, Modi has to do a tightrope walk between two very different kinds of opposition: a perceived ineffective incumbent — the UPA — and an youthful idealist like the AAP that galvanises the electorate by its mass connect programmes but is yet to present a relevant, deliverable and actionable governance agenda.
The AAP’s style of politics connects well with the youth whereas a party like the BJP appears more of the same. Given the AAP’s success in the Delhi assembly elections, it will be all too tempting for the BJP, and indeed for Modi, to do what the AAP has been doing with voters. But that could lead to a Delhi-like disaster in 2014.
There has been a change in India’s recent politics and that has to do with the emergence of the youth, who were born in the post-economic reforms era. Come 2014, India is likely to have over 41 crore young voters, who are the ‘children of the reforms’. This section has tasted the fruits of growth and has high expectations but is facing some troubling times: unemployment, not earning enough and a feeling of emptiness.
Will this young and restless section be amused by the current political discourse that is bereft of any relevant content and has degenerated into mudslinging and has largely become politics of personal attacks?
It is strange that if the core issue is corruption, no party has any solution beyond the Lokpal. But the Bill is not a panacea. If unemployment and the absence of growth are issues, we are yet to hear how the Gujarat experience can be scaled up and translated into an actionable agenda for the nation. If price rise is an issue, no party has given us a plan as to how this monster can be fought. A party that demonstrates a credible agenda that can withstand deeper public scrutiny will race ahead. The BJP, indeed Modi, may be best placed to capture this mood. But for this, the party would need now to turn rhetoric into an actionable and demonstrable plan that can connect with the youth.
Why is the BJP shying away from stating its stand on electoral reforms and how will it delink the discretionary decision-making of politicians and set up independent bodies. Modi must lay out his strategies for growth and his recipe for social sector reforms.
With all his honesty and professionalism at command, Manmohan Singh was let down by a few colleagues. Once that happened, the Congress government slipped into a defensive mode, leading to a policy paralysis. Modi would do well to articulate his vision for the nation and also declare his ‘A’ team which will lead the nation.
Fortunately for the BJP, the excessive focus on ‘secularism’ and ‘secular forces’ seems to have died. The party now has a real chance to instil new confidence in the aam aadmi who is keen to know more about the quality of governance and growth he will get in future.
Ashwani Windlass is a leading professional who
serves on different boards
The views expressed by the author are personal