The first hurdle has fallen, that of putting a face to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. But many more remain both for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. The coronation itself was perhaps not what Mr Modi had hoped for, with the party patriarch LK Advani sulking and staying away. While the party may be celebrating the fact that it has stolen a march over its rival the Congress, it will now have to transform itself into a government-in-waiting and its newly anointed leader will have to start thinking nationally.
In recent years, the BJP has been little more than a disruptive Opposition in Parliament. It has come up with very little by way of policy or solutions to the many problems that India faces. For a start, the people will be looking to Mr Modi and the party to come up with answers on how to overcome the dreadful economic crisis we are in. There is no doubt that the UPA government has much to answer for over the manner in which it has allowed the economy to go into such a tailspin. But the time for the blame game is over. Declaring a prime ministerial candidate in advance makes it incumbent on the BJP to now come up with its blueprint on how to revive the economy and it is no use saying that the Gujarat model can be replicated elsewhere. It cannot be replicated in such a vast and diverse country like India. For better or worse, the Congress has come up a number of social sector schemes that have paid off, though not quite as well as it had hoped. Mr Modi will now have to spell out what he can bring to the table for the country’s poor and disadvantaged. So far, he has made a name for himself as an investor-friendly chief minister. Now he has to recast himself as a people-friendly prime minister-in-waiting. The RSS may have pushed Mr Modi through, but its brand of exclusivist politics will not yield results for its protégé. He has to rise above Hindutva to appeal to Indians in general.
Where Mr Modi will face a considerable challenge is in winning over the south where the BJP has not got much of a foothold barring in Karnataka. He will have to get over his penchant to market himself as the sole saviour of the party and win over allies well in advance. Not many of them, as is evident, subscribe to Mr Modi’s brand of politics. It has been a long road from Gandhinagar to New Delhi, it will certainly be a rocky one from prime ministerial aspirant to prime minister.