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All the attention but can Narendra Modi get BJP votes?

Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 27, 2013
First Published: 20:40 IST(27/9/2013) | Last Updated: 17:15 IST(30/9/2013)

On Wednesday, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, stole MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s thunder in the latter’s own backyard.

On Thursday, he made his southern debut in Trichy, Tamil Nadu, drawing crowds comparable to the ones Jayalalithaa attracted for her campaign in the 2011 polls. On Sunday, he is supposed to take on Delhi.

The numbers, the response, the fanfare, the cheering…the Modi-effect is palpable. But the question on everyone’s minds — supporters and rivals alike — is: Can this help the BJP win elections?

‘HIS ELEVATION IS NO FACTOR’

“The voters are concerned about local issues during the assembly elections. They are least bothered about Modi’s elevation,” says Raipur-based political analyst Shashank Sharma.

Even the Opposition Congress, which is troubled by its own problems, is not losing sleep over Modi. “He remains an absolute stranger for the large tribal and scheduled caste population.

There will be no impact on the electoral prospects of the Congress,” says state Congress general secretary Ramesh Varlyani.

The scenario in Madhya Pradesh is similar. “The BJP government in the state has not adopted any Hindutva agenda on its part so far. The BJP workers may be enthused after Modi’s new role, but it is not going to impact the polls,” says political analyst Girijashankar.

‘HE WILL GET HINDUTVA VOTES’

BJP leaders feel Modi will consolidate the party’s conventional Hindutva vote, and garner greater support from the urban middle class, particularly youth.

Modi’s rally in Jaipur in the beginning of the month saw a huge turnout, drawing the youth.

“Young people think he is a doer,” says the BJP youth wing’s Rajasthan president, Deendayal Kumawat.

A few believe  even the Northeast, especially poll-bound Mizoram, maybe warming up to Modi. But this may mean little as the BJP doesn’t  have a presence in the northeast.

“Many in Mizoram are likely to be ignorant about Modi, but those in the know feel he can do better for India. The admiration is for his ability to do and not his religious affiliation. People know whoever becomes PM cannot afford to adhere to this ideology or that in a diverse, multi-ethnic country,” says Aizawl-based political analyst Vanlalruata.

In Assam, where the indigenous communities fear being outnumbered by Bangladeshis aka Bengali Muslims, the Modi fan base has widened. Some fans have floated pro-Modi groups on social media for a ‘better, safer Assam’.

“Assam needs a leader like him to check the demographic invasion,” says RK Sarma, a member of one such Modi fan group.

PROS AND CONS

However, Modi comes with problems too, for the BJP. Muslims across the country are expected to polarise to defeat the BJP under him.

And this means gains for the Congress — which has otherwise been faced with massive corruption charges and flak due to inflation — wherever it has a chance.

A key concern of a section of the BJP is whether Modi would be acceptable to potential NDA allies. His elevation led to the rupture in the alliance with the Janata Dal (United).

These leaders argue that since regional parties have a Muslim constituency to address, they would be loath to accept Modi as the BJP’s PM-candidate.

However, pro-Modi party leaders have begun to counter this logic, saying that allies are attracted to power,  not secularism.

“If we end up with 120 seats, we’ll have no allies even if we put up the most secular face. But if we get 180-odd seats, you’ll find many parties shedding their inhibitions and flocking to the NDA to form the next government,” a BJP leader said.

(Inputs:  Bhopal, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan) and Mizoram)

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