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Managing politics the corporate way

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi gets regular appraisal reports of BJP MPs, MLAs before picking candidates. Prasad Nichenametla reports.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2009 00:41 IST
Prasad Nichenametla
Prasad Nichenametla
Hindustan Times

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has adopted a corporate management style to race ahead of his political rivals in the state.

Just as corporate houses transfer, promote and even sack employees based on their ability to deliver, Modi, too, has made a habit of dropping sitting candidates, nominating freshers, cutting rivals to size and beating anti-incumbency.

The BJP has, so far, announced a list of 25 candidates in Gujarat (a decision on the Junagarh seat is still pending). And Modi has prevailed upon the party’s leadership to drop all but three of the party’s 13 MPs.

Four others were earlier with the Congress. The rest are fresh candidates, loyal to him. Two party heavyweights, Kanshi Ram Rana and Vallabbhai Katharia, both former Union ministers, are among those denied tickets. They had sided with Modi’s
bitter rival, former Gujarat CM Keshubhai Patel, and had worked against the party during the Assembly election in 2007.

Only Harin Pathak, another rival, has escaped the axe, but that was because he had L.K. Advani’s support.

Modi first tested his strategy, which he may have borrowed from the many corporate titans he counts among his friends, during the Rajkot municipal elections in 2008. He created a stir by nominating new candidates for all 108 seats. The results were astonishing: his candidates won 96 seats.

Modi repeated this formula in the 2007 Assembly elections. He denied tickets to 39 sitting MLAs, including some ministers, and projected 45 new faces. The BJP swept the polls, winning 117 out of 182 seats. “Winnability is the most important criterion while selecting candidates,” said Sushil Pandit, who devised the party’s mass media campaign during the Assembly elections in the state. People close to the chief minister said he has a vast network of people from whom he receives regular performance appraisal reports on the party’s MPs, MLAs and other elected representatives. He decides on the basis
of these reports.

“Modi’s strength and that of the party allow him to do all this in Gujarat,” said G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, a member of the BJP’s National Executive.

But will be he be able to repeat the formula at national level? The BJP has, in fact, successfully tried out this formula in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where it managed to beat anti-incumbency and return to power in 2008 by dropping several sitting legislators.

Ajay Umat, state editor of Divya Bhaskar, a leading Gujarati daily, said: “A change of candidates will go in favour of the BJP as the anti-incumbency in most places is against specific candidates and not the party.”

First Published: Mar 26, 2009 00:39 IST