After Narendra Modi’s promotion, people said that Modi is an idea whose time has come. I beg to differ with them. Modi is an idea whose time was in 2009. He should have been the PM candidate back then instead of Advani. BJP WOULD HAVE won. But I bicker. I am happy the way things are turning out to be and dismayed by the nautanki that is LK Advani. Now Advani is an old time politician. He should have seen the writing on the wall. I did. I knew that Modi was going to be our guy when Amit Shah became in charge of UP (read my post below) and I am not a politician (however, I have won as many Lok Sabha elections as Manmohan Singh). Advani should have resigned to his fate and bowed out gracefully. But typical of a desi politician (or cricketers), he will not resign but go out kicking and screaming like a petulant child.
In my opinion, Advani was BJP’s Mamta Bannerjee (well not that bad but I am angry right now). He did well to put BJP on the map by his yatra (which was organized by Narendra Modi). SO he proved himself to be a street level fighter but as a Home minister, the man was a big flop. I can cite examples of his incompetence but I will repeat myself. Instead read what NV Subramanian (who is a man in the know) writes:
To an extent, Advani did try to play the strong man in the mould of Sardar Patel to counter the soft image of Vajpayee. He hoped that as home minister, he would make a mark like Patel and even surpass him. That was the reason he chose home. But as home minister, Advani was lacklustre. India has never had a home minister as capable as Patel and it won’t in the future. But Advani brought nothing to the home ministry. No plan. No vision. He simply let the bureaucrats run the show.
Advani never appeared to have a mind of his own in matters of administration and governance. Whether this was a result of having remained in the shadows of Vajpayee is hard to tell, but it seems the most likely reason. By the time he had had enough of being Vajpayee’s number two, he had acquired limited skill sets. His expertise of organizing the street was no longer needed. His knowledge of Indian constitutional law and parliamentary procedures was handy but didn’t equip him in any serious way for prime-ministership.
I am sure what NVS had in mind was the Coimbatore bombing and the way Advani dealt with SIMI in its aftermath. During his tenure, we got bullied by Bangla Desh rifles who returned or murdered jawans, trussed up like animals. Advani being in charge of the security set up must shoulder a big part of the blame for the Kandahar fiasco. It was his responsibility to set up a security infrastructure where in case of an emergency (like hijacking) there are no turf wars between IAS babus and security personnel. But he failed. And despite of repeated failures, he still felt entitled for the top job. Amazingly, no one opposed him. It is because in India, merit always loses to entitlement. One of the biggest complaints about Modi is that he is creating a personality cult where the man becomes bigger than the party. The reason why this is such a problem (in the minds of politicos) is that incompetent leaders who hang around long enough know that collectively they will be in charge. On the other hand, individually, they will be exposed and lose their position. Advani wanted to become the PM based on seniority and not ability. He is not alone in BJP which is why it is in such a mess. That is why we lost badly in 2009 even though it was a winnable election.
What we now have is the first real opportunity to win the next election. Even if you ignore polls, it is clear that the kind of support Modi enjoys are unprecedented. All you have to go and talk to people out there who are independent voters with no pseudo-secular baggage. A lot of them say that they will vote for Modi but are not sure about BJP. A whole generation of new voters who has no memory of Advani’s rath yatra have seen Modi take Gujarat from strength to strength are willing to take a chance even though they are not politically inclined and have no Hindutva allegiance.
Consider the following data points written in an extremely good article by Shashi Shekhar in Niticentral:
- In 2004, the BJP either won or came second in a total of 271 seats.
- In 1999, that number stood at 294 seats.
- There are about 286 Lok Sabha seats that the BJP has won at least once between 1996 and 2004.
- In 2009, there were 113 Lok Sabha seats where the margin of victory was less than 3 per cent.
While the above is no assurance that the path to 272 is realistic, it provides the statistical basis to aspire for 272 as a wildly important goal rather than allow for complacency to set in with a much lower and easily achievable target.
These are real numbers not polls and provide us with a feel for the number of party faithful voters. Now if you add potential independent votes to this then you have a winning formula. Barak Obama’s two campaigns provide a blueprint for that. If you observe the way Modi has won in Gujarat and the way potential youth voters reacted to him tells you that the only man in BJP who can capture this ever eluding independent votes is Narendra Modi. As we have said on this blog that it is evident to the voters and now the media that Modi has changed the way India does politics. The BJP would be well advised to treat the next election as a presidential election, support and work for Modi and let him do his thing. We need proven winners, not seniors whose only skill is survival.
It is going to be between Congress and Narendra Modi. On one hand you have a man who is a performer, honest and incorruptible. A man of vision with energy to bring it to fruition. He has no baggage that the party has (Reddy brothers etc.). On the other hand we have Congress and the voters know who they are and what they do. If you give the voters that choice then even the most biased will be forced to look upon it objectively. That approach will win BJP the next election.
PS: By the time this article was finished, Advani come to his senses but the points made about him still stand.