Modi: Time for Brand India
by Rijul Singh Uppal on 09 Feb 2013 15 Comments

In recent weeks there has been a sea change in the Bharatiya Janta Party. Under its unexpected new president and unnamed prime ministerial candidate, the party has a new profile and after a long time appears to be a serious contender in the next general elections, whenever these are held. The growing national consensus is that elections could be held sometime in 2013.


After the debacle of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP may finally be waking up to the fact that a change in strategy is a must to woo voters as the tired old faces will fail to garner votes. Here, the accidental duet of Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi, which is carefully feeling its way to get a grip on the pulse of the nation, may just click, appealing as they do to rural and urban voters respectively.  


Narendra Modi's clever flirtation with the national stage was the first sign of a positive shift from the party’s long despondency to a mood to rise to conquer. It showed that the BJP rank and file had forced the old guard to concede the need to bank on regional leaders who have successfully managed their States and reaped the harvest of successive electoral victories. It showed that the BJP would give its regional stalwarts a stake in its central politics, rather than follow the old Congress path of dictating from the national capital. In other words, the current senior parliamentarians will not be allowed to call all the shots if they cannot ensure the votes nationwide.


Rajnath Singh, exhibiting a rare confidence to take the party to a new level, quickly indicated that successful chief ministers like Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh, and perhaps stalwarts like Vasundhara Raje, would be accommodated in the new parliamentary board.


The BJP president has moved sure-footedly on a range of issues, from containing the over-enthusiasm of party and Parivar factions on potentially divisive issues, to taking the Government head-on on festering sores like the Cauvery water sharing dispute, telling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring both Chief Ministers to the table to arrive at a consensus instead of pushing the issue once again to a tribunal.


Rajnath Singh has sharply rebuked the UPA’s failures on all fronts – the economy, national security and poor diplomacy. He lambasted the Government for not providing security to fishermen and failing to resolve the issue diplomatically with Sri Lanka. He criticised the UPA’s failure to persuade Colombo on the issue of greater autonomy for Tamil provinces despite the fact that the island nation has made no progress to rehabilitate Tamil's uprooted during the military crackdown against the LTTE.


Pointing to the security threats from Pakistan and China’s surrounding India through strategic diplomatic and military manoeuvres, Singh said China's takeover of Gwadar Port was simply alarming. There can be no doubt that he has infused new life into the BJP and is galvanising it for the elections.


Regardless of the timing of the formal announcement, Narendra Modi is virtually the BJP’s PM-designate. Indeed, the party has no other face to present to the electorate. While other BJP chief ministers have carved out a niche for themselves in their respective States, Narendra Modi has created a new brand of politics that connects with people across a larger spectrum.


Not for him the old appeasement card and votebank politics. Instead, he proffers his track record – the milestones achieved, and the goals yet to be realised – in the nation, and for the aspirational youth. Some call it the Development Card. Whatever one may call it, on February 6, when Narendra Modi spoke to students at Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce, his audience was the nation. That is why the speech was covered live by all television channels.


And it was no routine address either. It was a consummate political performance by a master. With controversies dogging his heels and Modi-baiters chanting outside on the street, he already had the full attention of his audience. Working on that ‘advantage’, he quickly grasped the minds of the young students who would soon be moving out into the world, and had them hanging on to every word. It added to their pride that their college was the cynosure of all eyes across the nation, even across major world capitals.


Modi’s voice, modulated and confident, controlled the room and simultaneously ignited the minds of millions across the country who watched him on television. He spoke of the marvellous strides taken by Gujarat as a whole, thanks to the hard work of the Gujarati people and of course, the opportunities provided by its leadership. These were subtly juxtaposed with what the situation is or could be in the rest of the country. To cite one instance, he mentioned how tribal farmers in a backward region of the State had stunned him with the demand for a paver road so that the bananas they were exporting to Finland were not damaged in transit. The country has dreams, and it is the business of the government to govern in a manner that meets these aspirations.


The whole speech was about development, but it wasn’t about statistics. Showcasing Gujarat’s giant strides on many fronts – from welcoming business to giving tomato to Afghanistan, lady finger to Europe, milk to Delhi along with the coaches for its famed Metro, he subtly portrayed the financial prosperity that the entire nation could share if ...


Critics may carp that the Gujarat model cannot automatically be extended to the country as a whole. But Modi has the answer to that – it is not the model that has to be replicated but the sincerity of governance, especially the speed of delivery. The motto, he said, is minimum government and maximum governance, which means efficient governance. Under him, no officer sits on a file, it is processed, and work gets done. Factories come up, goods are manufactured, a supply chain created, and a Brand Gujarat created.


Now it is time for Brand India...


The author’s Twitter handle is @therijuluppal

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