Mar 11, 2013, 08.37 AM | Source: CNBC-TV18

2014 Polls: Consensus, growth key for PM chair, say experts

Kumar Ketkar of Dainik Divya Marathi, Dipankar Gupta, former professor of sociology at JNU and Rajdeep Sardesai, managing editor, CNN-IBN concur, on CNBC-TV18's Indianomics, that the ability to build consensus and project a focus on growth is what will ensure electoral victory.

The election mood has set in early and could probably be traced to December 20, 2012 when Narendra Modi won a third successive term as Chief Minister of Gujarat and addressed the jubilant crowd in Hindi and not in Gujarati.

Also Read: 43% Indians back Modi as next Prime Minister: Survey  

Rising almost equally rapidly in the popularity charts is Congress finance minister, P Chidambaram who in eight months after taking charge has restored the confidence of foreign investors, rating agencies and managed to limit fiscal deficit at levels that few thought was possible.

So, will it be a Modi versus Chidambaram contest for the top job of India’s PM? Kumar Ketkar of Dainik Divya Marathi, Dipankar Gupta, former professor of sociology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Rajdeep Sardesai, managing editor, CNN-IBN discuss and concur that the ability to build consensus and project a focus on growth is what will ensure electoral victory and not just sheer charisma.

Below is an edited transcript of the show on CNBC-TV18

Q: A CNBC-TV18 poll indicates that a majority expect NDA government headed by Narendra Modi to come to power Do you think Modi’s chances are as high as that?

Sardesai: The chorus is certainly there within the BJP and the BJP’s supporters, there is no doubt about that. But the reality of Indian politics is much more complex than the euphoria on Dalal Street, in the media or at the BJP’s national council. Indian polity is much more fragmented than ever before and this makes it very difficult for any party or a coalition to reach the magic 272-mark. In that situation anyone who wants to be Prime Minister will have to be seen as a builder of consensus and coalition.

So can Narendra Modi, who has polarised Indian polity and for all his advantages of ability for charisma and personality, be a coalition or consensus builder? The jury is still out on that. Nitish Kumar had made it clear he will not accept Narendra Modi as a prime-ministerial candidate and I do not see any of the state leaders with strong Muslim population such as Mamata Banrjee in Bengal, Mulayam Singh or Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh accepting Narendra Modi as a prime-ministerial candidate.

Q: Are Modi’s chances are as bright as 50 percent to be the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate?

Ketkar: To be honest, I do not think the possibility of Modi as PM exists at all. However, the campaign will continue. I do not think Modi has pan India image. There are leaders in states who are equal like Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu, Naveen Patnaik in Orissa, the Akali Dal in Punjab or Mamata Banerjee in Bengal. I do not think equals will choose one of their members as the PM.

I do not think Narendra Modi has a pan-India image and hence Indian plurality will defeat Narendra Modi. Gujarat Asmita will have to compete with many other Asmitas, many other identities and Narendra Modi will be sidelined as the election results start coming in..

Q: But there were governments headed by Deve Gowda and Indra Kumar Gujral both who were not pan-Indian leaders…

Ketkar: That is why the governments did not last. The moment the BJP starts projecting Modi, the NDA will fall apart. The NDA cannot accept Modi’s diktat neither will, ever for the sake of argument if the RSS has accepted him, I do not think the BJP will accept him.

There are four colours within BJP- former members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), former members of Jan Sangh, followed by members of the BJP and lastly, the the supporters of the BJP who constitute the NDA. And these four sub-groups do not always agree and that is why there is a constant conflict with the saffron fold. So Modi will be dumped by the BJP and replaced by somebody else who is acceptable to all.

Q: Is it entirely impossible for a person who has so much identified himself against a community to make it to the top irrespective of impressive administrative performance?

Gupta: There are certain aspects against Modi especially the baggage related to the after the Godhra riots that he will find it difficult to shake off. However, urban India has begun to tilt in his favour with many who had not earlier voted for BJP starting to think positively about the BJP and Modi as a viable Prime Minister.

But it is important to remember that in a parliamentary system, coalition politics is a reality. In other words, a pan Indian leader should not be controversial and have a neutered image. Much of what we hear about Modi, apart from Dalal Street and the business community, is from Delhi and Ahmadabad. I am not very sure if  Modi is known in other  parts of India.  In states like Assam, Bihar or Madhya Pradesh, people have things on their minds other than Modi whose traction in the business world is derived from the praise delivered by 8-10 top businessmen who were looked after rather well.

However, with society playing a more decisive role in politics than the market, parties can ill-afford a prime-ministerial candidate who is charismatic and overbearing.

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