Modi or Rahul?

Between the lines

I am apprehending a situation where I might have no option except to vote for either Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi or Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Both have thrown their hats in the ring.

True, neither the BJP has announced Modi officially as its candidate for prime ministership in the 2014 Parliament elections, nor has the Congress nominated Rahul for the position. Yet, it is clear who the two parties have in mind.

My predicament is that I do not consider either of them the prime ministerial timber. They may be suitable for the offices they occupy, but do not deserve to be elevated. However, both have made their presentation speeches as Modi did at New Delhi this week and Rahul before the Congress conclave at Jaipur. The two are not similar in any way. Yet both left none in doubt about what they seek when they exhorted the people to prepare themselves for the new India which the two foresaw as a fresh, dynamic country that would take them over the green mountains into a sunny valley.

The comparison ends here. They are so different and so distant from each other that they do not come anywhere in either character or comportment. Modi hides his anti-minority stance behind the flourish for development. He is still involved in some court cases arising out of the ethnic cleansing carried out in Gujarat in 2002 and may find him involved in the days to come. Therefore, it would be unfair to regard him as the right person for the highest executive position.

Rahul is a babe in the woods, lionised by the Congress which his mother, Sonia Gandhi heads. He is found out of depth whenever he is asked questions on serious matters. He was not interested in the budget speech and left in the middle even though he was late to arrive. His knowledge about policies is rudimentary and reactions off the mark. For example, on the liberation of Bangladesh Rahul said that whenever his dynasty decided to do something, it had come out with flying colours. He should have realised that East Pakistan was liberated by the Bangladeshis themselves. India did help, but its role was secondary.

Leave Rahul and Modi apart, the ominous part of the forthcoming elections is that they would be probably the dirtiest, divisive and most violent polls ever held in India. The nation would be arrayed on the lines of religion and caste. A country which is already ill at ease because of never-ending corrupt cases and scams might have to go through a phase where no method would be considered mean enough by the contestants to win votes.

Symbol of Hindutva

The BJP seems to have concluded that the country has already veered towards Hindutva. Otherwise, BJP president Rajnath Singh would not have gone to attend a meeting at Haridwar during the Kumb Mela where the Sangh parivar and the extremist sadhus chalked out the strategy to revive the demand for building Ram temple, the symbol of Hindutva.

The Congress, particularly the BJP, is not assessing the country’s mood correctly. An average person or the aam admi is secular in temperament and does not want to join issue with the fanatics when he labours under the impression that he can defeat them at the polls. It happened that way in 2004 when the BJP thought that its slogan of ‘India Shining’ was sure to return it to power. In fact, the adoption of Hindutva by the BJP may help the Congress since a Hindu does not feel insecure about his religion in India. Had it been so, he would have founded the Hindu Rashtra long ago because 80 per cent of the country’s population is Hindu.

It is clear from the current political situation that no party is in a position to get a majority -- the minimum requisite figure of 273 in the Lok Sabha which has the strength of 543 members. If Modi is adopted by the BJP, he may scare away its allies without which the party cannot form the government. Janata Dal (United), one important ally of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has already announced that it would not accept Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to believe that the BJP, which is keen to come back to power, will still go ahead and nominate him.

Yet I wonder why it is incumbent on us to confine our choice to the BJP and the Congress. Maybe, either the non-Congress or the non-BJP combination would emerge to provide an alternative to the country. Whether there is a formal constitution of a third front or not is not yet clear. But the general perception is that the nation cannot be left at the mercy of the Congress or the BJP. The voters do not want a choice where they would have to either jump into the sea or the river. Why is the nation doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past?

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