Will Narendra Modi lead Karnataka BJP campaign?

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: “Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi“: It makes for a sexy headline. And for an audience drawing shouting match on television. But as an analytical frame to understand the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections, it just doesn’t make any sense.

Let me explain.

Neither Modi nor Rahul is on the ballot in Karnataka. They aren’t likely to lead the government if their parties are voted into office. Nor will they be difference making vote gatherers, and to say otherwise is to misread democratic politics.

Narendra Modi’s spectacular success in Gujarat is neither unique nor is it solely based on claims of good governance and absence of corruption allegations. In fact, Shivraj Singh of Madhya Pradesh, Nitish Kumar of Bihar and Naveen Patnaik of Orissa too claim similar track record of both electoral success as well as efficient administration.

If anything, all four of them (Modi, Singh, Kumar and Patnaik) may have in common is the social alliance they have managed to create in their states, which has enabled them to triumph in the electoral arena. Sure good governance and a clean image always help.

But elections are fought and won based on caste equations, finding the right candidate and moving the right pawns. Modi has done exceptionally well in building that combination, in addition to economic development of Gujarat.

Astute political observers have always pointed out that the secret of Modi’s success in Gujarat is not that he is a practitioner of Hindutva politics; but he has rebuilt the old social alliance (of Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim known popularly as KHAM) Congress relied on for electoral success until the 1980s.

Admittedly, Muslims aren’t a key element of Modi’s social coalition but there is evidence to suggest that he has secured significant Muslim support in the last few years.

Yet the point is Modi has turned out to be an exceptional political strategist within Gujarat, and his administrative acumen has only helped in consolidating these political gains.

Does that make him a star campaigner outside Gujarat, especially among people who haven’t benefited from good governance? No one is suggesting that BJP invite Shivraj Singh or Nitish Kumar to campaign in Karnataka!

This is where Rahul Gandhi may start out with a small advantage, which accrues to any Gandhi-Nehru dynast, and that gets him the initial name recognition nationally as well as some loyalty of Congressmen. That may have been enough in the past even until the 1980s when his father entered politics. But Indian democracy has changed and has become more competitive since then.

Political loyalties are only skin-deep these days even in a High Command centric party like Congress.

Rahul gives the impression of being a reluctant politician, who given a choice would do something else. He hasn’t shown the commitment or stamina of a professional politician who will breathe politics every waking moment.

Can he be the adept strategist and star campaigner that Congress party, and indeed even the media expect him to be?

I remain skeptical. The voter has gotten better at seeing through masks and evaluates his self interests in ways that media or political scientists do not recognize.

What Rahul and Modi will accomplish, if they campaign vigorously in Karnataka, is bridge and/or raise the enthusiasm gap for their parties. That is their appeal will be limited to committed supporters of Congress and BJP respectively, who will be energized to vote for their candidates instead of staying home.

A recent survey by Suvarna News and Cfore media bears this out: more than two thirds of likely BJP voters admit that Modi’s support will make them vote for BJP.

What neither will be able to do is to convert the undecided voter or the opponent. Hence their impact will be limited and marginal at best.

So, why do we still see stories like this in prominent newspapers?

Is it because the media is lazy and cannot come up with better explanations?

***

IAS – KAS conflict:  Are only direct IAS recruits efficient and capable of running fair and impartial elections?

The Karnataka Election Commission seems to think so and has replaced twelve deputy commissioners, who are IAS officers but promoted from Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS).  Sashidhar Nandikal reports in Vijaya Karnataka on April 1 that this has created a rift among direct recruits and promotee IAS officers.

Majority of the direct recruits into IAS are non-Kannadigas and therefore lack deep roots in local caste politics or personal / family connections to leading politicians. That’s the not case with KAS recruits, whose initial selection will largely be because of their powerful connections.

Still, we must file this question among the inexplicable mysteries!

***

On Actresses and Politics: Recently, I was asked to explain why actresses are getting into politics in Karnataka. While the elders in the business, like Umashri, Tara and Jayamala relied on MLC nominations or an Academy chairmanship to launch their political career, the younger lot like Rakshita and Pooja Gandhi is sweating it out, traveling across the state and taking part in party conventions.

Lest the reader mistake their political activism to the tireless campaigning of a Mamata Banerjee or a Mayawati, I hasten to add that these actresses haven’t offered a compelling reason for entering politics. In fact, we don’t hear much about their political commitments or track of social service.

The talk in Bangalore revolves around the money they are being paid. Pooja Gandhi is supposed to have received Rs 2 crore for joining BSR Congress and when asked by Vijaya Karnataka, she strongly denied that rumour. Yet in a political career spanning a little over a year, she has been a member of JD (S) and KJP.

To my questioner, a journalist-friend, I suggested that for someone like Pooja Gandhi a political party is no different than a product or a business she endorses. I suspect she looks at herself as a brand ambassador for a party, and taking a fee for that work isn’t the worst thing in the world.

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9 Responses to “Will Narendra Modi lead Karnataka BJP campaign?”

  1. harkol Says:

    >more than two thirds of likely BJP voters admit that Modi’s support will make them vote for BJP.

    The above statement is true.

    Karnatka BJP needs Modi to persuade the BJP voters not to breakup and vote with KJP or sit at home. Traditional BJP voters will are disappointed with BJP performance, so while they may not go out and vote for congress, they may decide to simply not vote.

    Modi also needs to ensure KJP doesn’t impact BJP too much. Shettar isn’t useful in doing so, it needs someone of Modi’s stature to corner BSY.

    Besides, while congress may yet end up winning due to complete mess BJP made in Karnataka, BJP needs to show that it is still a big force that can bounce back by 2014.

  2. Deepak Says:

    Most opinion polls are indicating that almost 2/3rd of respondents are saying that if Modi campaigns, it could help BJP. This clearly shows his popularity and also shows that people may punish BJP this election, but may vote for it in 2013/2014.

    I think Modi will campaign in coastal areas and some urban areas like Bangalore, Mysore. If BJP manages to hold back Congress in these areas, they should consider themselves lucky. Also, seeing the level of infighting in the Congress over tickets, the BJP would be hoping for a hung assembly. Modi’s campaign at best can convert a Congress sweep into a hung assembly, nothing more!!

  3. RK Says:

    I am thinking all Lingayat votes will go to KJP[Yeddyurappa]; Lingayats are the new Muslims.

  4. asha Says:

    Congress win is by default and not for anything they did good….in fact with the infighting going in Congress it might lose substantially if BJP can play their cards smartly…

  5. Sanjeeva Says:

    I don’t think it will be a good idea for Modi to campaign in Karnataka. What will he say to the voters? On what basis will he ask the voters to bring back BJP? I don’t really know whether he can fetch votes, but I rather feel if Modi campaigns, he is sure to lose name from urban educated voters. BJP has done too much of a damage to the state to seek revival. Cong is in a mess with infighting and no consensus about CM. Finally, JD may benefit.

  6. Goldstar Says:

    “Admittedly, Muslims aren’t a key element of Modi’s social coalition but there is evidence to suggest that he has secured significant Muslim support in the last few years.”

    Is this Churumuri I am reading, or is this a belated April fool gag ?

  7. Rajeev Says:

    As usual, I am very disappointed to see mainstream media’s discourse on elections. MSM seems to have reduced democracy to elections and elections to caste formations/social aritmetic/caste equations/blah,blah, blah. This is not what one expects from the “mainstream” media.

    Palini swamy says “But elections are fought and won based on caste equations, finding the right candidate and moving the right pawns. Modi has done exceptionally well in building that combination, in addition to economic development of Gujarat”.

    Palini Swamy also says “Yet the point is Modi has turned out to be an exceptional political strategist within Gujarat, and his administrative acumen has only helped in consolidating these political gains”

    And what he says ” Admittedly, Muslims aren’t a key element of Modi’s social coalition but there is evidence to suggest that he has secured significant Muslim support in the last few years” is completely contradictory to the above two statements. Why would Muslims, of all folks – Muslims, be part of any social combination of Modi and vote for him if not for economic development that has benefited them.

    The bottomline is Indian voter cares about “economic development”; social equations, caste equations, etc, etc MAY matter, but only in addition to economic development/good governance, etc.

    More interested than politicians in these “social arithmetic” concepts and analysis, it seems, is the lazy media – easy to write about and analyse based on caste equations than analysing performance, promises, manifestos, people’s needs, etc. Is it not? I mean how the hell can you ever “properly” check whether yadavs/kurmis/brahmins/kammas have voted for congress / bjp / SP – one can defend one’s views on these without ever having to provide data to back up those views. Fill print space, and air time without having to exercise any resources or grey cells. Anyway, the reader is willingly gullible to consume everything that the media says – if not for anything else, for entertainment value.

    Separately and by the way, who is this Palini Swamy and what are his credentials for us to suffer this torture – google Palini Swamy and all you get a 1996 Outlook article and a few churumuri articles to his credit.

  8. Kiran Says:

    BJP (bcoz of Yeddy) dug its own grave in Karnataka. “Common” people who’d voted for BJP in the past will think twice. (I am not talking of caste biased voter. Nothing is stopping him from voting against a member of his own community however corrupt he is – true for Yeddy – Lingayats, Gowda family – Vokkaligas and countless others). To the ill-luck of our state, the other alternatives are Congress which has practically destroyed our country with its dynasty and sycophancy based politics and JDS, which is one more party that woos Muslims and Vokkaligas. BSR & KJP are parties born out of ego of its leaders and don’t really have anything to offer to the common man.

    If by any chance, Congress manages to come to power in Karnataka, Rahul Gandhi will be touted as the architect of the win, when actually, it’s because there are no other viable options.

    One thing that recurs everytime is that Karnataka forms the govt with the party that’s in the opposition at the Centre. Bcoz of this, it’s always given the raw end of the bargain, like in the case of Kaveri river and numerous other issues.

    God save the people of Karnataka !

    Coming to India in general, Rahul Gandhi would have to be the worst choice of all to lead us. A person like him will not be able to get a decent job somewhere is being hailed by sycophants as a mass leader. Come on. Doesn’t Congress have a really capable person other than this dud of a person? If Congress really wants to be in the picture, it has to dump this Gandhi family and let young individuals come out as leaders. In fact, I see a lot of hope in Congress (if only they dump Gandhis) with young guns. Even BJP has no young face apart from Modi.

    All in all, our country is headed for tougher times. I hope God gives us the strength to bear what’s in store.

  9. Deepak Says:

    @Kiran, its no longer a given fact that Congress will form the Govt. Thanks to the unprecedented infighting and rebellion, the Congress is in for a tough time. Even opinion polls (India Today) are saying that the Congress is also losing votes and will win only because of BJP’s bigger loss of votes.

    But apart from the infighting, JDS is putting up a tough fight and Congress won’t find it a cakewalk. Top Cong leaders like Parameshwara are already sweating it out of fear that their own seat might fall. Further, children of Congress union ministers are not getting a ticket, so there is a great chance of these top leaders sabotaging the elections. And lastly, Modi is expected to campaign in the coastal areas which could help BJP to increase their seats.

    All these factors IMHO are leading to the prospects of a hung assembly, where Cong has to be do business with Yeddy or even HDK. Lets see as the campaign proceeds how things develop.

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