Opinion: The anatomy of Tsu-NaMo

Modi chose to focus on a positive campaign with a simple but bold strategy

Mumbai: Narendra Modi's strategy was simple and it was bold: to position the issue as a referendum on his performance and his intentions, writes Aakar Patel.

The most talented politician of our time has pulled off the most famous victory of our time.

Only a year ago, Narendra Modi made his move to position himself at the head of the assault on the Congress. He wanted power, but this was towards an aim: To achieve historical greatness.

He had self-belief, immense capacity for work, and the ability for organisation. But even he could not have imagined how surprisingly easy and how clearly unambiguous and convincing his win would be.

Mr Modi has shattered the Congress, the arithmetic of caste politics and the geographical restrictions of the Bharatiya Janata Party. How did he do this?

His strategy was simple and it was bold: To position the issue as a referendum on his performance and his intentions. This was bold because the easier thing to do would have been to bleat about the performance of Manmohan Singh’s government, weakened by three years of bad news.

Mr Modi chose instead to focus on a positive campaign around his delivery in a mid-sized state, and the promise that he could make this national.

He crafted messages that were simple and easy to understand.

Vote for me, he told us, and I will give you governance and growth. Only in passing did he say that these were things that had not been delivered by the United Progressive Alliance. And his claim went further.

He said that Delhi had never seen the sort of thing he would bring. It was entirely new, and it was already bearing fruit in his state.

That the story in Gujarat does not quite match that claim is another thing, but today is not for whining about that. It is to appreciate the skill and quality of his politics.

Mr Modi's campaign was positive in another way. He chose not to touch upon those aspects of Hindutva that he had in previous Gujarat elections.

This widened his appeal enormously. He already had possession of the religious vote. His brushing aside of L.K. Advani and other BJP seniors a year ago happened not because of any wiliness or stratagems. It was possible because the entire cadre of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is behind him. That group Mr Modi had no need to rally.

This gave him the space to focus on the expansion of his constituency by talking about governance and growth. This is what he went after in single-minded fashion. In doing this he had to work with four teams: The BJP, the large online gang he assembled under volunteers and the entrepreneur Rajesh Jain, the RSS and the private PR organisations that ran his campaign.

He did this with efficiency and with effectiveness. The Modi message of governance and growth was sold. Whether or not he can deliver on these, Mr Modi has made good on one promise: a Congress-mukt Bharat.

The Congress Party may yet survive but it has been given the thrashing of its life. It is gasping and has no time for assessment: elections in New Delhi and Maharashtra will be upon it almost immediately. It will be difficult for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, given their meagre numbers, to even effectively lead the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. If Mamata Banerjee and J. Jayalalithaa form a front, they could easily bid for the Leader of the Opposition, having more seats together than Congress.

This fragmentation of his opponents will help Mr Modi in getting his agenda cleared, at least in the Lok Sabha.

Mr Modi is in the ideal, almost perfect situation. He has a majority of his own in the BJP (meaning allies cannot twist his arm as they did Manmohan Singh's). And he has 50 seats from pre-poll allies in the National Democratic Alliance, so he can afford to alienate those elements in his party that he dislikes or is threatened by.

My view is that he has much freedom with his Cabinet as Prime Minister, as he did as chief minister. This brings in a subject that is bitter but must be mentioned. In Gujarat, Mr Modi has been petty with all whom he has disliked or been threatened by. This included his party (whose senior leaders he pushed out), his Cabinet (whose ministers had little power), Gujarat's media (some of whom were charged with sedition) and even the RSS (whose senior man was humiliated in a tawdry scandal).

Mr Modi is messianic and genuinely believes he can do transformational things for India. We shall see. But he must know that as Prime Minister, he will have to do more than replicate what he did in Gujarat. If he wants to be seen as great, he will have to be seen as magnanimous. He will have to be liked by those who distrust him for his record.

But to be remembered in history with warmth. That is greatness.

( Source : aakar patel )
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