Two important NDA chief ministers made special appearances this weekend (16-17th March 2013) and even though in Delhi, the two occasions were totally contrasting.
Two important NDA chief ministers made special appearances this weekend (17th March 2013) and even though in Delhi, the two occasions were totally contrasting. The first one was by Narendra Modi, the man of the moment in Indian politics at a conclave in the national capital on Saturday night and the second by Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister who organised a massive rally at the Ramlila Maidan to show his party's show of strength.
The two events had some interesting links. The final question that was volleyed at Modi at Saturday's conclave was on finding allies in people like Nitish Kumar while playing a big role on the national stage.
The Gujarat chief minister dodged the question smartly but the matter didn't end there as the Bihar chief minister declared his grand arrival the next morning.
It seemed as if Kumar was waiting for Modi's innings at the conclave to end. At the Delhi rally, the Bihar CM said only he who felt for the backwards states and poor people would rule from Delhi. Kumar's stress on "One who can take everyone along..... Hindustan should be one, not divided between India and Bharat" is significant for many found this expression as a dash at Modi.
The Bihar CM's words: "We will leave everyone behind and move ahead with development. And we will present a model before the world. These days development model is being discussed. This model is what takes along everyone together. This is the real development model of India" just hours after Modi spoke on how his model could be replicated in the entire country is another interesting link between the two events.
While Modi often took a dig at the Congress-led Centre during his speech, Kumar never launched any attack against the Centre and even patted Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram for showing favour to Bihar in this year's budget.
Modi and Nitish? Two contrasting tales
The Modi and Kumar story reveals two contrasting tale of India. While the former uttered words which sound more sweet to the urban middle-class (his audience was mainly comprising representatives of India), the latter was more tailor-made for those who live in Bharat. The opinions of the two leaders did not keep the debate restricted in the realm of pro-UPA or anti-UPA alone. It was a bigger debate between two tales of development, those of India and Bharat.
Whoever becomes the prime minister of this country future, he has to discover a compromise between the two contrasting stories. Whether railway should be privatised or should the state assume more responsibility to ensure that the railways cater more to the service of the backward people? Finding a middle-path will be the real challenge for the next man on the Delhi throne.
Local leaders have challenge in dealing with all-India scenario
The respective assertion of the two chief ministers also emphasise on another aspect. The contemporary Indian politics is increasingly coming under the influence of sub-nationalism.
The more the Gandhis are losing grip by means of a decay in the Congress's administrative capacity and the national leadership of the BJP, the vacuum thus created is being filled by regional leaders. These leaders have made a mark in their respective states, which are placed at different points of the growth table. Hence, the basic challenge for all these leaders is that they do not have a comprehensive idea about how it is like in the other parts of the country.
If Modi is more familiar with a prosperous Gujarat and Kumar with a backward Bihar, it is difficult for either of them to get an idea about the actual development model that would work in India. There are many other assertive chief ministers in the country like Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa and it can be said without an iota of doubt that the post-2014 Union will face no less problem in forcing any model of governance no matter who comes to power.
Modi needs to focus on issues that are relevant outside Gujarat
If Modi is the future prime minister and Kumar is the future opposition, it is very important for the former to start understanding issues that are related to India which is outside Gujarat. The ideas that he spoke about at the conclave proves that he is a smart and pro-active administrator but how much successful will be those plans on an all-India level is difficult to predict.
Take one example. Narendra Modi knows how to improve the borders with Pakistan for he is familiar with the ground reality in north-western India. But will the same idea work in India's border with Bangladesh or Nepal, which is notoriously porous? Same with the idea of privatisation of railways.
It is a thought that many Indians share but making it a reality will be a herculean task, if not impossible. It will be populist politicians from West Bengal and Bihar who will resist the plan most and indeed if Modi leads a coalition government which is most likely, many of his ideals will be difficult to achieve.
Modi's mantra that the government has no business to be in business is a perfect one for the elite India sitting in the conclave but for a distant farmer or unemployed youth, the question that reigns at the end of the day is: "Why isn't the government looking after us?" It's miles to go before a post-colonial state recedes from the lives of its cornered people.
Not many regional leaders had a great time at the top
The time has come perhaps for Modi to start focusing on the all-India scenario rather than blindly banking on the belief that his Gujarat model will be a hit in Meghalaya or Kerala. He is by far the best leader the country can have in the future. But for a long tenure at the top if he indeed reaches there, Modi must prepare himself to counter people like Kumar in their den.
Not many regional leaders who went on to become the prime minister of the country have had a great time at the top.
Can Modi break the tradition?