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Will Modi please spell out the ABCD of his agenda
It is time Modi spelt out what he intends to do if he became PM. His track record on development in Gujarat may get him an A-plus, but there is a big question about his ability to keep India united in its great diversity and not polarise communities.
Raj Chengappa

An impish smile plays on the lips of Nitish Kumar, Bihar�s Chief Minister, every time he mentions Narendra Modi. At a lecture organised by the National Minorities Commission in Delhi on Friday evening, Kumar was sarcastic about the �Modi wave� in the wake of the Gujarat Chief Minister�s formal nomination as the BJP�s prime-ministerial candidate for 2014. Kumar termed the wave as �a lot of hot air from a blower� and stated, �Yeh blower ki hawa is desh ki kudrati hawa ka mukabala nahi kar sakti aur kudrati hawa ekta ki hawa hai.� (These artificial winds can never match the natural wind, which always blows for unity in diversity).

Kumar was cleverly alluding to what those who oppose Modi�s candidature see as his Achilles heel � his government�s contemptible handling of the anti-Muslim riots of 2002 in Gujarat. Kumar had seen the Modi train hurtling down the rails of power long before his formal arrival on the national platform. In June, Kumar ended his coalition with the BJP in Bihar by questioning the party�s secular credentials after it became apparent that Modi would move to the centre stage. Kumar is a worthy aspirant for the PM�s post himself in the next general election if his party does well in his home state and there is a hung verdict that favours a coalition by a �Third Front�.

The general election may be six months away but the gloves are already off and verbal fisticuffs have begun. In his first speech after his anointment as the PM candidate in poll-bound Rajasthan, Modi lashed out at the Congress with word play that he revels in. Much to the amusement of the large crowds that had come to hear him in Jaipur, he said the Congress had written a new �ABCD� for corruption in which � A stands for Adarsh ghotala (scam), B for Bofors ghotala, C for Coal ghotala and D for Damad-ka-korabar (referring to allegations about Robert Vadra�s land dealings).�

Modi is a gifted and charismatic speaker and is the darling of TV news channels apart from a growing following in the middle class. But beyond the rhetoric it is now time Modi spelt out the �ABCD� of what he intends to do if he became PM. His track record on economic development of Gujarat may get him an A-plus, but there is a big question about his ability, as Kumar points out, to keep India united in its great diversity and not polarise communities. Modi has blown hard and soft on the Hindutva agenda depending on the audience and the occasion. On Pakistan he is less hostile than before and now wants it �to declare war on poverty and terrorism.� But Modi is still fuzzy about his world view.
Narendra Modi addresses a BJP rally at Taligaun, near Panaji in Goa. PTI
Narendra Modi addresses a BJP rally at Taligaun, near Panaji in Goa. PTI 

Modi�s promise of a �strong India� remains vague. His opponents decry it as �Hindu shakti� that would only unleash divisive forces and take the nation�s focus away from much needed economic growth. Recent elections have shown that the Indian electorate rewards those who deliver on inclusive economic growth which uplifts the weaker sections. The middle class yearns for stability and prosperity.

Modi is yet to tell us how his economic agenda will be different from the UPA government�s policies. The BJP has so far engaged in a negative agenda that will not wash well during the poll campaign. Nor has the BJP helped its image by adopting a scorched earth policy in Parliament of blocking Bills vital to push the economic reform forward except where politically expedient.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress�s heir apparent, has galvanised himself and shows much more zeal in recent election rallies. At a political rally in Kota, Rajasthan, he avoided taking pot-shots at Modi and instead focused on the Congress� programmes for uplifting the poor, including the food security Bill. Sensing it had all but lost the middle class, the Congress appears to be falling back on rural votes and that of the poor in an effort to counter the Modi juggernaut.

Modi has taken a calculated gamble to spearhead the BJP, pushing aside the party�s patriarch LK Advani. The timing of his ascension seems aimed at cashing in on a possible BJP sweep in the Assembly elections due in November in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi. The win in the three larger states would largely be because of the performance and popularity of local stalwarts like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje.

A bonanza in the state elections would give Modi an unstoppable momentum. It could lead to the consolidation of Hindu votes in many states, resulting in the BJP winning more seats than currently predicted, though not enough to form a government on its own. The BJP will still need coalition partners and this is where Modi will have to define his policies in the coming months and reassure allies with a positive and unifying agenda. The sooner Modi does it the better for him and the BJP.

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