At first glance there is so much to like about the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate – Narendra Modi. He is an outsider to the system, he doesn’t come from an established political family or a system of political patronage, his upbringing has been far removed from any form of privilege and he clearly understands that he has no birth right to lead the country or even his party and he is surrounded by equally ambitious peers who keep him honest and will lose no opportunity to pull him down should they sense a weakness. All he has is a belief in his abilities to motivate an electorate to vote for him and then to provide a decent administration once in power and hope to win the elections again and use that as a step to get to Delhi and win a general election with enough votes. He has come through the ranks of cut and thrust politics and is an aggressive leader that is an attractive change from the last 10 years of a demure leadership at its best and the promise of the scion who has never had to dirty his manicured hands. 

But it is the nature of cut and thrust politics that in your eagerness to move forward, you can just as easily cut yourself and that is exactly what Modi has done by mis-managing the riots in his state in 2002. While, as things stand now, he may never be convicted but he will always have to live with these accusations. I think Modi miscalculated the political gain to be had by not clamping down on the rioters. He now finds himself in a sticky situation where he has to do a lot of heavy lifting on all other areas i.e. he has to be best in all other areas, to somehow diminish some of the political stain. That is not to say that he can’t get out of this self-created mess. But that requires a more Rajiv Gandhi style of suavity which is not taught in the cut and thrust school and his ability to extricate himself from this situation may make the difference between 150 and 200+ seats. 

But the bigger question is for the BJP – the party now has a much wider pool when it comes to choosing prime ministerial candidates. Some of them are relatively uncorrupt, have a political base, are good public speakers and are committed to the nation’s development.  Have they been considered ? The party doesn’t even seem to support Modi whole heartedly and seem to have left him exposed on economics and foreign affairs.