Modi is the face of efficient, impersonal, big government on the pattern of China. Infrastructure development, economic growth and jobs are what this State assures. In exchange, citizens are to accept greatly constrained rights with respect to personal freedom or the public voicing of alternative sentiments. Discipline and allegiance to the party line is the leitmotif of this model.
A massive, meritocratic bureaucracy led by a charismatic and decisive leader, delivers public services to the people. It is not however a “mai-baap” colonial style government but one chosen through periodic elections. In between elections, citizens are expected to get on with their core business of living and let the constitutional apparatus (government, parliament and the judiciary) manage governance. This is quintessential top down, Weberian, technocratic governance.
The Indian model of this version of governance comes with routine misuse of government facilities for personal purposes; party expenditure on elections clearly far in excess of the limit imposed by the Election Commission; slick and opulent pandals for mammoth public meetings; the self-assured aura of a “leader” surrounded by self- important security men with guns. The fly-in fly-out schedules. The BJP is as complicit, as any other traditional party, in maintaining and growing this imperial image of big government.
At the other end of the spectrum are Kejriwal and the fledgling Aam Admi Party (AAP). He is the face of social activism and citizen centric governance. His vision of the State is as a facilitator for implementing the will of the people, ascertained not solely through elections but, to the extent possible, directly from the people between elections. Necessarily, his is a decentralized form of governance with local committees empowered to decide their affairs. The government is dis-empowered and compelled to ask the people, before taking any major decision.
The key ingredient of the Kejriwal magic is his frontal assault on corruption and the rejection of “perks” which are available to leaders today; official cars, liberal maintenance grants, opulent official homes, junkets abroad, free electricity and water etc. His personal rejection of such privileges; the symbolic travel by Metro to his swearing in; his deliberate choice of clothes, closely resembling the neighborhood vegetable vendor, all send reassuring signals to his electorate, that he is one of them.
Modi is in fact of commoner stock than Kejriwal. But long formative years spent in the network of the quasi-militarist RSS, have made him into a remote, albeit responsive figure, renowned for big public projects (Sabarmati revival, Sardar Patel Statue, 100% electrification) but in dress, speech pattern and appearance (witness his grand new office in Gandhi Nagar), very much a man who has fought his way through on merit and conquered his circumstances. A man to admire, but difficult to like.
In comparison Kejriwal exudes commonness. His speech is consciously simple and direct. His manner is warm and open, even appealing. His winning smile and shy, shrugging-off of praise and accolades, his contempt for the “Khas” (special) people dressed in a suit and tie and driving a Mercedes, instantly resonates with any one struggling to buy onions. His party consciously projects its humble beginnings, from within the people, as an organic force, a natural phenomenon, which he now ascribes to Godly assistance.
As in the recent Delhi State elections, the BJP could be the largest single party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Their recent sweep in State elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and retention of a tribal State-Chhattisgarh, augurs well. But getting past the half way mark, even with allies, is a target as stiff as a Patiala peg.
Modi will be nearing 70 years of age by the time the next national election comes around in 2019. A rank outsider to the National Leadership of the BJP, he cannot survive till 2019 as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. 2014 is a make or break year for Modi. What are most likely to break him are the antipathy of the Muslims and the Kejriwal inspired impatience of the urban common man with traditional elitist, more-of-the-same politics.
Modi may find to his dismay, Kejriwal/AAP clones cutting into his traditional, urban, vote bank of business men, professionals and the middle class, at least in the 50 large metros which have a vote share of 15% of the national electorate. Coupled with the near certain loss of the Muslim vote comprising another 15% of the national vote share, Modi will be left battling to get a 40% vote share. He will have to jostle hard with caste based and regional parties and the Congress in UP, Bihar, Haryana and Karnataka. A very tough call indeed.
My New Year’s wish is a BJP plus allies national government, with a wafer thin majority to keep them on their toes and at least 20 Kejriwal/AAP clones as Members of Parliament out of the 542 seats in the Lok Sabha. This would put the AAP plus clones in the same league as the existing strength of Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party (22); Bhenji’s Bhujan Samaj Party (21), Didi’s Trinamool Congress (19), Nitish Kumar’s Janta Dal (United) (19), Karunanidhi’s DMK (19), the CPM (16), Naveen Patnaik’s BJD (14) and way ahead of the Shiv Sena (11), Amma’s AIDMK (9) and Sharad Pawar’s NCP (9).
India needs a makeover. What better than BJP, a traditional, effective, centralized, growth and jobs oriented party, for near term governance till 2019? Thereafter, scaling up of the Delhi State Government model of decentralized, citizen centric, corruption free government, being rolled out by the AAP from January 4, 2014. I earnestly hope God reads blogs.