We are just 20 days away from the result of the general elections. The polls may not be believed, but the satta bazaar has got its ear to the ground; reportedly, you can win for each rupee bet (illegal, of course, like most of election spending) Rs 1.42 for Narendra Modi and Rs 7 on Rahul Gandhi. Arvind Kejriwal is in the hundreds of rupees territory.
If the satta bazaar has got it right, and if what the polls predict is correct, then the BJP may win around 230-250 seats on its own. With its core partners the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, the BJP/NDA may get an outright majority of around 275.
The various other allies picked up during the campaign will be surplus to the requirement. Once the BJP/NDA coalition forms the government, it will last five years as the last three coalition governments have.
Thus, the dreams of the Anyone But Modi (ABM) brigade, within the BJP and outside, are unlikely to be realised. So it is time to get real and ask, what sort of prime minister will Modi be? The fear is not that he will be weak, but that he will be authoritarian. There is also the alarm raised by Giriraj Singh and Pravin Togadia (with friends like these, who needs enemies?). Modi had marginalised the VHP in Gujarat in the 2012 elections. Is this the VHP’s revenge on Modi? Can
Modi be the PM for all Indians as he aspires to be?
Modi is the first prospective PM who has never been in Delhi. His perspective is state-oriented and he is likely to be more federalist than any previous PM. The Congress, historically, has been a centralist party. This is the legacy of the Independence struggle and also the Nehru-Gandhi penchant for socialism which requires central direction and control.
The Constitution was said to be ‘unitary in spirit but federal in letter’ in the ’50s. Now we know, especially after P Chidambaram’s bruising experience of trying to establish a national anti-terrorist authority, that the states will not kowtow to the Centre. Modi knows this and even approves of states’ rights.
The expectations are extravagant on the economic front as the Sensex has shown. But remember, in economics, there are not only no free lunches, but no fast food either. Things take time to fructify. It would take any new government, however competent, one year before inflation will come down on a sustained basis below 5 per cent. Hence any quick hope of interest rate cuts must be abandoned. The budget deficit left behind by UPA-II is too large for comfort and that has to be brought down. Expenditure will have to be brought under control and the tax system rationalised. Growth will have to come from private investment.
A chief minister can be a dictator, but not a prime minister (Indira Gandhi apart). The BJP/NDA cabinet will be crucial for Modi. The BJP is full of talented senior people as are some of the NDA partners. The crucial appointments will be Home and Finance. Prime ministers are their own foreign ministers.
The Home Ministry is the most important because of, to put it absolutely bluntly, the fear about the safety of Muslims.
Law and order is a state subject, so riots are really the responsibility of state governments. But, as we saw in the Muzaffarnagar riots, even a ‘secular’ government does not guarantee safety for victims of riots — Hindus or Muslims.
It is most important to notice that a BJP government will not condone any riots. ABM people have been rebranding other BJP leaders such as L K Advani, Rajnath Singh as secular, meaning anyone else is better than Modi. So the home minister should be ABM. The Finance Ministry requires a decisive person who will have the PM’s full backing, just as Manmohan Singh had with Narasimha Rao.
In foreign affairs, all Modi has to do is to reproduce the good record of NDA-I. The one area where he must not follow the previous BJP team is in losing the next election. The only task of any newly elected government is to get re-elected.