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Mixed messages spell out the challenges for Modi

IN THE classic manner of Shakespeare's Cassius, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi schematically blamed the clout of the ' first family' for preventing the rise of other eminent and capable leaders in the Congress. Mr Modi attempted to incite discord within the Congress in order to create allies who could leverage the BJP's standing in the Lok Sabha elections.

This may have encouraged applause within the party's cadre, but the euphoria that has been surrounding this apparently charismatic leader does not seem to have crossed over the Atlantic, with the prestigious University of Pennsylvania cancelling its invitation for Mr Modi speak the Wharton India Economic Forum.

Mr Modi's citation of Charan Singh and IK Gujral, as cases in point who had to denounce the Congress to achieve prominence aided his analysis that the inheritors of the Nehru legacy do not permit party members to move up the ladder unless recruited as mere night watchmen.

However, it seems as though his PR advisors have slacked after the removal of EU's ban on Mr Modi and the successful speech at SRCC last month. Having cleverly established himself as a growth icon while displaying indifference to the BJP's choice of candidate, Mr Modi has since had to deal with twin blows. For not only did BJP patriarch LK Advani favour Sushma Swaraj, Wharton's cancellation to Mr Modi's invite amidst protests from its professors and students reminded him that the memory of the Gujarat riots has not been erased.

Placing a mirror could bring perspective; while Mr Modi flourished inside the four walls of SRCC, people from similar demographics protested outside.

While Mr Modi's comments on the flaws of dynastic politics may not be without substance, these events will caution him about his ambitions.

Perhaps, in a trade- off, people would lose to dynastic politics, but are not yet prepared to prop a leader with a troubled past.

Still in the game

BHARATIYA JANATA Party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani continues to be the principal playmaker for the party. Twice in the last few months he has managed to grab eyeballs with his impact on party matters.

It was at his insistence that Nitin Gadkari's chances of a second term as BJP president came to naught. On Sunday, just when Narendra Modi appeared to be cruising along nicely to position himself as the party's prime ministerial candidate, Advani threw a spanner in the works, at once putting Sushma Swaraj on a pedestal in the company of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and bringing Mr Modi down to place him alongside Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

With the two developments Mr Advani reinforced his role of conscience keeper for the party as Mr Gadkari and Mr Modi are controversial figures.

The fact that Mr Advani continues to be in active politics contributes to his strength and helps him occupy a special place in the party.

While that could be a factor of his own prime ministerial ambitions, his long innings and the ability to rise from adversity makes him doubly relevant in a rapidly changing political environment.

For the BJP's NextGen, that is not necessarily bad news -- for, if the Gadkari case is any indication, he has been able to get the better of the Sangh when it matters.

Criminal conduct

THE POLITICIANS were adamant that this time would be different, that Uttar Pradesh would not return to the dangerous days of the Goonda Raj.

The decision to promote Samajwadi Party scion Akhilesh Yadav, in fact, was an attempt to underline this new approach. And yet, as cases of violence and rioting mount up, it seems the only thing that has changed is the narrative -- and even that isn't going according to plan.

On Monday, food and civil supplies minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh -- better known as Raja Bhaiya -- tendered his resignation after he was booked along with seven others for the murder of a deputy superintendent of police. Singh, while stepping down, insisted that he had nothing to do with the crime.

This isn't the first occasion that Singh has been caught up with allegations of criminal activity.

From his contentious birthdate to accusations of strong- arm electioneering and even POTA charges, his entire career in politics appears to have been controversial. It is the persistence of this sort of politician that the SP will have to end if they are to credibly suggest that things have changed from their goonda past.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Mar 5, 2013
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