Pullarao Pentapati – Challenges Before Narendra Modi

The Worst part of a Journey is when you finally reach the destination.  The election survey machinery in India says Narendra Modi will form the government.  Assuming that happens, then the most difficult part of the Journey begins for Narendra Modi.  His own party leaders will be seething with Jealousy and rage.  Every BJP  leader knows that they are dwarves before Narendra Modi.  Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not pull off such a Victory.  The BJP leaders would like to see Narendra Modi cut to size.  To that end, they will definitely try to sabotage the Narendra Modi Government in every way.

Challenges before Narendra Modi

The high expectations which Narendra Modi has raised will be another major problem.  True that the hatred for the Congress and disgust for the Gandhi family are the main causes for the Congress downfall.  But there are also expectations.  Everyone who votes for Modi has a personal agenda.  For some, it might be employment or the economy.  For others, it might be the need for a strong government or feeling that the country is becoming a nation of vote- Banks.  Modi will have to meet each of these expectations.  Time will also be a major problem for Narendra Modi.  In India, elections will be held to some State or other every year.  Within 4 months after Lok Sabha Elections, there will be State Assembly elecations to Maharashtra and if the BJP does not do well there, then there will be a major setback for Narendra Modi.  Within a very short time, Modi will have to produce results.

Challenges before Modi:

a. Modi will have very little choice in forming his government.  He will have to include most of the Ministers from Vajapayee’s time.  Nearly all of them were non-performers.  Murali Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar, The Shiv Sena MPs, than the Tamilnadu MPs, The Akali MPs, and others are hardly inspiring.  Modi’s choice will be totally limited by having to select seniors from the Lok Sabha.  He will have go along with the choice of the Alliance MPS.  If these Ministers failed in Vajpayee’s time, how will they succeed now.  None of the Ministers of Vajpayee earned a name for administration, except Jaswant singh and he has been expelled.  Therefore, Narendra Modi will be saddled with Minsiters who have a record for failure and not success.

b. Modi Limited Experience:

Modi might be a successful chief  Minister.  But running a state is different from running a country.  His national experience is limited.  Modi might be a very clever man.  But he has yet to show that he understands the different politics of different States.  Running a great election campaign is far easier when the ruling Government is un-popular and there is a need for change.  Running a Chief Minster’s office with one or two trusted officials is not possible in Delhi.  Mode will be tested very early an if he fails, then it will be difficult to recover.

c. The Economy is critical:

Country to what Sonia Gandhi thinks, the people want a healthy economy.  The people want Jobs and not rice at Rs.2 a Kilo.  The people want inflation to be controlled and stability in the currency.  The economy is in such bad shope that it might be difficult for Modi to revive it within a short time.  Reviving the economy  will be the biggest challenge.  In Gujarat, giving land for two or three power plants did the trick.  But that will not be easy throughout India.  He will need a brilliant team of managers for the economy.  Lawyers talk will like Chidambaram.  But they are not economists.  The name of Arun Jaitley is being heard for the Finance Ministry.  He might not be the answer. Clever talking is for courts not the economy.

d. Defence and foreign relations:

A Large number of Indians feel that India is unable to meet the threats on our borders.  The Congress government has not been able to answer such demands. Strong defense does not  mean war but great diplomacy and politics.  In the last 100 Years, any country which showed strength, had a great Foreign Minister.  America broke down the walls with China and toppled Russia stage only because of their ace diplomat, Henry Kissinger.  France rose to great heights after Second World war due to General De Gaulle.  China had Chou-en Lai.  Strong talk during elections is not enough.  One cannot see such a diplomat in talent pool of the BJP.  Moreover, our neighbors would like to test what kind of strongman Narendra Modi is by provocations.

e. Terrorism:

When L.K.Advani, the strongman of the BJP became Home Minster in 1999, there were expectation he would control terrorism.  In fact, he himself grandly said that within a month he would put down terrorism in Kashmir.  The record of Advani is dismal in controlling terrorism.  Remember the high-jacking of the plane to Afghanistan.  Remember the attack on Parliament house.  In fact, terrorism increased during Advani’s time.  It requires a great genius to control terrorism in a country like India with open borders.  Even today, anyone can lend in Nepal and walk into India.  One can expect many many challenges on the Terronst front in India after Modi takes over.

f. Corruption and crony capitalism:

It will be impossible to control routine official corruption.  But is will be possible to control corruption which comes from the sale of natural resources and licences.  How will Modi be able to control and the business friends that he has acquired? This will require a great amount of skill.  The American model will not work here because it does not work in America.  This will be great test for Modi.

g. Minority Issues:

This will be one of the biggest challenges for Modi.  There is a section of people in the country and in the youth who feel that there is “Minority Appeasement”.  Religious minorities in every country are difficult to handle.  How Modi will handle Minorities will define his Government.  Modi has to be careful to avoid satisfying extremists in his own party.  But he cannot appear to be weak in meeting any problems.  This will be a major issue for him.

h. Dealing with NON-BJP Chief insiters:

Mamta Banerjee, Jayalalitha, MUlayam Singn Yadav, Omar Abdullah of Kashmir and a number of others will be there.  They will be hostile since BJP will be seeking to make inroads in their states.  But Modi will have to win them over with great tact and yet find ways to allow the BJP to grow in such states.  This is one issue which will be very difficult.  If Modi is not nice to such Chief Ministers, they will gang up with the Congress.  He has to prevent a gang-up against him.

I.Media and public opinion:

India has a very vibrant media and Narendra modi found it easy to handle it during his rise.  But the media will be critical of him when he is the Prime Minster.  The Congress Party will seek to incite the media to protect itself.  It will be a very adversarial press that Modi will have to face.

J. The Congress opposition:

The Congress Party has been in power for 50 years.  It has a great set of friends everywhere.  The Congress party has great assets like foundations and also has obliged many important people.  It can call on such resources to defend it and attack Modi.  The Congress will try to bring down the Modi Government for its own survival.  The Congress has great experience in fighting governments.  It will also have a big presence in parliament and can stall parliament same way that the BJP did.  The Congress party can also create a sense that the country is drifting.  If the Congress can create a perception that it can come back, then it will very difficult for Modi to govern. The Congress will also have some State Governments which will give resources to the leadership in Delhi to fight.  In 1977, when Indira Gandhi lost power in Delhi, she fell back on Andhra and Karnataka for political help and all other resources.  The Congress has still Karnataka.

While these are all the potential challenges, Narendra Modi should not be under estimated.  He has faced the full might of Central Government since 2004 and survived.  There was no trick that the Congress did not use to try to get him involved in murder cases and scandals.  There was no ruse it did not use in Gujarat and elsewhere. But Modi survived.  Modi need not be under estimated.  If he is shrewd enough to survive these challenges then may be can meet the challenges after assuming office.

One should not forget how much opposition Advani, Sushma Swaraj and others with in the BJP displayed to stop Modi. But he survived. There are two things Narendra Modi should remember.  As the old proverb says. “BE careful of what you wish for.  The Gods may grant it”.  The other important fact is that Narendra Modi should avoid imitating the Congress Party and how it governed.  He should break all conventions and follow the Kejriwal Aaam Admi party. Kejriwal model  and do things in a totally new way, he can succeed. The Congress  does not how to react to new things.

Modi will have to have an entirely new Cabinet. May be Ratan Tata and other noted Indians can be included. He should avoid all the old Ministers. The old faces of  the BJP will disgust the people. Can you imagine Uma Bharati, Ananth Kumar or Murli Manohar Joshi as Ministers? Go back to history and see how much noise, controversy and mischief they created as Ministers. He should avoid most of the Vajpayee Ministers. If they were so good, why did the BJP fail in 2004 elections?

The great British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said “ A Good Prime Minsiter must be a good butcher”.  But Modi cannot afford mistakes. His first success must be a great Cabinet. Or, Modi will fall as fast as he rose.

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