Anti-incumbency is a strange thing in Indian politics. Since 1989 it has affected every Assembly election in Tamil Nadu. The AB Vajpayee government of 2004 may have lost due to this factor. The BJP has been fighting it in Gujarat since 1995.
While the 2002 elections may have been seen as a polarized vote, the 2007 election was the first anti-incumbency triumph for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Even though everyone had taken it for granted, 2012 was an even tougher feat.
Modi may have lost a couple of seats, but he still has 63% of seats in the Gujarat Assembly. That is quite commendable in today's fractured age.
The BJP is plagued with rebellion in most of its states. Once favoured leaders fall out and sometimes play big spoilers. There's Kalyan Singh in Uttar Pradesh, BS Yedyurappa in Karnataka and Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan.
Gujarat has been no different. Modi has been battling former Chief Ministers in his own state. Shankersinh Vaghela defected to the Congress. Suresh Mehta called for his removal in 2007. Modi fought Keshubhai Patel at the polls in 2012.
Had the Keshubhai factor not been there, Modi may have well been in the 130 seats zone. To still win 115 seats in the backdrop of such rebellions is no mean feat.
PM referendum backlash:
He may have not said it directly, but this election was a referendum for Modi's PM ambitions. Now it may not seem so, but that was quite a risky move and the stakes had been put too high. Had Modi lost, his career would have come to an end.
The former CMs in his own state would have swooped down like vultures and leaders in Delhi would have their knives out had he chosen to move to the Centre.
There was also no way of knowing how the Gujarat electorate would take it. It also means that there'll be a new CM in Gujarat if Modi does succeed in the Centre in 2014. For now the gamble has been pulled off one must say.
A hostile media:
Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi has zero achievements and he still has the mainstream media fawning all over him. Modi on the other hand has been attacked and hounded 24x7 for 10 years non-stop. Any other leader would have been driven to total despair.
He has been called a Hitler, a mass murderer and the perpetrator of genocide. Congress President Sonia Gandhi called him "Maut ka saudagar" in the last elections. His development statistics have been rubbished and he has been dismissed as a dictator.
The national media has portrayed him as a person who is feared in his own party and state while hated pretty much everywhere else. It is amazing how he still stands tall amidst all this negative propaganda.
He has used the state and social media very shrewdly to counter the national media.
His own party:
There are a lot of wannabe PMs in the BJP and it is safe to say that they are all out to get each other. Vajpayee retired in the 1990s, but was only brought back when LK Advani's initials appeared in the Hawala diary. Advani himself was ousted over the infamous Jinnah speech.
The BJP has seen great infighting at both the state and national levels. So far he has shaken off all his attacks much like a duck shakes off water.
It is very interesting to check out all the opinion polls that are carried by various agencies and publications regarding the most popular choice for PM in the country. After Vajpayee retired, Sonia proved to be the leading choice.
After the UPA's triumph in 2009, Rahul was a popular option. But now slowly and steadily, the mood is shifting towards Modi. His detractors point out that Modi doesn't have that much support outside Gujarat. Then how does he triumph in most of the national opinion polls that ask questions about the future PM?
The development bogey:
Former Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu and Karnataka CM SM Krishna were both booted out despite being seen as strong development leaders. It seemed that only the politics of caste and votebank politics would triumph many years back.
Modi has bucked that trend and shown that you can easily make development as your sole USP. He has built the development brand brilliantly for both his CM and PM campaigns.
Was Modi guilty in Godhra? That's a question which only Modi and a handful of other officials can answer. Till then we have to go by the "Innocent till proved guilty" principle since Modi has not even been chargesheeted, forget convicted.
In 2002, PM Vajpayee wanted to remove him, but Modi prevailed. In 2002 he got a huge mandate from the state. Recently, the UK government even resumed ties with him. As we are going ahead in time, Godhra seems to be getting fainter and fainter.
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