So after much drama, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has finally been declared the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate.
There's no doubt that Modi has achieved it with great shrewdness and strategy. He has changed the rules of the game in Indian politics by doing everything differently.
After the Congress won in 2009, if anyone had suggested that Modi could be PM in 2014, then it would have been considered impossible at that time.
But the Congress has scored a slew of own goals and Modi has made some smart moves to give himself an outside chance at becoming PM.
A look at those steps...
Step 1: Getting Gujarat on his side
In 2002, Modi was expected to lose the Assembly elections. His win surprised many and cemented his place as the leader of the Gujarati people.
In 2007, an anti-incumbency wave was supposed to set in, but Gujarat supported him solidly.
The 2012 elections were seen as a sort of referendum to find out whether people wanted Modi as PM or not. He won that too.
Step 2: Making India Inc an ally
Corporate Gujarat was one of the first entities to rally around Modi and soon Corporate India followed suit.
Stalwarts like Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani and even Narayana Murthy have praised him publicly.
His Vibrant Gujarat Summit has been a huge success in that regard.
Step 3: Refusing to apologize for Godhra
Hypocrites apologize and move on. Soon the people forget.
Modi is different. He sticks to his stand that he is innocent and refuses to apologize publicly at least.
There are some reports that he explained his stand to minority representatives in private after the riots.
He has gone on record saying that he should be hung if he is found guilty. That has got him a lot of fans.
Step 4: Choosing not to counter allegations
When the Uttarakhand earthquake 15000 Rambo act was making headlines, a lot of people criticized Modi for not countering the allegation.
But if Modi sat about countering each and every allegation made against him, then he would be left with no time to govern.
He wisely chooses to ignore all of them.
Step 5: Focusing on development and not caste
While many political leaders talk frequently of caste and religion in their speeches, Modi has kept it down to a bare minimum. Instead, he focuses on development and anecdotes related to it. His thrust is always how India can make it on its own and he always focuses on the youth.
While many people call it a "sham" and "PR" and all, it is far more refreshing than hearing all those communal politicians repeatedly beating their chests that they are secular.
Step 6: Using social media effectively
Barack Obama was a rank outsider in Washington.
He was never Governor and became a United States Senator as late as 2005. And yet he won the 2008 US Presidential elections.
Apart from his tremendous Oratorical skills, social media had a great deal to do with it.
He has a whopping 36 million followers on Twitter, a count that is usually reserved for rock stars.
In that manner at least, Modi is the Obama of India.
He has the largest Twitter count for politicians in India and it is not just about numbers.
His social media army fights for him strongly.
Whether it will influence elections or not is a different issue. It has at least got the Congress, civil society and mainstream media rattled.
Step 7: Taking on the mainstream media and winning
In India nobody directly attacks the MSM (Mainstream media).
You try to get them on your side, you arm-twist them away from the public gaze or you dangle the carrots of government ads, perks, junkets and the like.
At best, you threaten them in private.
Modi is unlike other politicians in the sense that he has taken them head-on.
A battle has been raging between the MSM and Modi since 2002.
For the earlier part, the MSM were ahead, but since 2011, Modi has got the better of them with some TV channels ending up virtually being unwittingly his PR arms.
Step 8: Choosing confrontation over consensus
In India, public confrontation is frowned upon and the thrust is always on "consensus".
That is not at all Modi's style and he has taken all manner of issues and leaders head-on.
The BJP usually doesn't come to a consensus over any issue and Modi has trumped that.
Step 9: Using the power of speeches
Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Vajpayee and Rajiv Gandhi were all great orators till the 1980s. Then the art went into decline.
PV Narasimha Rao was more of a doer.
No one listened to HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral.
Vajpayee was a shadow of his former self by the time he became PM.
Sonia Gandhi can't speak for nuts and Manmohan Singh puts you to sleep. Even Rahul Gandhi sounds like a high-school debater rather than a politician.
This is where Modi has triumphed and no matter where he speaks, he gets the crowds.
The best example was the success of his Hyderabad rally in a State where the BJP doesn't have that much of a presence.
Another example was on August 15.
During Independence Day, it is only the Prime Minister in the limelight among all political leaders. But Modi took advantage of Manmohan's deadpan speeches and got greater TRP ratings for his own counter speech.
Now while a few people criticized Modi for this move, it must be noted that Manmohan himself was partisan. In his speech, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty was richly praised while PMs like Lal Bahadur Shastri and AB Vajpayee were kept out.
Apart from reading like a Bharat Nirman ad, Manmohan also took a dig with his "There can be no place for narrow and sectarian ideologies" rant.
This is going to be his biggest weapon in the run-up to the 2014 elections when he will deliver speeches all over the country.
Step 10: Using icons like Vivekananda and Patel
Congress posters regularly have pictures of the entire Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and BJP ones feature Vajpayee and Advani.
Modi has broken free of that mould too using neutral icons like Swami Vivekananda and former Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel, who was a Congressman!
Step 11: Getting grassroots to pressurize the top
It's so funny to read reports of practically every top BJP leader and Chief Minister not wanting Modi to be declared the PM candidate.
In any other party that would spell suicide. But Modi has rallied the ground level troops of the RSS and BJP and they have pressurized the leadership.
The first to realize this was party President Rajnath Singh and the second was RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. LK Advani & Co. are no match for the Modi-Rajnath-Bhagwat triumvirate.
Step 12: Using the all or nothing formula
Reports say that Modi was first offered the post of Deputy CM. He refused saying that he would either be CM or nothing.
That worked. This time around he strongly pushed to be made the PM candidate and that happened before the Assembly polls.
This is nothing but a high-risk gamble.
If the BJP flops in 2014, then the knives will be out. The Congress, MSM and BJP leaders will attack Modi vehemently and try to finish off his national career.
Modi knows this better than anyone else and yet is ready to take that chance.
If Modi was a gambler, then he would be a high-stakes one and would either win it all or lose it all.
Of course, now Modi is one step away from the PM’s post.
He faces the electorate and it's anyone's guess whether they will select him or reject him in 2014.
It now only boils down to two major factors...
1. How much anger is there against UPA2?
2. How much of the electorate is ready to embrace Modi?
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