It's fun to speculate whether Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi will become Prime Minister or Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP. Such analysis interests readers no end and is also good for the TRP ratings.
However all the people doing the analysis know in their hearts that neither Rahul nor Modi will make it as PM if elections are held in either 2013 or in 2014.
The logic is simple. The Congress stands to lose a massive amount of seats. Even if they somehow manage to cobble up the numbers to build up a lasting coalition, the PM will be extremely weak and be dependent on many allies to survive.
There is absolutely no way Rahul will step into that role. He will do so only if his own position in the Government is extremely secure. He would prefer to be a backroom player like his mother Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Now even though the BJP is sure to gain seats, going by all the opinion polls that have been conducted so far, they will nowhere be near to having enough seats to push through their candidate forcefully.
While there is still a good chance that a BJP candidate will make Prime Minister in the next general elections, due to lack of numbers, it will have to be a candidate that will be acceptable to all parties and all sections of politicians.
That is where Modi doesn't fit the bill. Modi will come into the picture only when the BJP has a good chunk of the Lok Sabha seats in its kitty.
One must remember that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a consensus candidate and the BJP winning 161 seats did not do the trick. It was only when they won 182 seats in 1999 that they could push for a full term with Vajpayee at the helm.
It would be safe to say that 182 is a number which the BJP would probably have to exceed if they have to push Modi as PM.
In fact the Third Front that people are talking about is also a dim probability. In 1996, the National Front won 79 seats. In 1989, the Janata Dal won 143 seats. That’s how a government, even though it lasted for just two years in both cases, could be formed.
This time one fails to see one such strong front. There will be a handful of parties which may get seats in the region of 30-50 seats. But one fails to see stalwarts with massive egos like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalitha etc supporting each other for the post of PM.
In fact, some of these parties supporting a highly weakened and shaky UPA for their own devices would be a greater probability. In that case, compromise candidates like union ministers P Chidambaram and AK Antony along with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar could make the cut.
Of course though the NDA may not make the half-way mark, they are most likely to emerge as the single biggest group in the next Lok Sabha. That’s where compromise candidate like Chief Ministers Nitish Kumar and Shivraj Singh Chauhan could emerge as the dark horses.
While Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley will fancy their chances, some sections may also push for LK Advani for the simple reason that he is an old and retired leader who faces no threat to anyone.
The next elections are merely the semi-finals for the Rahul-Modi duo and they will be watching with great interest.
If a UPA or Third Front government with Congress backing comes to power and fails spectacularly, then there would be a BJP wave and the party could announce Modi’s candidature in advance and campaign in a big way with him at the centre and reap rich dividends.
On the other hand if an NDA or Third Front government with BJP backing comes and fails to meet the aspirations of the people, then there would be a Congress revival and the Indian populace would automatically revert to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and Rahul would find himself in the PM’s chair.
So the general elections after the next ones will probably be the finals where Rahul and Modi will finally face off!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.