The cat is out of the bag. The Congress doesn’t have a prime ministerial candidate. Rahul Gandhi has been in hiding ever since the Uttar Pradesh debacle. Mother Sonia is not in the best of health. Sister Priyanka has Robert Vadra to worry about, and if she does get to become prime minister, the nation too would have to. That leaves the redoubtable Pranab Mukherjee, whose prime ministerial ambitions died long ago and who has now set his eyes, and heart on, Raisina Hill and its exquisite Mughal Gardens.
So, Manmohan Singh cannot be spared till 2014, says the Congress, despite at least two of its allies calling its bluff and insisting that Manmohan Singh is a fit person to be President.
That was what wonky Wednesday and Mulayam and Mamata ganging up against the grand old party was all about, not on who should be president but that whether the Congress has a prime ministerial candidate for 2014. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav now has the answer. So does Mamata Banerjee, and the BJP, and the Left. And like umpteen other politicians who fancy themselves as prime ministerial material, the SP chief wouldn’t mind taking a shot at the prime minister’s post.
And this when, not long ago, hardly weeks before, Mulayam Singh Yadav was at the UPA high table, being feted and given importance due to a Mughal. Seated next to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the wily Yadav was the cynosure of all eyes.
Mamata was nowhere within a 100 miles of the venue and it was as if nobody cared. So what happened, between then and Wednesday? Why and for what did the duo get together, share a platform and deliberately insult the Congress, and its president, not to speak of the prime minister?
It is tempting to believe that that the die for Wednesday was cast in the interregnum between when Mulayam sat at the UPA high table and June 12 — at the BJP national executive in Mumbai, when Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi engaged Gadkari in a one-on-one and got his arch rival Sanjay Joshi ousted from the national executive, and a few days later to quit the party, bag and baggage. The writing was on the wall — Modi was the RSS choice and frontrunner for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for 2014. Some RSS functionaries went to the extent of comparing Modi with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Gadkari with the sulking Lal Krishna Advani.
The BJP may deny it ad infinitum but it is certain that Modi is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections and will lead the party’s campaign in 2014 or earlier. The RSS has taken a calculated risk but for the Hindutva brigade, it is now or never. Modi’s candidature for the prime minister’s post is bound to polarise the electorate along communal lines and the RSS probably is tired of waiting for that to happen. Moreover, the middle class, especially the youth among the majority community, is in love with Modi, and his ‘development’ plank.
Mulayam sees a chance, more than a chance here, especially, if Modi is the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. If anybody stands to gain most from the polarisation of the electorate, it is Mulayam. Fresh from his party’s victory in UP, Mulayam wouldn’t mind forcing snap polls on the country and take Modi head on, right away. The Muslim vote — there are at least 100 Lok Sabha seats in the country where Muslims could decide the verdict — will consolidate and the majority of them will vote for Mulayam, not for the Congress or any other party. The first effects of such an outcome will be felt when Gujarat goes to polls later this year and if there are simultaneous general elections, and if Modi remains the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Muslims across the length and breadth of the country would rally behind Mulayam and vote for his party and parties that he supports and backs. The so-called secular vote among the majority community will, as it is second nature with them, especially after Mandal, vote along caste lines and not necessarily along communal lines as the RSS would like to see. For, it is a fact that only Muslims vote along communal lines.
Where does Mamata come into the picture if there’s such a picture? She might blurt out the answer to that sooner rather later even if Mulayam Singh Yadav, the wily politician that he is, will keep his thoughts close to his chest as is his wont. But the fact is the next general elections will be a Modi versus Mulayam contest.