UPA governance has presented the nation with scams, civil unrest, rampant inflation, silent bystander leadership and a first family that is either complicit or indifferent. On the other hand, BJP, has only demonstrated itself as the weakest political opponent India has had in its democratic history. In such a crisis, only strong leadership can save the nation from doom.
While UPA seems quite ready with Rahul Gandhi as their successor for PM's office for the 2014 general elections, BJP is internally messed up. It seems, however, that their list of contenders will eventually boil down to either Narendra Modi or Nitish Kumar.
Modi and Kumar have both shown their administration skills in two of the fastest developing states of India. Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the dawn of a devastating earthquake. Soon the state was shattered by the 2002 riots. The opposition held Modi responsible for helping Hindus during the riots, and asked him to resign. Modi submitted his resignation but was reelected by the people of Gujarat in the subsequent elections.
Nitish was appointed Chief Minster of Bihar in 2000 but resigned after seven days. In 2005 he led the the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and ended the 15 year rule of Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) led by Lalu Prasad Yadav. In 2010, he led the JDU-BJP alliance and again won the polls.
Both Modi and Nitish are highly educated. While Modi has a Masters Degree in political science, Nitish is an Electrical engineer. Modi is respected for controlling terrorism and making Gujarat an economic powerhouse. Nitish Kumar, on the other hand, has initiated several development activities and has taken many steps to keep crime in check. His secular label has been his biggest advantage over most leaders of the BJP.
While Modi's proverbial albatross of the 2002 riots hangs permanently around his neck, Nitish has a clean public image. In the past nine years, Modi has been unable to shed his anti-Muslim image, despite many efforts. In spite of being an alliance partner with the BJP, Nitish during his six-year rule has kept his secular image intact and has been able to dent RJD’s Muslim votes. The Bihar chief minister has successfully projected himself as a moderate, secular and progressive leader.
Recently the Supreme Court decided not to proceed with a case against Modi that stems from his widely suspected role in encouraging, or at least allowing, the Gujarat riots of 2002. If the local court also gives him a clean chit, Modi may soon play a more national role in the BJP, and might then return to the party’s national headquarters, possibly as the party president, after Gujarat state assembly elections next year. That would certainly put him in a position to be the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections. Nitish, on the other hand has given signals that he will continue as the CM of Bihar. But in politics, you never know!
Let's also not deny the fact that, to date, Bihar needs Nitish more than Gujarat needs Modi. Under these circumstances, the question remains - "Who should represent BJP in the next elections?"
While a majority of people believe that Modi should be the next PM, I am of a different opinion. Although Modi proves to be one of the greatest administrators India has produced, Nitish continues to be the people's man, the clean man. Modi coming into the center will also disrupt the recent secular image of the BJP. This in turn will delay BJP's return in South-India after the Yeddy fiasco. While personally I am a great fan of Modi, I would love to see Nitish contesting for the PM's office on behalf of BJP. I believe this will safeguard BJP's long term interests.
All said and done, it is high time BJP announces it's candidate for the PM's office at the earliest opportunity. In an ideal democracy, both the leading party and opposition party should be on their toes. Failure of governance today is a combined failure on both fronts. While UPA seems to be preparing for the general elections, BJP seems disoriented and unorganized. Who forms the government is a different question, but a strong contender followed by a strong contest is essential for a strong India.