Industry perception of Modi typhoon a worry for PM
By Santwana Bhattacharya - NEW DELHI
Published: 10th Nov 2013 06:00:00 AM
Determined not to give up without a fight, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is forming a core team which can help him counter the Narendra Modi offensive in the run up to the general elections in 2014.
The prime minister, it seems, is trying to find an alternative poster-boy to take forward his governance model. Maharashtra, being an industrial hub and agriculture heavyweight (despite the drought), is being seen as a possible state that can be projected to bust the Gujarat myth.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been of the view that the ruling party “need not behave like the Opposition” and hit the campaign trail early for 2014. One of the CMs, who had met Singh recently, says the party president’s inclination is that the focus must be on governance at the moment (the last stretch, she feels, would be crucial) and the UPA’s leading lights must not go into election mode before the conclusion of the Winter Session of Parliament in December. But the PM seems to be convinced that it cannot be kept pending that long. His reading seems to be based on the political sense that if the Congress does badly in the five Assembly polls, it would be difficult to turn the tide. Sources say that whether the PM, who is being cornered on CHOGM and Coalgate, would have the requisite leeway and heft to devise a strategy of his own.
THE ANTI-MODI STRATEGY: One member of Team MMS says that Modi has been lambasting the Congress leadership and the PM and also certain CMs, but “he has not spoken a word on what he plans to do—what would be his policy on key issues of diplomacy, economy, allocation of natural resources.’’ Since much of the negative perception about UPA II arose due to controversies over allocation of 2G spectrum and coal, the attempt would be to pin Modi down on these very issues. “He has been getting mileage by loosely saying the Congress has been ‘giving away coal mines’. Then let him tell us how he plans to change it. Our government brought legislation. What is his plan, he must reveal that,’’ a Congress CM said.
Similarly, since Modi has been known to favour a strident view on engagement with Pakistan, terrorism and incidents on the Line of Control, even on other neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, “he has to answer what his position on these issues will be’’. Even how he plans to engage with the US, which has not granted him a visa yet, is in the realm of speculation. Till now, governments at the Centre have maintained continuity. Former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, for instance, took some path-breaking initiatives, but none of it came as a sharp, unpleasant divergence—his views on issues were known.
What has bothered the PM most is the sense that the industry and corporate opinion has scented the coming of the Modi typhoon and are adjusting their windsocks accordingly. The CMs have been asked to engage with them and convince them that the Congress and the government has no political agenda of returning to the licence raj of the 1970s—the scare they say Modi is going to raise next.