here seems to be little doubt in anyone's mind that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be the single largest party after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls given that a strong anti-Congress sentiment prevails in the country which Narendra Modi continues to exploit to his advantage. However, whether the BJP will lead the next government will largely depend on how many seats it finally wins and how it works out its alliances in the post poll scenario.
Modi has captured the imagination of a large number of people particularly because he is perceived as a strong and decisive leader as compared to the present Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh whose low profile and honest image no longer carries the appeal it did in 2009 when the Congress improved its tally from 145 in 2004 to 206 seats. Machiavelli who is considered to be an authority on statecraft has mentioned in The Prince that in every society people are by and large weak. But they always want their leaders to be strong. History also always remembers strong leaders and those considered not so strong are forgotten as years go by.
This is a reason why Modi is making inroads in many bastions of other parties and is attempting to once again resuscitate the BJP so that it increases its numbers. The party was marginally behind the Congress in 2004 at 138 but its numbers went down to 116 in 2009.
What needs to be seen is that whether the BJP spearheaded by an aggressive Modi campaign is able to first cross its first hurdle of 182 seats, the maximum the party has achieved under the overall leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the only Prime Minister India has had who was not from the Congress stable. If Modi is able to carry the BJP's numbers beyond 200, it will be virtually certain that he shall be the next Prime Minister because finding allies may not be too difficult with power serving as a strong magnet.
However, if the number is below the score under Vajpayee, there could be problems. The BJP may be forced to review its strategy and look at scenarios of post-poll tie ups with some other leader as its general. There are many Modi supporters who refuse to believe that the BJP would be below 182 with most predicting even a single party government in 2014 headed by Modi. This belief is based on presumption of a huge Modi victory but since politics is a game of possibilities, things have to be also viewed if that does not happen and the BJP has to deal with other players by projecting somebody other than Modi.
If such a scenario was to develop, one can speculate on how things would unfold. Modi will naturally continue to have his say and may enjoy veto powers in even choosing an alternative to himself. Going by common sense in a real politic situation, he would never allow someone of his own generation to be the BJP's front runner for the prime ministerial position. That would rule out Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and even Venkaiah Naidu. Instead if he has to make a choice, it would be from leaders whom he considers will not have a long political innings left to play. Such a list would automatically point to L.K. Advani assuming the position of importance. His opponent may, however, say that since the BJP lost under his leadership in 2009, he should be out of reckoning. The second obvious choice could be Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, former party president and during whose Ekta Yatra from Kanyakumari to Srinagar in the early nineties, Modi played the mascot. Joshi enjoys the support of the RSS and is the tallest Brahmin leader in the saffron brigade after Vajpayee and has good equations with parties outside the BJP fold and thus could help in cobbling a coalition. But Advani and his supporters who continue to control the party may try and oppose him.
But these are stray thoughts which cross the mind knowing the fluidity of the political situation as it exists today and the limitations the BJP has of not having cadres in many states in the country. While talking in terms of seats, the BJP is the clear winner wherever it is pitted directly against the Congress, but its performance in areas where it has to take on regional parties' remains a cause of concern and worry. Modi so far is doing extremely well in keeping the BJP as the front runner. He is the talking point in any discussion on elections where huge bets are being placed on his ability to carry the BJP to the seat of power in New Delhi. But will his efforts prove to be adequate? Between us.