Take the case of Narendra Modi, who took over as the prime minister of India on May 26 after getting a massive mandate in this year's Lok Sabha election. Till that point, he was perceived as a 'threatening' figure and the Indian polity was divided between the pro- and anti-Modi voices.
But see what is happening within three months of his coming to
power. Two groups, both extreme, have begun to create a serious
headache for Prime Minister Modi, who is now looking as a centrist
figure endowed with the responsibility to protect the nation's
unity from internal threats and borders from external foes. The
highest executive post of the Indian polity has shaped Modi's new
political identity, creating a chance for himself. If Modi can
tackle these two forces successfully, then he will certainly go
down in history as one of India's biggest statesman-leader, close
to Jawaharlal Nehru.
RSS's challenge: Modi can't toe its line for he can loose much
The first extremist challenge for Modi comes from the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the right-wing outfit which has been constantly provoking Hindutva sentiments to make a political point. The RSS is expressing its extreme views because it has nothing to loose but much to gain.
The crucial election in Maharashtra due in some months has also encouraged the RSS to make relentless remarks on the 'Hindu versus the rest' issue for it is a state where the secular-communal debate is very relevant politically. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is clearly trying to unite the Hindu votes to repeat what Amit Shah had successfully done in Uttar Pradesh in this year's general polls.
But Narendra Modi has much to loose for he has already gained a lot. He is the prime minister of a diverse country today and can not afford to represent a particular community which is dominant. His winning formula in the Lok Sabha election was entirely based on pro-development principles and not what the BJP used to preach in the late 1980s and early 1990s, i.e., Hindu temple movement.
The RSS is not much impressed with the new government for the natural law of governance doesn't allow the two sides to arrive at an agreement. It has tried to influence the government by accommodating a few of its top members but one believes all these efforts will only see a confrontation between Modi and the RSS in the future, just like the Vajpayee-Sudarshan clash. Can Modi separate the two wings of the Parivar for a smooth sailing of the government?
Pak challenge: Coercive diplomacy doesn't work much
The other extremist challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the Pakistani establishment. This is another headache which every Indian prime minister faces and Modi, despite his friendly approach from Day 1, is no exception. On Monday, Modi's government scrapped secretary-level talks with the neighbour after the high commissioner of that country invited Kashmiri separatist leader for talks even after New Delhi objected to it.
The fact that Modi's Project Pakistan received such an early
jolt is unfortunate but having said that, it is the centrist force
which mostly find itself at the receiving end vis-a-vis an
extremist foe. The first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, too
tasted this bitter reality in the past.
What next after cancelling talks? It can widen the communication gap between New Delhi & Islamabad
India's sharp reaction by calling off the talks is natural but New Delhi will have to make a bigger decision on what lies next. Cancellation of talks with Islamabad will only encourage the evil elements based in Pakistan to increase their acts of violating ceasefire at the border and a communication gap between the New Delhi and Islamabad will not help the goal of reestablishing peace in South Asia as Prime Minister Modi has spoken about often.
The Nawaz Sharif government is in a spot at the moment and there is every possibility that the prime minister, who attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi, will fail to rein in the elements from provoking India. Can Modi address this problem conclusively?
It is often said that the nationalist BJP is a more capable
party than the centrist Congress in dealing with various challenges
that the country faces. But realpolitik shows there is nothing much
different a BJP government can do either. In the past, Atal Bihari
Vajpayee faced a betrayal by the Pakistani side despite taking a
Neither Congress nor BJP has succeeded in overlooking the reality over the years
At home too, the BJP did not go the route to satisfy the Sangh Parivar's nationalist sentiments, thanks to the compulsions of the global economy. The Congress bears a heavier baggage today because it was in power for a greater period than the BJP but if seen from the perspective of governance, regimes led by both parties have always been limited by the reality of the day.
Modi's government did not do anything new by calling off the talks for governments before him had also taken similar steps when things escalated. But they could not stop Pakistan from its daily acts of violation at the borders. New Delhi's coercive diplomacy hasn't really paid off to give peace a chance in the sub-continent.
Can Narendra Modi redefine the meaning of 'centrist prime minister' of India and teach both the extreme challengers at home and abroad that his hands are not as tied as it has been seen in the last six decades?