For those expecting Modi to speak on Hindutva, it's a futile wait

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BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is increasingly becoming a mystery for his party, his rivals and the secular media. After Modi gave his hour-long speech at a mega rally in Kanpur on Saturday, people have been found reacting with surprise that he did not utter a single word on Hindutva! Instead he was heard saying that he wanted Hindus to become good Hindus, Muslims good Muslims, Christians good Christians, Buddhists good Buddists and so on and in all, all should strive to become Indians.

Is Modi's 'safe distance' from Hindutva an option or a compulsion?

This is the second instance when Modi openly detached himself from Hindutva, something with which he is mostly identified. On October 2, the BJP leader said that he preferred toilets over temples, something which does not suit the saffron camp's ideology. Some sections are saying that it is a deliberate strategy that has been put to use by the Sangh Parivar. It wants Modi to speak about development while other Hindutva wings will continue with their traditional agitation.

From a negative image, Modi is now turning prisoner of a positive image

But this paradoxical strategic stand can not be entirely optional. During the heydays of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani, the Sangh Praivar was not content with the moderate stand of the BJP-ruled NDA government and rifts were visible between the extremist and moderate factions of the saffron camp.

Advani faced a massive challenge after he eulogised Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a secular leader during his visit to Pakistan. So what suddenly made the extremist ideologues accommodate a moderate Modi? Is it an option or a compulsion?

Hindutva doesn't suit Modi anymore?

It is the second. Modi, who has ruled as a state administrator for 12 years now, understands very well that there is absolutely no gain in raking up the stale Hindutva issues. Whether the Parivar wants it or not, Modi is not going to touch issues that can jeopardise his and the BJP's prospects in the next big polls. And he also knows very well that there is no second face that the Parivar can promote even if he decided not to toe their line of extremism.

It is a compulsion for the Parivar now to follow Modi and endorse the way he conducts himself. Even if the Kalyan Singhs, Rajnath Singhs and Vinay Katiyars speak about communal politics, it is just going to serve just a peripheral purpose. The core issue is how Modi decides to handle things.

Modi, instead, is using anti-incumbency factor smartly

Modi is making use of the pre-poll period very smartly. He is addressing diverse sections through a suitable vocabulary but through the same anti-incumbency pitch at all rallies. And while speaking to the diverse audience, he is accomplishing a crucial task of laying alternative visions and plans. This is serving two purposes. One, it is projecting Modi as an alternative leader and helping people to understand the man who has largely been a regional leader so far and two, it is opening multiple war fronts against the rivals.

Take for example, Modi's speeches at a bullion summit in Mumbai on October 5 and foreign policy issues in Chennai on October 18. In Mumbai, Modi gave an alternative view on the economy and gold while in the latter instance, he stressed the states' roles in India's foreign policy issues. Through both these speeches, Modi threw potent missiles at the ruling establishment on issues of economy, federalism and foreign policy and the Congress or the UPA leadership can afford to ignore them only at its own peril.

Modi is aware about Congress's plan of action

Narendra Modi has also kept in mind that the Congress is trying to capitalise on its populist measures like direct cash transfer and food security schemes. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has been emphasising on the right to food of the poor in each of his rallies. It looks to be a single-point agenda for the Congress leadership to reach out to the Aam Janta to secure their votes.

Rahul Gandhi was also found speaking about Dalit empowerment a few days ago, which many believe is a way to lure the Dalit votes through some form of alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party. Gandhi, himself, although criticised BSP chief Mayawati, accusing her of not letting new leaders grown among the Dalit ranks.

But Modi has rubbished the Congress's claims of favouring the poor.

He has picked Rahul Gandhi's words that 'poverty is a state of mind' to neutralise the Congress's claims and also stressed that it is impossible for the elite leaders to understand the pain of the poor.

Anti-UPA & anti-SP mood is enough, why rake up Hindutva?

Modi is a smart politician who understands that it will be enough if he just cashes in on the strong anti-incumbency mood which is prevailing at the moment. The mood is already a strong one at the national stage while in Uttar Pradesh also, the less-than-two-year-old Samajwadi Party government already facing flak over issues like corruption, riots and deteriorating law and order in the state.

For Modi, there is little necessity in raking up the Hindutva issue for electoral purpose. The beleaguered opponent parties have already given him enough space to score freely.

For those analysts who are waiting for Modi to say something on Ram Temple during his next eight rallies in Uttar Pradesh, it will be a futile wait. The man has made an image makeover after a decade-long effort. There is little chance that he will oblige his Hindutvawadi followers, even within his party and Parivar, anytime soon.

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