Modi blends old and new BJP ideas in new format

Shekhar Iyer

New Delhi, Feb. 7 -- Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is seen as BJP's 'un-official' PM candidate, on Wednesday aimed to charm young students in Delhi.

Outside Gujarat this was Modi's first real shot at capturing the larger national audience ahead of the 2014 polls. His strategy, according to party insiders, is to blend old and new ideas of the party.

No surprise then that Modi talked of good governance, security and, development; essential ingredients that formed senior patriarch LK Advani's poll plank in 2009 but failed to bring BJP to power then.

This time, Modi has evoked the very same ideas but in a new format, showcasing his 10-year-rule's achievements in these areas in contrast to the Congress-led UPA's record over the last 9 years.

An important addition, albeit not so strong as before, is Modi's mix of ideas that uses imageries of Swami Vivekananda's visions of India and Bharat Mata, both softer Hindutva power icons, compared to the old hardcore stuff like the Ram temple, which has lost electoral attraction since 1998, BJP leaders said.

Almost always in an adversarial position vis-a-vis local VHP leaders like Pravin Togadia, Modi has realised that a softer Hindutva module, in which middle class comforts and entitlements blurring caste identifies are focused, brings the best electoral dividend.

As he has done in Gujarat, Modi intends to steer clear of the hard Hindutva talk because of the 2002 riots, a key strategist said.

He would rather leave such topics to the hard core elements, with whom he has had disturbed relationship in the post-riot period in Gujarat, those close to him say.

On the other hand, BJP president Rajnath Singh's presence in the company of VHP leaders threatening an agitation to demand a law to facilitate the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya hints that the party may reserve this campaign for its UP cadre.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.