Nitish, Modi Or Rahul?

English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World E...
English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World Economic Forum in India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nitish is quite possibly the best Chief Minister India has right now: Bihar is growing the fastest of all Indian states. Narendra Modi of BJP has had an impressive economic record in Gujrat for over a decade now. Rahul Gandhi is a scion of India’s Kennedy family, and his party is the largest. Nitish and Modi are part of the same alliance, but there is a sound possibility of a non-BJP, non-Congress front emerging in 2014. Nitish might be the most qualified to be India’s next Prime Minister, and that judgment might be a little tinted because I am half Bihari, and I take obvious pride in him, as I did in Laloo Yadav’s amazing work as India’s Railways Minister. But then Nitish’ party is rather small, and there are many prime ministerial aspirants among the non-BJP, non-Congress parties. Right now it is not even clear if Nitish is even a prime ministerial candidate. If it is simply Modi versus Rahul, Modi might have a huge anti-incumbency advantage. The ugly 2002 Gujrat riots have been a taint on the Modi name but the Indian Supreme Court has given him a clean chit on it. He likens it to the anti Sikh riots of 1984. It was tragic, but it is hard to pin the blame on any one person. I must admit I do feel uncomfortable about the fact he did not contest a single Muslim candidate in the recent state elections in Gujrat.

I root for Nitish because he is India’s best Chief Minister, because he is a Bihari, and because Nitish as India’s Prime Minister and Imran Khan as Pakistan’s Prime Minister might bring about regional peace and normal relations between the two countries, and also because there is a clear possibility he might make it. India will now on have coalition governments for a long long time. If both the Congress and the BJP fail to go past 150 seats in 2014 that will give a lot of leg room for someone like Nitish.

Both Nitish and Modi talk in terms of surpassing China in terms of economic growth. That is a breath of fresh air coming from the messiest – or most interesting – democracy on the planet. It is hard to predict which way the wind will blow in 2014. Modi’s advantage is that he can, as he has, make it clear he is the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister. Nitish might not have that option. He might have to count on a friendly configuration emerging after the polls are over. But if Nitish is not in the race and Modi at the top gets the BJP to perform surprisingly well at the polls then it might be Bihar’s good luck that Nitish gets to continue as Chief Minister of Bihar to keep giving that state double digit growth rates. We all know Bihar needs it.

English: Nitish Kumar
English: Nitish Kumar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rahul likely is headed to be Leader of the Opposition. He is clean, he is smart, he has a famous last name. He is obviously popular inside his party. But long gone are days when the Congress used to be able to get a majority on its own. And his lack of experience in government – he has not been Cabinet Minister or Chief Minister – might work against him.

It just might be that both Modi and Nitish get to make their way to the top, Modi now and Nitish perhaps two terms later. But such predictions are extremely hard to make for a country like India. The political landscape can alter so fundamentally so fast. Anna Hazare came out of the blue, did he not?

With either Nitish or Modi at the helm India is poised to do well economically, as it deserves to. And 2014 is going to be an election campaign for the history books. My favorite democracy to watch in the world is going to be like a peacock in full dance. India deserves nothing less. Both Gujrat and Bihar have roads that are better than in some states in America. This has been called the Asian century. India is a country to watch, year in year out, decade in, decade out.
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