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To mount an effective challenge to the BJP, the Opposition could use a bit of stardust
Coming to India the leadership attributes Rawnsley suggests are the attributes which enabled Narendra Modi to create the new BJP. A comparison with the Advani-Vajpayee BJP demonstrates that it is new. I would argue that to mount an effective challenge to the BJP the opposition needs to find a leader with Rawnsley’s attributes including star dust. History has shown that Indians vote for leaders rather than parties

  \Witnessing in London the political chaos created by implementing Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union, has led me to think of India’s politics. There is a civil war raging in the Labour party between the supports of the radical leader Jeremy Corbyn and his centrist opponents. Europe has caused further divisions in that party. There is a civil war in the Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party between those who want a negotiated break with Europe and the far right element who are prepared to see Britain crash out of Europe without an agreement. That’s a prospect which the head of the Tata owned British car-manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, Ralf Speth, has said would mean the loss of 10,000 jobs and would wipe out the company’s profits.
There is a great deal of speculation talk about the possibility of the two main parties splitting when Theresa May presents her plan for a negotiated Brexit to Parliament. As the two main parties are being pulled apart by their extreme wings there should be an opportunity for the small Liberal party who are committed to Europe to occupy the centre ground but their leader Sir Vince Cable has called for a new centrist movement to be formed. Although that does not seem to be going anywhere, the political columnist for the pro-European Sunday Observer, Andrew Rawnsley, does believe that the present chaotic situation in British politics, with the possibility of a radically left or radically right government coming to power, could lead to a new centrist formation emerging. In a centre page article he said, “it is perfectly possible to inspire passion and mobilise enthusiastic support from a broadly centrist position.” He quoted as examples of politicians who had done that, Tony Blair, Emmanuel Macron of France, Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Barack Obama of America. But to win by standing on the centre ground requires, according to Rawnsley, leaders who have “sufficient experience to be taken seriously, enough freshness to be exciting, and a body of smart ideas that are both galvanising and credible” Rawnsley added, “a bit of charisma and a sprinkling of star dust would be a great help in animating support.”
Coming to India the leadership attributes Rawnsley suggests are the attributes which enabled Narendra Modi to create the new BJP. A comparison with the Advani-Vajpayee BJP demonstrates that it is new. I would argue that to mount an effective challenge to the BJP the opposition needs to find a leader with Rawnsley’s attributes including star dust. History has shown that Indians vote for leaders rather than parties. This brings me to Rahul Gandhi. The queues outside Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Museum indicate that some of her star dust might still be sprinkled on Rahul. He may not be a star yet, but he attracts attention wherever he goes and whatever he does. He has had been in politics for some time now which counts as experience, although his experience would be more saleable if he had joined Manmohan Singh’s government. He hasn’t so far produced any attention-grabbing new policies. He is not highly rated by political pandits. Nevertheless he is the only national centrist politician on the scene who could lead a new formation to oppose the BJP. But he can’t do that at present.
Rahul is now planning to set sail in a leaky ship, a hotchpotch coalition which hasn’t even come together yet. He knows it will sink before it sets sail if he demands to be captain, so he is not doing so. Congress optimists believe that if the ship survives the electoral voyage ahead of the BJP, Rahul will then be able to claim the captaincy because his party will be is the largest one on board. But that also would sink the ship. However if he bides his time and lays the foundation of a new formation, New Congress, just as Tony Blair occupied the central ground by building New Labour, his day could still come. There is not much prospect of any other politician emerging as India’s Tony Blair.
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