Professor Dipankar Gupta, a former profesor of sociology, currently fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum, in conversation with Sheela Bhatt of rediff.com:
Sheela Bhatt: One columnist wrote that the 2009 general elections was the ‘semi-final round’ and Narendra Modi has been knocked out. Do you agree?
Dipankar Gupta: Some people are good at the regional level and some at the national level. He has done well at the regional level not because of the BJP, nor because of its ideology. What he has done is maintain Gujarat’s position as the top economic state. It was not he who put it at the top. The state has always been ahead. Modi didn’t let it slip from its position. He inherited a functioning, economically prosperous state. Gujarat was at number three and is still there.
Narendra Modi has cleverly given Gujaratis the impression that the Centre is against Gujarat and he is fighting for Gujarat. He says we pay so much tax but what do we get back? You might remember in the 1970s Jyoti Basu played the same card effectively. He said Bengal is undermined by the Centre. For 10 years he did very well on that point.
In Gujarat, Modi’s winning card was that the ‘Centre is not looking after us.’ Outside Gujarat Modi was not a crowd puller. North Indians were not impressed as much as the Gujaratis. Modi’s identity as a Gujarati is very strong. He will remain in Gujarat. He will have a strong role to play within his party and will become the BJP’s longest surviving chief minister.
I think the BJP and he himself has realised his limits. On a national scale you need to have a national presence. Vajpayee and Advani had it, but Modi is too much of a Gujarati.
Sushma Swaraj is a strong candidate, she is difficult to handle and is much tougher to fight than Modi because she is a woman. She is articulate and has an all-India image. Arun Jaitley does not have that image yet. He is still very much an organisation man.
If you are talking in terms of going out and fighting an election I think Sushma Swaraj is a better bet than Narendra Modi.”
Read the full interview: ‘Sushma Swaraj is a better bet than Modi’