CHURUMURI POLL: Rahul vs Modi in 2014 poll?

Plenty of pre-electoral chickens are being counted after the Supreme Court directed the trial court to proceed in the Gulberg society carnage case in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. And leading the charge is Narendra Damodardas Modi and his drumbeaters in his party and the media, who interpret the SC ruling as a licence for the Gujarat chief minister to now conquer the Centre. (Mercifully, L.K. Advani had announced his anti-corruption yatra three days earlier, else Modi’s prime ministerial candidacy would have been signed, sealed and delivered by now.)

Nevertheless, there is no denying that depending on which way the trial court goes in the Ehsan Jafri case, how the corruption charges against Modi’s government stick, what happens in the Gujarat assembly elections due by December 2012, how the other aspirants in the BJP (including Advani) react to Modi’s ambitions, and how the allies in the NDA take to him, Narendra Modi is now well and truly eyeing a role in Delhi, a suspicion confirmed by a US thinktank report which sees him as a “likely candidate for prime ministership”.

Should that happen, it opens up a delicious prospect. That of a State satrap with a much-touted record of corruption-free governance against the Congress’ heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi, whose record both as parliamentarian and as a party general secretary has at best been patchy. With the Congress president Sonia Gandhi not in particularly great health and with Manmohan Singh‘s reputation in tatters after all the scams under his charge, it is daunting challenge ahead of Rahul Gandhi, should he lead the charge in 2014.

But what if the trial court does clear Modi? Will Modi be the BJP’s (an NDA’s) automatic choice? Is Modi’s boastful administrative record enough to win national approval despite his remorseless attitude to his “alleged complicity in lethal anti-Muslim rioting”? Could the benefits of Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement accrue to a BJP led by Modi? Could the Congress spring a fresh surprise, like say a Priyanka Gandhi in the fray, to upset the applecart? Could Jayalalitha, Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, et al stich up a more potent Third or Fourth Front?

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