Friday, June 19, 2015

Narendra Modi's Strategy

In our previous articles (see here, here, here and here) we wrote about our assessment of Modi's one year in office. We expressed our displeasure regarding many issues. In this article we want to present our view from the perspective that Modi does want to deliver on most fronts, but that he is timing it and strategizing it differently.

We present this in four segments. Models, Image, Time Line, and Strategy and Control. In models section, we describe our view of how various components of the picture. This will make us understand the behavior of the components. In image  section, we describe the kind of image that Modi needs to project (positive) and imager that Modi needs to guard against (negative) but which his detractors would like to push. In time-line section, we describe how deliverables must get delivered so that an advantageous situation exists for Modi in 2019. And finally, in the last section, we describe how, based on the models, the desired image and its time line, Modi can manueover the control variables for his goals.

This does not in the least mean that Modi wants to merely win elections in 2019. We believe him to be a well intentioned PM, and we believe that he wants to make a great change for the better in India. And for that he might need more than one term. However, what we mean is that Even if he is looking forward to merely win the 2019 elections, he could use the outline given in this article.

(A) Models:

1. Voter Model:

(i) Hindutva Middle Class voters are too demanding, and too easily irritable. They are the most difficult to get to vote too.

(ii) His Support Base (both potential and actual): Silent Hindutva poor, silent Hindutva middle class, (in potential) non-Hindu poor.

(iii) His opponents: Loud vocal secular (both Hindus and non-Hindus) Middle class, (in potential) non-Hindu poor, (now slowly increasing) Vocal Hindutva middle class.

2. Opponent Model:

(i) Congress and other opposition parties are not concerned about "Hindutva" voters of Modi. they know the flimsiness of the Hindutva-brigade (2004 etc.). Also they know that it is highly unlikely that Modi will do a Hajpeyi.

(ii) The main fear of the opposition parties is what the "middle and poor" class people perceive Modi as. We can notice that they are scurrying to alter Modi's image into a Corruption-accommodating and anti-poor leader. It is unlikely that they will succeed.

(iii) He has detractors within his own party, who might be waiting for Modi to fail/fall in some way, so that they can jump all over his corpse.

Possible Scenario Predictions:

(a) If he goes aggressive on Hindutva and economy goes in doldrums, people would say: why did he have to do it so badly. "Ghar mein khane ko nahin hai aur ladai pe nikal pade".

Remark: Modi would want to avoid this.
(b) If Economy takes off a little and then aggression happens as a result of cross-border provocation, he will have much better traction. (We have had a glimpse of this during this Myanmar incident).

Remark: Modi would want to have better than this.
(c) Before next LS election he would have achieved a healthy majority in Rajya Sabha, so he wants to aim at a strong (350+) majority in Lok Sabha in 2019.

Remark: Modi will have this as desirable.

3. Constraints Model (Simple Lessons for Modi from 2004 loss; a few possible causes that added up):

(i) Apologetic behavior regarding 2002, resulting in cringing-Hindutva image.

(ii) Despite decent infrastructure development and growth rate, the message could not be conveyed to people, Hindutva folks were completely sidelined, and India-Shining campaign was seen to be "arrogant".

4. Strong Points Model (Some innate strengths in favor of Modi):

(i) He will (most likely) remain personally clean and impeccable (unlike MMS).

(ii) If his party detractors, and opposition parties do not oppose him he will do much better. If they keep opposing him, he will gain sympathy (vo kaam karna chahata thaa par usako kaam nahin karne diye). This will help him to further strengthen his grip on BJP as well as candidate selection.

Remark: We don't view this as bad per se; for we can't disallow a PM, who we want to act as an efficient CEO, the freedom he seeks, and then blame him if he fails to deliver. He will have more to worry if he is given freedom, for then he will have to show success. He will be comfortable if he is denied freedom, for he can legitimately claim that he was not allowed to function freely. In our understanding, Modi will lay claim to the freedom he seeks and get it for himself, and he will also deliver what he has in mind. (Which may be different, in content and sequence, from what most critics or "intellectuals" expect)
(iii) He will not capitulate regarding 2002, anti-terrorism, etc. Even if he does not go the whole hog as per the "Hindutva" script.

(B) Image:

Modi would strive to project a comprehensive image in which:

(i) He remains clean, and impeccable.

(ii) He remains visible as someone who is working hard for noble goals.

Remark: The above two are easy, for Modi merely needs to be himself to be so. The only effort he needs to put in will be to counter the contra-campaign by his opponents (both within and without) to sully his image by reality-inverting propaganda. Modi should not take it lightly, but he need not boil his head over it. His actual personality, his ability to communicate, and most importantly, delivery of deliverables on the ground, will take care of this.
(iii) Development, infrastructure growth, Economic growth to be perceptibly better than 2004/2009.

(iv) Poor peoples' on ground experience and hope for the future to be significantly better than 2004/2009.

(C) Time Line:

Politics is as much about timing as it is about image. Even if it turns out that Vajpeyi was a stauncher Hindu than Chhatrapati Shivaji, it matters a little about the results of Election 2004 results.

Until now we believe that Modi will not have to be other than himself to project the right image. However, we do not rule out the possibility that someone could be compromised. For now, we can give him the benefit of the doubt.

(i) Poor peoples' on ground experience must change for the better, latest by third year middle, and keep steadily improving after that.

(ii) More aggressive economic reforms (free market for middle/upper class) can also begin then or even a bit later.

(iii). Fourth year, and later could see aggressive Hindutva or suggestive-Hindutva.

(D) Strategy and Control Variables:

To achieve the said image, at appropriate timing, given various models regarding the situation, a part of Modi's strategy could be (or possibly is):

(i) To provide "free market" to middle class. This will turn many "secular" into his voters even if it does not turn them into non-secular.

(ii) To provide "development" oriented welfare (not doles a la Congress, rather growth opportunities with charitable perspective) to poor. This will consolidate his Hindutva-poor base, and also significantly shift non-Hindu poor (Gujarat Experience?).

In view of the above he has (until now) managed the Control Variables appropriately, for example:

(i) Development focusing on for poor/lower-middle class. (This has begun)

(ii) Small scale industry oriented reform. (Has begun or might begin shortly)

(iii) Tax (Income Tax, etc.) reforms. (Can begin from third year too).

(iv) Hindutva agenda. (To be timed to peak at the right instance).

From the above, it is clear that Modi Government (even while doing much better than UPA yet being highly disappointing) is on a decent course.

Pit Falls:

What we have mentioned are average scenarios. We have ignored a few delicate but extremely important things.

(i) Modi himself is compromised:

The lure of becoming an international figure is often too strong even for the staunchest nationalists. While Modi is unlikely to be an easy or a cheap sell out like say Jawahar; the possibility that Modi has sold himself out, or has been bought out (A combination of threat and inducement) can not be ruled out with absolute certainty. While we are unhappy about Modi's volte face on FDI/GM-food/Aadhar etc., and we DO have our suspicions regarding certain employments under his govvernment for Economic posts, and while there are many who are "sure" that Modi is a zionist and all that; we still would like to give him a benefit of the doubt, at least for the time being.

However, you will notice that such a thing will not alter his winnability in 2019 (unless he stands exposed by then), if he does as what we mentioned in this article.

(ii) Subversion by the system itself:

Since we suspect that Indian system is heavily and highly infiltrated, timing and delivery can come unstitched if the system (both bureaucratic and judicial) subverts all the initiatives. Modi needs to take two steps. One, select key bureaucrats very very very carefully. Two, Change and Reboot the system itself. We skip this topic now, and will present our views on this in another article.

(iii) War:

International players can manipulate wars. Modi must ensure that either war does not happen, or if it happens India wins the war decisively. The how and why of this is beyond the scope of this article. However, as politicians, Modi and Shah might be intelligent enough to handle such a crisis should it arise.

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