In the general elections that are due to take place in India there are many contestants for the post of Prime Minister. Among the many aspirants only one will see his/her dream fulfilled. Who will be the lucky winner. We shall examine the prospects of the possible aspirants and try to examine the chances of each becoming PM – one by one.
Let us start with the current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. He won the full confidence of the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who propelled him to the post of PM. But, of late, the Congress Party has developed a sort of Manmohan fatigue. Members of the party want a change. They have had enough of the architect of economic reforms in India.
The main contender from the Congress side for the PM post is Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent. The Congress Party wants him to rule the country. But Rahul himself was reluctant and hesitant. Will greatness be thrust upon him? Chances are not bright of Rahul becoming PM. The chances of Congress returning to power is itself slim. Anti-incumbency factors, lost reputation on account of scams and corruption charges, and a media hostile to the party renders the possibility of Congress forming the next government quite remote.
The BJP has put all their eggs in one basket. There is only one aspirant in the party now for the post of PM – Narendra Modi. Modi’s elevation in the BJP’s hierarchy is itself becoming its undoing. Whatever may be his reputation as a leader and administrator, the baggage of the Godra carnage, accusation of encounter killings, reputation of being an authoritarian and non compromising leader, and non-secular and anti-minority credentials will go to ensure that his prospects of becoming PM are not all that certain.
Next we have to go in search of the aspirants from the Regional Parties. Among them Nitish Kumar emerges as a prominent contender. But there are indications that his party will not do well in the state of Bihar. He may choose to opt out of the PM race.
Among Third Front candidates we then have the three M’s - Maya, Mamata and Mulayam. Mayawati is the leader of the main opposition party in Uttar Pradesh. She has openly declared her aspiration to be PM. Mamta Banarjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal also harbors ambitions to be PM. Mulayam Singh Yadav is the father of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Akilesh Yadav. When it comes to leadership at the Central Government, Akilesh is likely to give way to his father. All three M’s are great leaders in their own right and highly popular within the confines of their own party. But outside their own parties they face opposition. The Third Front will hesitate to have them as their candidate for PM because of inherent political rivalries and suspicions.
Sharad Pawar and Naveen Patnaik are also leaders who can aspire to be PM under the Third Front umbrella. Sharad Pawar is a heavy weight leader from Maharashtra and can be considered to be the number two in the ruling coalition at the center. Naveen Patnaik is the Chief Minister of Orissa and proclaims to keep equi-distance from Congress Party and the BJP. Both these leaders have the credentials to aspire for the top post but they lack a large following of MPs from within their parties to steer them to the Prime Minister’s post.
Having ruled out a large number of contenders we are left with Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. She has ambition. She can get the required support of MPs from within her party. She has all the capabilities required of a national leader. She has the ability to speak in a crystal clear and sweet voice. Everyone knows that she harbors secret ambitions of becoming the PM of India. If all goes well for her she is likely to be chosen by default as the Prime Minister of a Third Front Government. The Third Front will go for the least controversial aspirant as the person to lead its government. That could be Jayalalitha.
But among the least controversial leaders Naveen Patnaik is also a force to be reckoned with. The strong point of Naveen Patnaik is that the Congress party may support him if they are giving outside support to a Third Front Government. This is because the Congress party may want a comparatively light weight leader as PM compared to a heavy weight like Jayalalitha. If the Third Front comes to power after the General elections we could see Jayalalitha or Naveen Patnaik as our probable Prime Minister in 2014.