The PM would not be the sole star campaigner in states where assembly polls are due, but Modi loves micro-managing campaigns.The NDA government completes 20 months of its 60-month term on January 25. Narendra Modi has been in the saddle for an eventful period, during which the Centre has taken major initiatives and faced tough challenges.
The prime minister, who focused was overwhelmingly on foreign policy to bring in big-ticket foreign investments, has now signalled that he will concentrate more on meeting domestic challenges. He has told the council of ministers and the top bureaucrats during interactions at Panchavati, the conference complex at the PM's residence, that implementation will be the focus.
Modi, who has been personally monitoring completion of long delayed projects, now wants to focus on the bank loan and insurance schemes. The bigger challenge is to revive the economy and control inflation. Politically, too, the most charismatic leader of BJP has apparently signalled that he would not like to be the sole star campaigner in state assembly elections.
It was BJP president Amit Shah who had insisted that Modi should be the star campaigner in state polls. This yielded mixed results. While the Modi charm worked in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Jammu region of Jammu & Kashmir, the party was comprehensively rejected in Delhi and Bihar, where the PM had invested a lot of time and attention.
Though Modi hasn't lost trust in Shah, the PM has asked the party president to rely more on local leaders in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where polls are due this year. Hardline Hindutva leaders have been given the reins of the campaign in Kerala and West Bengal, while in Assam the BJP campaign will be led by Sadanand Sorbowal, the Union sports minister.
Modi will campaign, but the party will not pit him against powerful regional leaders like Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee, Oommen Chandy or Tarun Gogoi. According to party planners, the indication is that the total number of Modi's campaign rallies in these states would be limited to a maximum of four.
But Modi, who loves connecting with large audiences and micro managing campaigns, will find it difficult to resist challenges, though in case of Bihar, it was the festering political feud with Nitish Kumar that prompted him to embark on a high-voltage campaign. He has no such challengers in states going to polls. Once these elections are over by May, the rest of the year will be a short respite from electoral compulsions.
Then, the huge challenge of Uttar Pradesh looms in 2017. Like all prime ministers, Modi hasn't indicated whether he feels it is time to do a major cabinet reshuffle, after assessing both the performance and political importance of his ministers. The third year of the government, which commences on May 26, is also an opportunity for new initiatives in management of Parliament as the Congress will be taking a tough stance till the campaign gets over in four major states and Puducherry.
While the pilots and crew of Air India one, the special aircraft which takes the prime minister around the world, may have less work this year, Modi has a lot on his plate.