New Delhi: The big question before the Bharatiya Janata Party is this. Should it declare Narendra Modi as the prime minister candidate now or await the 2014 election result? What if it does not do well as the opinion polls prognosticate and Modi's declared candidature becomes an embarrassment for the party? Without the Gujarat chief minister leading as the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime minister candidate, the voters of this country won't get the clear message of change. On their own, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress are not very dissimilar. It is Narendra Modi who brings all the difference to his party and makes it unique. Modi is winning masses of followers on a daily basis; a wave is building up for him; and it would be foolish for the Bharatiya Janata Party not to encash on his popularity at the soonest.

Lal Krishna Advani is the author of this rather false distinction between popularity and acceptability. He turns the distinction on himself when he says he proposed Atal Behari Vajpayee's name rather than his own for prime-ministership in the 1990s. Advani has always had a peculiar relationship with Vajpayee. He considered Vajpayee his superior for some reason and his instinctive insecurity made him propose Vajpayee's name for prime-ministership even when the Bharatiya Janata Party had no chance at a stab at Central power. But there were endless times thereafter when Advani regretted the decision and left no opportunity to destabilize Vajpayee. A certain generation of voters have not forgotten the Loh Purush versus Vikas Purush controversy generated by Advani's coterie to prop him up against Vajpayee.

Narendra Modi is an entirely different kettle of fish. He is a plain dealer. He has ambitions for himself (which man doesn't?) and even bigger plans for the country. That shows through. Which is why the masses and especially the young electorate connect instinctively with him. His influence is the same in urban and rural areas because his message does not propagate backwardness, sectarianism (and he is a proven non-appeaser in administration), casteism, regionalism and the other demeaning ideologies that so immediately identify and typify Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Laloo Prasad Yadav, the Nehru-Gandhis, and so forth. Apart from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangha as an institution, nobody has mentored Narendra Modi. Vajpayee didn't mentor Advani but Advani could never come out of his shadows, which is his fault. So if Modi is his own man and practises the sort of politics that comes naturally to him, you cannot impose your own failures on him, which is what Advani is doing, and condemning him to failure as well. Advani was given enough chances to be prime minister and he failed. Why can't he gracefully step aside and let the best man win?

And this distinction between popularity and acceptability is unremittingly bogus. A government comes to power by a popular vote. If you are not popular, you cannot win elections. And rebuffing conventional wisdom, this writer makes a prediction. The Bharatiya Janata Party will come to power on its own with Modi as the prime minister. Nobody can stop his ascent to that office. History was harsh to him thus far and tried and tested him to the extreme. But the wheel has turned full circle. The instincts of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangha were verily right to declare him prime minister candidate. The Bharatiya Janata Party must delay the announcement no more. As the famous lines go in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar,

"...There is a tide in the affairs of men Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries...."

Just see how rivals of the Bharatiya Janata Party are blundering as if on a universal command to assist the rise of Modi. A young Indian Administrative Service officer, Durga Shakti Nagpal, has exposed the mafia rule of father and son, Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav, in Uttar Pradesh. Mulayam Singh has compelled the Samajwadi Party to the belief that communal power brokers like Azam Khan will gain them handsome returns in the general election. Sorry. Mulayam's party is headed for a rout, as is the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress. The absolute gainer will be the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Narendra Modi, therefore, has to move his campaign to Uttar Pradesh at the earliest. The people of the state -- and that includes Muslims -- want good governance and an end to goonda raj. Modi can deliver on them as he has proved in Gujarat.

Likewise, Bihar is in a shambles under Nitish Kumar. Nothing seems to be going right for him nowadays. Andhra Pradesh is directionless and needs a visionary helmsman like Modi. West Bengal is desperate for change and the Congress is devoid of state-level talent (it has none at the national plane either). The simple point is that Narendra Modi brings hope to a nation that is embittered and hopeless. He infuses confidence wherever he goes. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Indian economy. It just needs a mover and a decision-maker which Modi is. When wealth-creators see politicians and bureaucrats enrich themselves by looting the nation, they are demoralized. The fellow who tweeted against Gujaratis of Bombay hasn't done an honest day's work in life. Bombay is no longer the romantic Bombay of Choti Si Baat, the iconic film of the mid-1970s with Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha, but it still represents the best hope for the country, unlike power-obsessed, black money-driven Delhi. Those that connect at a subliminal level with Bombay and its drive and love for entrepreneurship connect with Narendra Modi, and India desperately needs that spiritedness to escape from the slough of despond.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has an out-and-out winner in Narendra Modi, and it must overcome the dissent of Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Jaswant Singh and others to make him candidate for prime minister. People are going to vote for him first and only secondly the Bharatiya Janata Party. By himself, he makes the Bharatiya Janata Party a party with a difference. Elections are a high-risk affair, but Narendra Modi approaches them with complete planning and well-crafted strategies. He must be given full opportunity to show his worth.