New Delhi: Elections to the Delhi Assembly will be held early next year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the mascot of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The party’s campaign centred on him would not conceivably be different from that undertaken in Maharashtra and Haryana. Modi would be panned for reducing the prime ministry; the people, however, would love him on the election trail.

How long can this go on? The prime ministry of India is one of the toughest assignments in the world. Barack Obama has exceptional understanding of government and politics. The press reports that when Obama met Modi in the White House, he wished him success for the “challenges” he faced. When a US president that knows his vocabulary as good as Obama speaks of “challenges” for an incoming Indian prime ministry, it cannot be lightly taken.

Narendra Modi is not a young man at 64. He may have the energy and stamina of a 24-year-old but he is not physiologically young. He works harder than anybody in this country and handles magnitudes of pressure that would crush a lesser man. Sooner rather than later, this will exact a cost; insiders say there are some early signs of it. In the circumstances, how wise is it for Modi to turn every election into a mandate on himself?

He is not doing it out of choice. The Bharatiya Janata Party has no vote-getter besides Modi. L.K.Advani has retired. Arun Jaitley lost the Amritsar election and puts his foot into his mouth whenever he opens it. Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Murli Manohar Joshi, etc, all won because of the Modi wave during the Lok Sabha polls. The new Bharatiya Janata Party president, Amit Shah, is an excellent organizer; but he needs Narendra Modi for the votes.

Party imperatives apart, Narendra Modi requires to win states to further his economic initiatives such as “Make in India”. Uttar Pradesh and other opposition-ruled states will refuse foreign investments brought by Modi to deny political advantage to him. He had to win Haryana and Maharashtra for that reason. The same compulsion will pull him to Delhi. As said before, Modi is not a glory-hunter.

But every minute he stays away from the prime ministry takes a toll on it. He cannot depend on his cabinet ministers who are uniformly below average; the bureaucracy has to be tightly managed; it hates his guts. If on top of that he has to win each and every election for the Bharatiya Janata Party, it would compromise his prime ministry. Slippages are already visible.

There is a second aspect; it is more serious. It is unhealthy for a country to be in election mode all the time. The executive cannot be put to an election test every three months. It will cripple governance. That was partly the reason the United Progressive Alliance failed.

When he was deputy prime minister, L.K.Advani had a good suggestion. It would seem that his prime minister then, A.B.Vajpayee, backed his proposal for fixed-term Lok Sabha and state assemblies. Vajpayee’s government did not have the numbers; a suggestion like this coming from the ruling side would naturally provoke suspicion and opposition. Advani reiterated his proposal in a blog dated 28 May 2010 when he was no longer in government. He says then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his number two, Pranab Mukherjee (the President), agreed with his idea.

Advani addresses most of the fears about his proposal in his blog which readers are advised to consult. To this writer’s mind, fixed legislative tenures are the only way to extricate the country from the morass of permanent electioneering. It would focus the attention and energies of the executive on governance and make elections a once-in-five-years’ affair. It would be a lasting achievement of Prime Minister Modi to forge a consensus on this.

Editor’s note: Intelligence agencies thrive on secrecy. They seldom entertain the media except to plant leaks now and then. The case with India is different. Officials of the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) routinely provide access to reporters. Succession battles are fought through the media; dirty linens are washed in public. Apropos the Wagah bombing, one news report spoke of an advance warning from R&AW. Should this be publicized? The Narendra Modi government would be well-advised to wall off intelligence agencies and ban the media from their activities.

Connected to Wagah, the monies and energies spent on the desultory spectacle of flag-lowering should be invested in improving the true Gateway of India, which is Bombay. Fewer cruise ships stop at Bombay than earlier because port facilities are abysmal; consequently, Dubai and Singapore are big gainers. This is where attention must be focussed, not in pointless competition with a failed state.