New Delhi: The situation of 1996 will repeat for the Bharatiya Janata Party after the 2013 or 2014 general elections, not so much in the number of Lok Sabha seats won, which may be more or less (more, according to this writer’s analysis), but in the advent of a popular prime minister following an interval. Back then, in the still quasi-innocent days of few cellphones, fewer news channels and little internet, it was A.B.Vajpayee who took centrestage. This time around, it will be Narendra Modi. Modi’s latest endorser, believe it or not, is the head of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which has usually rooted for the Congress.

Atal Vajpayee had to go through two tumbles, being prime minister for 13 days and 13 months, provoking honest regrets all around, before he got a proper inauguration in 1999, whereafter, he ran a splendid government. Pre-1999, public opinion was behind him. But the false ideology of “secularism”, made baser by an opportunistic political class, impeded him, till his popularity broke all bounds. Something similar has happened with Narendra Modi, although in his case, his imminent movement from Gujarat to the Centre has united his enemies, who will be overcome. When the time for an idea arrives, no barriers survive.

At their core, and although they are two different men, holding perhaps different worldviews, A.B.Vajpayee and Narendra Modi come packaged as ideas. Ideas animate them. That Vajpayee was an ideas man was evident from his decision to approve the second nuclear test, which gave India the required heft internationally. To that heft, Vajpayee added high growth, brilliant schemes like highway connectivity, low interest rates which prospered industry and made housing affordable to the middle class for the first time, and clean governance, whilst keeping inflation in brutal check, and no wonder, India was a success story. Compared to the nine dreary and wasted years of Manmohan Singh, the Vajpayee era has a golden shimmer. There was something to look forward to, than stare at the abyss of deathly taxes, the calling card of Manmohan Singh and his finance minister. Vajpayee gave Indians the last “feel good” years.

Narendra Modi, like it or not, generates that same thrill. The Gujarat chief minister was an astonishing success at his political outing in the Sriram College of Commerce in Delhi. The young finally found a politician who shared their vision and energy, and they knew his actions counted for as much as his words, Gujarat being a living testimony to his genius, and they were clear they wouldn’t be stopped in their admiration and support for him. Narendra Modi has the vote of the young. The young are harbingers of change, and they will bring Modi to power at the Centre. The middle-aged and older voters will follow their lead. Of this, there can be no doubt.

In the case of both Vajpayee and Modi, it is clear that public opinion cannot be contained. Respecting Vajpayee, the public wanted to give him a decent shot at prime ministership, and it didn’t rest until he got a full term. The vote was both for the BJP and for Vajpayee, in a 40:60 proportion. With Narendra Modi, the sums are more complex. Obviously, he is seen as a BJP successor to Vajpayee, who can build on his vision and statesmanship. The transformation of Gujarat gives the electorate a fair idea of Modi’s potential, and it wants it fully realized by giving him Delhi. In that sense, Modi is Vajpayee II.

But Modi also means a lot to the young for being special in his own way. He is not a complainer. He does things exactly as the young do. Modi is like an entrepreneur who knows how to squeeze the best out of the system. In this, he exhibits very Gujarati traits, but it fits the entrepreneur-driven template of India. Modi is a wealth-creator, precisely what the young seek, and the Gujarat chief minister, unlike Manmohan Singh and other World Bank/ IMF economists who have seized Raisina Hill, is at home with the Indian model, and considers it superior to the West, much as the youth do. In that sense, with his practices and successes, Modi comes across as an outsider, whilst India is tired of the insiders, who have come to be represented by the Nehru-Gandhis in the main.

There are clearly forces at play that no one understands that are propelling Narendra Modi to Delhi. It would be futile to stop him. Like in 1996, many Congress stalwarts are prepared to jump ship. They have opened negotiations with the Bharatiya Janata Party. They want Modi to come and clean up the system. This is bad news for the Congress. Then consider the bureaucracy. After the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service ranks second in corruption and venality, and because it has so much at stake, it keeps robustly abreast of the current political wind direction. Senior IPS officers are openly talking about an imminent Narendra Modi government at the Centre, and they are a scared lot. Six months ago, this writer was alone to bet that the gates of Delhi would open wide to welcome Modi. That’s happening now. Contrary to the fears of most, however, this writer’s own understanding is that Modi will not be vindictive, and will single-mindedly strive to be an outstanding prime minister. He will aim to surpass Vajpayee and even Jawaharlal Nehru, and history is on his side.