New Delhi: Why has Narendra Modi’s political star risen so sharply over all the other Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the centre as well as in the states, and topped the entire spectrum of non-BJP politicians as well? There are reasons proximate to the person of Narendra Modi for this, but there are equally or more compelling causes located in the inefficiencies and deficiencies of others, comprising in the main BJP and Congress leaders at the centre. The gang-rape agitation and the Manmohan Singh government’s terrible handling of it advertises the difference between the Gujarat chief minister and the rest, even though Modi played no political role in the tragic events that have played out in Delhi these past ten days.

Narendra Modi belongs to the rising class of successful chief ministers such as J.Jayalalithaa, Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh, etc. Except for their complete absence of vision and zilch administration skills, you could also include Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Bannerjee in this list. Mulayam? Yes. He is the real winner of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the de facto chief minister of the state, whilst his son is a figurehead.

These powerful chief ministers have risen coincidentally at a time of the weakest political leadership at the Centre. This weak Central leadership of course is not solely restricted to the ruling dispensation. If Manmohan Singh is India’s weakest prime minister, the ruling Congress at its most clueless in its long history, and there are no politicians in the real sense of the term in the party, the Opposition BJP is in no better position, and perhaps worse off, because it does not have the comfort of power. Never has there been a leader of the Opposition more ineffective than Sushma Swaraj, who seems to be an adjunct of the ruling Establishment. L.K.Advani is over the hill. And in his heart, Arun Jaitley has given up hopes of being prime minister. Having been always in the Rajya Sabha, it is even difficult to call him a political leader. What is his following? He is no more a political leader than Manmohan Singh is, or P.Chidambaram.

The rise of powerful chief minister politicians has naturally empowered their states, and power has flowed to them from the Centre. Power is fickle. If not seized, it will elope with another wooer. This imbalance between the state and central political leaderships has made the states powerful at the cost of the Centre. Real politics -- cutting edge politics -- is happening in the states, not in the Centre, where politics has receded to the background, and fixing, deal-making, loot-sharing, low intrigue, and so forth, have taken over. Delhi has become a city of dalals as never before. Without exception, all the powerful chief ministers have loathing for central politicians. It comes out clearly in their private conversations. Tarun Gogoi gives his proverbial hafta to the Congress central leadership to shut its mouth. Ditto with Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who have no national ambitions, and are happy to remain chief ministers. Jayalalithaa, Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik are their own bosses, and scorn the Centre in no small measure, although the Bihar chief minister does weaken now and then, and is making errors of judgment on account of his clashing prime-ministerial ambitions with Narendra Modi.

In one sense, Narendra Modi is no different from the rising, ambitious other chief ministers who look down on Delhi politicians. But he is also different. You might say circumstances and adversities have made him different, and given him national ambitions. This writer is now making a significant observation. If Narendra Modi had not been so demonized; if the whole of the political class, including his own party, the RSS, VHP, etc, the dubious NGOs and dodgy activists, the national media, had not so rabidly pursued him, he may never have been catapulted to national prominence. Modi’s enemies thrust greatness on him, gave him national stature. When he took over for the first time from the disastrous Keshubhai Patel after a particularly destructive earthquake, his sole ambition was to put Gujarat on its feet and himself be a good chief minister. The anti-Modi forces, both national and international (if you include the UK, the US and bungling Europe), gave him the aura of prime minister. Which other chief minister’s hat-trick victory in an age of 24-hour television “breaking stories” is national banner headlines and world news?

And because Narendra Modi has surmounted great political obstacles, emerged victorious under conditions of microscopic scrutiny, and takes his work as karma, he has become invincible. With Modi, it has been a case of unending baptism of fire. Administration-wise, vision-wise, politics-wise, he has no peer. There is nothing he cannot do. If Gujaratis are willing to trust him with power again and again and again, why not the rest of India? The extended and on-going gang-rape tragedy would be something Narendra Modi would have handled very differently. The system has collapsed. Like it or not, there is only one man who can fix it.