New Delhi: There is more or less unanimity that Narendra Modi will return to power in Gujarat. There is less agreement on whether he will match his earlier performance or do better. If he does better, his chances of becoming BJP's PM candidate get stronger, which scares both central BJP leaders and Congress. Therefore, commentators leaning towards Congress or BJP front-rankers in Delhi admit Narendra Modi will return to power in Gujarat but won't do so well as to lay claim to prime-ministership. On the other hand, Modi acolytes and a section of RSS believe that the Gujarat chief minister will win handsomely enough to make the move to Delhi.

But two questions follow. Will he be allowed to get to Delhi by the central BJP which hates his guts? And if he does reach the Centre, and fights his way up to a PM candidature, can he get his party to power?

Only RSS will be able to answer these questions, if at all, and it won't tell you and me. But some educated guesses are in order.

RSS is not in 100 per cent control of Narendra Modi, and it does not like that. Modi has not only demolished the Gujarat BJP but as well leveled VHP and RSS in the state, making himself the tallest leader of the Sangha Parivar there. Never one to tolerate the personality cult, RSS is not entirely comfortable with the self-promoting Modi. RSS has been unhappy with the sidelining of Keshubhai Patel (leading to his revolt) and the witch-hunt of Sanjay Joshi. Modi has not proved amenable to accommodating them, confident as he is of holding Gujarat.

Trouble for RSS is it sees no one with the vote-getting potential of Modi either in Gujarat or nationally, and this could be bad news for the central BJP leadership. Let us face it. L.K.Advani failed on two national campaigns in 2004 and 2009. Sushma Swaraj is a rootless wonder, and Arun Jaitley has never fought Lok Sabha elections. Objectively speaking, they cannot give much confidence to RSS. They are not even very much liked by RSS.

For the press, RSS may have detached from BJP affairs, but let that not fool you. It is completely in control of the party (it got Nitin Gadkari a second term), and it knows when to move. And there is a second misconception which must be removed, like it or not. BJP is nothing without RSS. BJP/ Jana Sangha are not only creations of RSS but BJP electoral successes owe largely to the hard work of RSS cadres. RSS cadres hold the key to victory and defeat. It is RSS which has made BJP into a mainstream political party, and it is RSS, therefore, which will decide how the 2014 elections are to be approached.

Conventional thinking is that RSS will not tamper with the NDA template and will allow coalition compulsions to play their course, which would make eligible any of the BJP central leaders to lead the party to the polls as PM candidate. A second option within this thinking is that BJP declares no PM candidate, and makes the choice after the election, taking coalition compulsions into account. This may well be how RSS acts.

But it is possible that RSS decides to take a risk and goes with a polarizing choice such as Modi. No one can deny that Narendra Modi is the biggest vote-getter in BJP today. BJP and RSS cadres get wildly enthused by him. The middle class likes him. Opinion polls make him number one choice as prime minister far ahead of Rahul Gandhi, who rather tellingly and inchoately went to Jammu and Kashmir for some youth programme, leaving his hapless mother to mark attendance at a poorly envisioned Gujarat election rally.

Picking Narendra Modi as PM candidate means dropping the Muslim vote altogether (although ironically he will do more for Muslims than any previous prime minister), but it was never, in any case, with BJP. Some NDA allies like JD-U will baulk at Modi's rise, but Nitish Kumar is already looking out. If RSS picks Modi, it will be hoping for a substantial hike in vote share, giving BJP the numbers. That is a risky course, and it is not at all clear that RSS will not take it, because it may want BJP to break out of the coalition dynamics which is killing its uniqueness and identity.

If RSS arrives at an internal conclusion that India at its present crossroads, its confidence broken, its economy shattered, its future as a robust nation-state clouded, needs Narendra Modi, it will go for him.