The much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ is in a mess in corona times. Consider the following:

It is perhaps a less known fact that Narendra Modi’s political career was dramatically transformed by a natural disaster. The alleged mishandling of relief operations during the 2001 Kutch earthquake by the Keshubhai Patel government in Gujarat forced the central BJP’s hand and Mr Modi was sent to Gandhinagar as a replacement. The rest as they say is history.

In the build up to the 2019 general elections, the BJP’s most potent campaign plank was to pose a direct question: ‘Modi versus who?’. By foregrounding the leadership issue, the BJP was able to successfully make the elections a quasi-presidential battle in which a fractious and divided opposition had little chance. Now, nearly a year later, the Covid-19 crisis may have provided a glimpse to leadership options in the future: the chief ministers of 28 states and eight union territories are at the frontline of the corona virus battle.

The emergence of Arvind Kejriwal has undoubtedly been the start-up story in Indian politics of the last decade just as the inexorable rise of Narendra Modi has been the biggest brand revolution over this same period. Both have had unique stories that appeal to a middle-class, aspirational India: the IIT-trained anti-corruption crusader who chose to take the political plunge with the promise of transforming the country’s political culture and the RSS-trained pracharak who promised to shake up the Nehruvian establishment.

Long before Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), there was Maharaja Sayajirao (MS) University, Vadodara. Named after one of the most enlightened rulers of princely India, the university was seen as a much cherished space in Gujarat for genuine academic and cultural freedom, its fine arts department in particular nationally recognized for its creative and plural ethos.

There are few Indian politicians as inscrutable as Sharad Pawar. The old political jungle saying in Mumbai is what 'Pawar thinks, what he says and what he does, are three entirely different things.' Which might explain why no one is still quite sure what was Mr Pawar's exact role in the high drama in Maharashtra in the last month. Was the Nationalist Congress party (NCP) leader really not aware of the negotiations that his nephew Ajit Pawar was having with the BJP? Or was he simply playing both sides of Maharashtra's high stakes poker politics to find out who would give him the best deal?

India Today brings you special political debate based Rajdeep Sardesai's book, '2019: How Modi Won India'. 2019 is a remarkable year in Indian politics, with Narendra Modi becoming the first Prime Minister since Indira Gandhi to win two successive parliamentary majorities. The year 2019 ends with another remarkable fact that Uddhav Thackeray has become the first Maharashtra chief minister from the Thackeray family with the support of Congress and NCP. What does 2019 means for the politics of India?

So here is the paradox of our times. Read the business pages, and there is a fair chance that you will get the impression of a Narendra Modi government on the ropes and an economy in serious trouble. Then, read the political pages and find that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) juggernaut is marching from one electoral success to another.

A curious election littered with many firsts is taking place in Maharashtra. A 49 year old Brahmin from Nagpur appears set to be re-elected for a second five year term in a Maratha-dominated polity. A 29 year old member of the Thackeray family is actually contesting an election. The BJP has pushed the original sons of the soil regional force, Shiv Sena to a secondary position in its long-standing alliance. The ageing Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra's tallest leader over nearly half a century, is fighting hard to keep his family, leave aside his party, together.

A hundred days and counting into the Modi government, whats the biggest difference between Modi 1.0 and Modi 2.0? The answer to that question doesn’t lie so much in the prime minister’s office but across the street in North Block. Where Modi’s first avatar had only one distinct power centre, we now have two. The rise of Amit Shah in his new role as home minister suggests that the Modi government has finally found room at the top for two.

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