Narendra Modi has his admirers. Not only among the people of Gujarat who voted him to power for a third term, but also among the high and mighty in the rest of India. While the Assembly election demonstrated his strength in Gujarat, the swearing-in ceremony showcased his influence and acceptability among top politicians in the Bharatiya Janata Party, some of the constituents of the National Democratic Alliance, and some outsiders like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Although the Modi camp could not persuade Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other leaders of the Janata Dal (United), a key partner in the NDA, to attend the swearing-in, the presence of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa more than made up for that failure. Mr. Modi and Ms Jayalalithaa have become personal friends outside of politics too, and her attendance is by no means an indication of her willingness to ally with the BJP. But for Mr. Modi, this was part of his national brand-building, an attestation of his acceptability as prime ministerial material. Although he is the front-runner for the top job within the BJP, the party cannot afford to project anyone not acceptable to the NDA and to other prospective allies. Post-2002, parties such as the Biju Janata Dal and the JD (U) have been uncomfortable with the Modi variety of Hindutva. While the BJD is now out of the NDA, JD (U) leaders have kept their distance from the Gujarat Chief Minister. The proximity with Ms Jayalalithaa was for Mr. Modi proof that he had found acceptability beyond Gujarat and among potential allies of the BJP.
All the same, in Tamil Nadu, the truth is that the BJP needs the AIADMK more than the AIADMK needs the BJP. Without doubt, Ms Jayalalithaa sees herself as firmly in the anti-Congress camp, as was evident again at the National Development Council meeting, where she staged a walk-out accusing the Centre of stifling the voice of Chief Ministers who were in the opposition after she was not allowed to speak beyond the allotted time. However, for tactical reasons, the AIADMK might not enter into an alliance with the BJP prior to the 2014 election, and will likely keep its options open for post-poll bargaining. A friend she certainly is, but there are clear limits to the extent to which Mr. Modi can use his proximity with Ms Jayalalithaa for the advancement of his own career. Political alliances are not built on the basis of friendships. Hard-nosed electoral calculations that factor in the prevailing contingencies will eventually decide the shape and size of the NDA in 2014, and not the attendance list at Mr. Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.