India has shifted on its axis and elected a Supreme Leader after a democratic process that has been described as one of the wonders of the world. Narendra Modi will be the prime minister of the country following an emphatic mandate that marks the end of coalition politics. Even within his own party and parivar, it will be He who will prevail, leaving little room for those quiet manoeuvres and petty competitions that the BJP has been known for. The nation was first given a campaign that was extraordinary in its focus on one man, and then lo and behold, defying even the most optimistic estimates of his own party, Narendra Modi has turned the pitch into reality. He created the wave, with media and advertising acting as force multipliers, and then he deftly rode it to a stupendous victory.
Political scientists and commentators will have to reboot their minds and think of a new vocabulary and constructs for understanding the dramatic changes in the nation. The cardinal principles of coalitions and consensus so far applied to understanding politics will be nothing more than slogans. The cult of “Absolute” leadership will have to be understood more carefully, truly a remarkable phenomena in a nation as large and diverse as India. Modi was bowling to a new India that he seemed to understand. At his first speech post his victory, he said quite pointedly that a government is not for “vishesh people” (privileged people) and that he was a “mazdoor who will serve the people without a vacation”. He certainly represents the arrival of the pan-Indian subaltern hero, who breaks traditional barriers, even as big corporates celebrate his victory and the stockmarkets boom.
A very different kind of subaltern hero from those produced in the Mandal era that has truly passed with the complete devastation suffered by Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and the poor showing by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal. In the days to come, there will be many analyses of whether the Modi campaign overcame traditional caste divisions. It must also be asked whether the entire process of “secular” mobilisation by a slew of parties based on presuming and stoking great fear in a section of the population will have to be re-examined.
Equally dramatic has been the utter collapse of the Congress. A Congress-mukt Bharat, something that Modi would often say in his speeches, has almost come to pass, with the Rahul Gandhi-led party receiving the sort of drubbing it may not recover from in a hurry. Sources also suggest that with the Nehru-Gandhi family’s stock falling this low and with Modi getting so much of the national vote, he will not hesitate to let the investigative agencies examine the Robert Vadra land acquisitions. Sources say that Modi feels he was hounded by the ruling establishment in Delhi for over a decade and he is a man who does not forget or forgive easily. As a BJP leader explains, “He will actually do nothing himself. But the bureaucracy will act in ways that would make Vadra squirm and the Congress first family very, very uncomfortable.”
The BJP/RSS too must now confront a parivar crisis of a different sort. There is no doubt that Modi will appear to be gracious and will do the routine calling on the RSS chief and senior leaders of the BJP. But no one shall now presume to dictate any terms to him. The Sangh would have liked to be in control of this victory. But the stark reality is: the RSS always existed but was often rendered irrelevant (even during phases in Vajpayee’s reign). Yes, the footsoldiers did get charged up and step out for Modi. But their importance should not be overstated. None of their exertions would have delivered had Modi not crafted an incredible campaign that at times seemed like an overkill. As it turned out, it clicked in a country where prices were soaring and the central leadership appeared to have all but abandoned the ship. It is an old thesis that the idea of a strong, muscular leader clicks partially well when a nation is apparently adrift.
Jaya He: A supporter in a Jaya mask bursts crackers on AIADMK’s showing in TN
Now that we are back to single-party rule, embodied in the figure of one leader, what of the “160 club” in the BJP? It is no secret that a section of the RSS and many BJP leaders were hoping for a modest win, just upwards of the BJP’s 1999 record of 182 seats that would have left Modi dependent on allies and his own ideological parivar and party colleagues. In fact, a day before the counting, a senior BJP leader was rubbishing the exit polls and forecasting not more than 180 seats. Now, those who were overtly and covertly anti-Modi in the BJP have no hand to play beyond hoping that they are included in the cabinet. They will be a chastened lot and will no doubt struggle to stay relevant.
The RSS will be around hoping for some crumbs from the high table of the new PM but they would also remember the manner in which Modi had shown their state unit and the VHP their place in Gujarat. (There is no love lost, for instance, between the VHP’s Pravin Togadia or the RSS’s Sanjay Joshi who Modi destroyed but the Sangh kept trying to rehabilitate). Such inner tensions would remain. Still, Modi is a former pracharak who makes no secret of his ideological leanings. Now that he’s in for a stable five-year term, the RSS would at the very least be focusing on changes in history textbooks and curriculum. Not very different from what Murli Manohar Joshi attempted as HRD minister in the Vajpayee era.
The Lady Ducked: A deserted BSP office in Lucknow. (Photograph by Nirala Tripathi)
In the ideological pole of the BJP, if Vajpayee stood at one end, Modi is at the other. In his own party, it had been argued that he was too hardline and divisive to ever prevail on India. He has proven all the sceptics wrong and changed the rules of the game. In the history of the BJP, which begins with its formation in 1980, he will now be remembered as the significant leader who took them to single-party rule. The theory that “only a Vajpayee” could do it has been proved quite bogus by a man who flaunts his backward caste credentials. Certainly, it cannot be ignored that Modi also represents an end to the Brahmin hegemony within both the RSS and the BJP.
He did so by running a blockbuster campaign that was presidential in its scope. Popular BJP chief ministers in some states would have surely helped but let there be no doubt that it was the will, drive, ambition and resources Modi raised that made this possible. This is most clearly seen in the structures he created independent of the formal BJP-RSS that worked on his entire campaign, its planning, nuancing and emphasis—all but execution. Says marketing expert Sunil Alagh, who is believed to have helped build Brand Modi, “Vox Populi Veni Modi Vici.” Alagh is typical of the Modi followers: not a member of the BJP but a follower of Modi. The NaMo insiders have every reason to rejoice as they gave India a campaign that has now culminated in the Supreme Leader of their dreams becoming a reality in the world’s largest democracy.
Didi Rules: TMC supporters erupt in joy at the party’s tally in West Bengal. (Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee)
As he heads into the future, it will be the economic agenda that will be Modi’s focus, but just in case a certain ideological emphasis is required here or there in various assembly elections, be assured that Modi can deliver. Across the world, men and women who emerge as strong right-wing leaders do so when they emphasise a certain nationalism underpinned by carefully controlled sectarianism. Yet such leaders are also seen as agents of dramatic change and most crucially as economic reformers. Says BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad, “It’ is strong personalities who inspire people in this media-driven age in both states and the Centre. That’s one important facet of the appeal of Modi’s leadership.”
Now the floodgates of opportunity have opened up for the BJP. With such a win at the Centre, unstable state governments surviving on the support of independents such as those in Bihar and Jharkhand will slowly start to collapse. In West Bengal, the Left debacle implies that the anti-Mamata vote will possibly gravitate towards the BJP. In the Assam-Bengal swathe, one can imagine the BJP as a growing force, its very premise of mobilisation emerging from the springboard of the existence of large minority populations. Equally, the BJP has marked its presence in the south, even as it has crossed new barriers in Uttar Pradesh. Under Modi, it has truly become an all-India party.
India has indeed shifted on its axis.
I’ve been firm in my opposition to Brand Narendra Modi for some years now (Supremodi, May 26). I’ve held him personally culpable for the 2002 killings and still do. I’ve been consistent in my belief that there was no way the electoral math would add up to give the BJP the requisite numbers in the Lok Sabha. All said and done, Modi has pulled off a stunner. He has decimated a party more than 100 years old. One man has proved—for once—that coalition governments are not necessarily a default option. The moment of opposing him as PM candidate has passed. He is our PM now.
Santosh John Samuel, Kochi
My social, economic and linguistic/ethnic background makes me more likely to benefit from the kind of society and economy envisaged by Modi. But I wonder if they’d be right for the man at the bottom of the pyramid, and this country is full of such men. My wishlist, for whatever it is worth, is as follows: a) Permit members of minority communities to contest from seats reserved in the Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and local bodies; b) ensure reservations for the more socially and economically backward; c) refrain from interfering with personal laws or ensure that if a uniform civil code has to come, it is a genuinely secular code which respects traditional customs and is not a means of imposing the personal laws of the majority community on the minorities.
Mike Desai, New Delhi
It’s simplistic to attribute the BJP’s impressive performance wholly to the widespread disillusionment with the Congress despite its entitlement programmes, the corporate backing for Modi or his promises of ‘good governance’ and ‘economic progress’ without acknowledging the groundswell of wholehearted support for Modi as a symbol of Hindu nationalism. It will be a devastating blow to the country and its unity if a triumphant BJP interprets the electoral verdict as a popular vindication of the ideology it subscribes to and the goals it sets itself and leverages its thumping majority in the Lok Sabha to push through its Hindutva agenda.
G. David Milton, Maruthancode
His swashbuckling victory has ensured that Modi will have no worthwhile opposition to keep his trigger-happiness in check. It will be incumbent on him alone to do all the right things.
George Jacob, Kochi
Had Advani been the BJP’s PM candidate, he’d have got the party more than 282 seats with less effort and no aarti-pujas.
Anil Kumar, Hyderabad
Modi could prove to be India’s Shinzo Abe. Like his Japanese counterpart, he would oversee higher asset prices and revive growth, but struggle with structural reforms.
C.K. Subramaniam, Mumbai
People have finally enabled Modi to give us a stable government. In gratitude, he should ensure that India is rid of terror and economic bleakness.
Jayanthi Subramaniam, Mumbai
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari to the faraway Andamans, from Anand to Assam, what a sweep! The BJP would have hoped that the lotus would bloom in Kerala too. But O. Rajagopal’s valiant fight against Shashi Tharoor was in vain.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
The Modi tsunami has routed not just his political rivals but also the intelligentsia, academia, activists and media.These groups have executed a vigorous and vicious campaign against Modi in India and abroad for the last 12 years. The politics of Mandal, minorities, and even secularism, has met its Waterloo and big players like Mulayam and Mayawati, Nitish and Laloo, have been left licking their wounds. No, He Can’t? Sorry! Today, Modi is the man who can.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
The 16th Lok Sabha, said a recent report in The Hindu newspaper, will have the highest number of MPs—34 per cent, going by the election affidavits—with criminal cases against them. This includes 35 per cent or about a 100 BJP MPs. Welcome to Modi sarkar!
Alastair Murray, Panchkula
Not the corporates, it’s the poor who have delivered this judgement, proving once again that democracy has deep roots in India. Modi does know his poll math, but his real victory will come only if he can understand the chemistry of the people. Hope he does not fail in this effort.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
Saba in her dreams also would not have give NAMO more than 200 hundred seats, but here he has propelled NDA to 336. SO she has to call him Supermodi, earliar she use to justify people calling NAMO all sorts of names. If you watch closely his (NAMO) speeches, he used touch base upon the local issues and criticize the local govt for the same, which no one thought was relevant till the time the results were out. By the time local SATRAPS under stood that their main rival was NDA, it was too late to turn the tide in their favor. Namo has been successful in getting people's attention and making them realise that it is a vote for NAMO, whoever you vote for, thats how people got elected even when they were cutt off with the populace.
In all the discussion about the campaign, the marketing, even the occasional negativity, are we missing the most important aspect, Sabaji ? Like Barack Obama, Narendra Modi is a gifted speaker, an effective communicator, someone who brings hope at a time of despair. But beyond that, he has a track record of running a prosperous state for 4,600 days, winning elections spaced out over more than a decade, by which time people tire of their leaders. The extraordinary physical energy was on display during the campaign. Could it be that he brews a great cup of tea while others are just reading from a recipe book ?
Abdur Rehman Patrawala,
[[Unfortunately for the Congress, its 19.3% votes only translated into 44 seats while BJP's 18.5% had fetched it 116 seats. ]]
Now that Modi's win is giving you the feeling of chilli powder being shoved up, you come up with new yardsticks to define victory?
Jihadi moron, vote share or percentage is not the ultimate deciding factor elections, it is the number of seats won that matters.
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