Narendra Modi will win the 2019 general elections because he has a narrative for India. In the past five years, he has not only convincingly articulated that narrative, but also actualised it to a great extent. His narrative has caught the imagination of marginalised India as well as young India. They have realised that he seeks to transform India, hitherto ruled through a consensus of the privileged, into an India in which the marginalised are empowered, the excluded see avenues of inclusion open up, responsiveness to tradition and to faith is not looked down upon, and the scope of mobility through power is not limited to or controlled by a few.
Modi has been able to convey to the subaltern psyche that he is determined to transform India, and has expressed that determination through an unrelenting schedule, which has seen him generate and execute ideas. He has succeeded in widening and expanding his support base, and in broadcasting the fundamentals of his vision of governance. He will win because he has succeeded in altering lives at the grassroots and qualitatively ameliorating the conditions of living.
His ability to challenge mindsets, as he has done through his many flagship initiatives, is his greatest asset. His appeal to alter our mindsets and attitudes has been worked out on the ground, not through dictates or orders, but through an appeal to the collective strength and capacities of citizens. He has based his effort at transforming the Indian landscape and mindscape on the participation of people. He reminds us that in a democracy, ‘lok kartavya’ (citizens’ duties) is as vital as ‘lok adhikar’ (citizens’ rights). He inspires people to explore their duties, and works hard to protect and widen their rights. Financial inclusion, the right to a healthy disease-free life, freedom from the smoke trap for women who had been condemned to it for a lifetime (through the Ujjwala initiative), the joy of having a permanent roof overhead have all served to strengthen and empower the foundations of India.
Modi’s drive to cleanse the system, of enforcing accountability and equity, as he did through the demonetisation drive, has shown him as a leader capable of fulfilling the promises he made. Those opposed to him politically and intellectually had during the demonetisation drive unleashed a debate blitzkrieg on how Modi had finally met his Panipat or Waterloo. But their false assessments and false narratives were exposed, and a substantial section of the vast hinterland—Uttar Pradesh, for example—rooted for Modi. The masses negated the elitist assessments of their wisdom and responded by reiterating their support for Modi’s drive to dust the system, scrap it of its many accoutrements, make it functional and, through these, ensure their dignity and equity.
Modi’s pledge to mainstream the marginalised and bring in a greater sense of accountability among the privileged and the powerful has not been mere claptrap. His narrative of a new India is based on empowering the bases, making the system accountable, bridging the gap between segments, widening the ambit of inclusion, and appealing to the civilisational strength of a people who had, in the past, displayed a dynamic spirit and capacity of entrepreneurship. In short, Modi has attempted to make us aware of our own inherent national strength and capacities. His effort and success of giving practical shape to the governance philosophy of ‘Antyodaya’, in which the system enables and empowers the last citizen on the social ladder, has attracted the attention of the country as a whole and the world at large.
Modi’s narrative of India has broken through the enclosures of elitism. He is seen as a sort of disrupter, an outsider who has challenged a power caucus that largely comprised rootless leaders and advisors whose understanding of India was second-hand or, at best, cursory. Modi’s steadfast refusal to be co-opted in this entrenched system, his attempts to bypass these gatekeepers and to reach out to the India that matters, to engage in samvad (dialogue) with that India, has elicited a positive response. Let us not be deluded with false arguments that Modi’s PMO concentrates too much power in itself. A non-existent PMO in the past, with its power often curtailed and overridden, has made us forget the true role of the PM and his/her office.
Modi’s office stands in stark contrast to a decade when India was managed, on the one hand, by a PM who had no control over his cabinet, and whose voice was as feeble as his will to implement policies and take decisions, and, on the other, by a coterie of unelected and unaccountable advisors, whose commitment to India’s national interest was suspect and confused, whose understanding of real India and her needs was coloured by ideological biases, and whose members had the gumption to function as an extra-constitutional body with no concern for systemic propriety.
In contrast to Modi’s narrative of transforming India, his opponents lack coherence, direction and unity of purpose. Even in their hollow cry of ‘Modi hatao’, they have failed to close ranks. Putting up a semblance of unity, they are really driven by overweening personal ambition, mutual suspicion, shifting political stance and unclear leadership. They lack a programme, a narrative and a discourse on how they would wish to see India evolve and position herself.
Adept at weaving webs of lies and half-truths, and often seen beside elements inimical to the perpetuation of India’s national interest, these political formations opposing Modi have had a history of uneasy co-existence—of falling apart and pushing the country towards political instability and governance paralysis. Modi will win in 2019, because those who oppose him are unconvincing and have not been able to explain why they want Modi out. In the past, efforts at forging third fronts, federal fronts and ‘save India’ fronts have all ended up in smoke. Modi will win, because India needs decisive leadership and direction for the next decade. Weak and hesitant coalitions without a clear roadmap or political will, embroiled and engrossed in internal tussles of various kinds, and promoting fragmentation of our collective existence will push the country towards the precipice. Modi will win because he stands as an antithesis to instability, weakness and confusion. People have had enough of these.
Modi is the product of a long political movement, which saw him rise through the ranks of a party in which merit and persistent action are still recognised. By contrast, his opponents head mostly dynasty-driven political entities lacking cohesive political ideology and vision. In these parties, leaders have often been parachuted to their positions due to family affiliations or, like Bengal’s Trinamool Congress, have risen by leading struggles, but succumbed to the dominance of political lumpenism and nepotism. In an age when the average voter’s political consciousness has increased by leaps and bounds, Modi’s non-attachment to family and his insistence that he is here to work both for those who have voted him as well as those who have not make him stand apart from those who oppose him.
Some leaders who once sung paeans to Modi are now faced with a crisis of survival, which drives them to embrace their sworn political enemies. N. Chandrababu Naidu’s recent volte face and his agreeing to play second fiddle to a callow Rahul shows the desperation in the ranks of Modi-haters. However, the India of 2019 is not the India of 1991 or 1996. People have started rejecting the politics of opportunism. Modi will win because his is the politics of affirmation and not of opportunism or slogans. He will win because India’s rise must now be turned into a process that is irreversible and unstoppable.
(The writer is member of the BJP’s policy research department)