For the winners and the losers, the supporters and the critics, for the believers and the cynics all alike, the great Indian election circus has finally ended!
The dramatic and deafening din of the grand Indian festival of democracy was finally hushed yesterday only to give way to the chest-thumping, Modi-trumping chants of “Chowkidar Pure Hai” as the BJP secured an overwhelming mandate, not just touching the magic number of 272 but also outperforming its previous-best performance of 2014 when its “Acche Din Ayenge” and “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” made it swell to a massive 282 in the Lok Sabha.
Whether you like it or not ladies and gentlemen, Narendra Modi has done it again! We might doubt this Chowkidar’s efforts to guard the country, but what the heavy 300+ mandate clearly shows is that he has at least managed to make people believe in his capabilities.
But how did the BJP manage to turn things in its favour even when the hypnotic-spell of Mr Modi seemed waning in the last few months of his five-year regime?
How did this election turn into what we call a ‘wave election’ when just five months ago, the BJP was decimated in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh?
Why could no party in the opposition manage to gain enough seats for itself to secure the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha?
The BJP has gradually become a political force to reckon with.
The first major reason which made BJP the lone bird soaring the electoral skies was: “A Strong Prime Ministerial Candidate”.
Narendra Modi has proved to be a blessing for the BJP. A strong Indian voice speaking about the Indian ‘Mann Ki Baat’, religiously inclined, devoid of all the anglicism which the Indian voter fails to connect with, Modi has all the ‘Indian-ness’ it takes to appeal to the Indian masses. The vociferous oratory of a non-family man with a tinge of emotion and drama strikes perfectly at the chords of Indian hearts.
So what if his government did not do enough in these five years? So what if every Indian did not receive 15 lakhs in their accounts as promised 5 years ago? So what if the 100 Smart Cities were never built? So what if this election campaign never talked about development?
Our Indian voter might not have had his/her own ‘acche-din’ (dood days) but he/she has definitely promised ‘acche-din’ for Narendra Modi and the BJP.
While the BJP had many buyers for the Prime Ministerial Candidate on its plate, the opposition was not even sure what criteria to use to select a leader. What acted as the second reason for the massive success of BJP in this election was that it successfully managed to establish the narrative of this election as a ‘Modi vs. Who?’ fight, while no party in the opposition could even manage to present a convincing ‘who’.
If this was not enough, the Congress in all its over-estimation wrote its own epitaph by not allying with any major regional party. This acted as the third reason which helped smoothen the victory-ride for BJP. The suicidal decision was taken seemingly under hallucinations of the Congress still living its long-lost glory. It resulted in the splitting of votes not just in Uttar Pradesh, where it decided to go alone, but also in Delhi, where AAP could have been a good coalition partner.
Anyway, how well a coalition could have fared is doubtful too, as people were not ready to barter a stable government for what was repeatedly referred to as a “Khichdi Sarkar” in this election.
Despite the mammoth defeat in 2014, I believe the Congress learnt no lessons. No ground-level work was carried out to strengthen the party’s grass-roots support. Dynastic politics was another concern. But the party refuses to accept it as a festering sore, let alone make attempts to cure it. It refuses to find leadership alternatives outside the Gandhi family.
The no-progress, corrupt-politics image of the party seems inseparably attached to the party since the days of ‘India against corruption’ movement. Congress failed to gain support even when it accused this government of the Rafale blunder.
The government managed to stifle institutions like ECI, CBI and the RBI, took suicidal decisions like demonetization and imposing GST (in its current form), was accused of cow-politics, but the Congress could not use any of this to its benefit. The party is crawling on its belly, waiting to be revived.
The progressivism of the BJP when it talked about prosperity attracted young and middle-class voters who were tired of Congress party’s welfarism. The poor seem enchanted to have a ‘chai-wala’ as their Prime Minister. The industrialists are happy to have a corporate-friendly PM who has the record of a vibrant Gujarat. The layman is happy to have a Prime Minister who travels the world and publicises India.
The strength of BJP lies in its strong organisational framework strengthened by the ‘Sangh Parivar’. The ‘Shakhas’ are operational in all parts of the country, always boastful of a government that ascribes to the views of the ‘Sangh’ and adding to the numerical strength of BJP workers.
What has come to help the BJP in sharp contrast to the Congress is that it has an ideology. An ideology that sounds unfit for a secular democracy that India claims to be, but has found resounding echoes in the hearts of Indians: the idea of Hindutva. In a country that is 80% Hindu, the BJP has successfully managed to sell its brand of cultural nationalism.
The fact that a saffron-clad terror accused who praised Godse in the year of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, will (dis)grace the Parliament, only makes one wonder how carefully a brand of Hindu nationalism has been manufactured.
Communalism is on the rise. Hindu Extremism is taking strides. But what else can we expect from a party that engages in the politics of Mandir and Masjid?
The most important aspect of the BJP’s victory has been its media manufactured credibility. Regulated electronic media and a hyperactive social media presence have been the two big ladders that ensured Modi’s return to power. People have bought the media generated ‘ideas’ of Narendra Modi and the BJP. They know him as the man who made India proud.
In my opinion, a modern-day Muhammad Bin Tughlaq and his party demonetised currency, demonized a community, attempted saffronisation of institutions, took decisions frantically, used the name of the army for political gains and did all that they should not have done.
But what matters is that Modi and the BJP have managed to win. Not nominally, not by ordinary numbers but massively. It is hard to believe that the BJP is back in power. But that’s what the majority wanted.
As we stand at the dawn of yet another term of BJP rule in India, we can only hope that the government allows dissent to register its voice fearlessly, journalism in India quits its hibernation and impotence, and communities in India harmoniously co-exist. We hope that India gives us reasons to be proud of its pluralism and its inclusivity. We hope the “New India” keeps its old values intact.