Democracy gives decisive and bold mandate in 2014
Indian democracy has spoken. It is a victory more evident than many others, at least since the late Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress won the sympathy landslide in the wake of prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. But this conquest of the 16th Lok Sabha by a sweeping 284-seat share by BJP itself and about 340-seat hold by the National Democratic Alliance is a testimony to a new India, one that is staggeringly different even from the one that opened its eyes to the new millennium. Halfway into the second decade of 21st century, Narendra Modi has not only ensured that the rickety coalition era of the last twenty years comes to a grinding halt, he has also ushered in a situation eerily reminiscent of pre-1977 political unipolarity in the country. Election results in 2014 point to a thunderous change in the very base makeup of politically-aware and participating India, that has desperately opted for a prime ministerial candidate who has shown grit, resilience and extreme adaptability to the volatile and evolving realities of chimerical Indian polity. The absolute majority thus garnered by Modi-led BJP and NDA is a clarion call for a different and increasingly assertive India in the global stage. From being content with exporting mere ‘soft power’, India, evidently now wants to play hard in the unequal field of international diplomacy, no longer happy to cower before Big Brothers like USA or Russia, neighbourhood bullies like China or Pakistan. India’s incontrovertible choice in Narendra Modi not only attests to media’s important and critical role in arguing both the positive and negative aspects of the BJP PM candidate’s long and now successful electoral campaign, it also underlines a nation in churn – whether ideological, economical or sociopolitical – reconfiguring itself as it chugs along a new political reality. The majestic performance was perhaps unexpected, even though opinion and exit polls, which had in previous instances made errors of humongous margin, had this time clinched the numbers. Yet every vibration was but a symptom of a moving speaking behemoth called Narendra Modi, and his Midas’ touch on the electorate, media and public discourse. If Verdict2014 tells us anything, it is that in-fighting and disparate demographic segments, such as the urban and rural youth, Dalits and lower classes, Hindu hardliners and market cheerleaders, have in unison picked Modi to lead India for the next five years at least. Evidently, if Verdict2014 is anything to go by, India either has ‘moved on’ or no longer has ‘moral scruples’ about having a ‘tainted’ leader, who has been for twelve years justifiably badgered about being complicit in a pogrom that saw more than 2,000 Muslims massacred in Gujarat in 2002.
So is India a gullible nation or is it Narendra Modi who’s a brilliant salesman? Has India bought Modi’s bombast on Gujarat development model, or is this a pounding rejection of corruption-infested UPA misrule? Has India forgotten the slew of landmark measures of the Manmohan Singh-led government that dissolves today, or has it opted for a more forceful alternative, which also fuses a defiant variety of religious nationalism with free market ideology? Is the 63-year-old, former tea-seller and RSS cadre, Modi the new economic messiah, or have the underlying baser instincts of the collective been sufficiently fanned by media-aided propaganda machine of the saffron camp? Did the votes really polarise along communal lines, or, if the 72 seats in Uttar Pradesh are a pointer towards, an overwhelming majority opted for the political brawn of Narendra Modi and his team? The middle class, by all means, has poured itself out to cast its vote in this election, and has categorically rejected the notion of a ‘Nehruvian welfare state’ as epitomised by the Sonia Gandhi side of the UPA regime. On the other hand, it has also given a mandate to someone who has openly talked about controversial legislative changes such as uniform civil code, striking down Article 370, Ram temple, among others? A determined politician with a technocratic bent but hardly a statesman, there’s high chance Modi might bludgeon his way into state assemblies, eroding further the feeble federal fabric of the nation and consolidating ever more power in his own hands. With the space of clear political opposition nearly decimated after Modi’s first and dramatic entry into national politics, what would be the fate of regional satraps like Jaylalithaa and Mamata Banerjee, clear winners on home turfs? Not only is there a fear of India under Modi turning into an unpalatable political monolith, but also is the possibility of a civil society-led dissenting movement like AAP being summarily sqaushed. Clearly, there’s a definite streak of Asian dictators like Indonesia’s Suharto or China’s Deng Xiaoping in Modi, whom he admires much. It remains to be seen what narrative India follows under Narendra Modi. But for now, democracy stands vindicated.