India just became a righteous republic. If Verdict2014 is any indication, democracy has raised its decibels and made itself heard, emphatically loud and clear. Riding on an unprecedented wave of anxiety and anticipation, Narendra Modi, who led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a resounding victory in the 16th Lok Sabha elections, is undoubtedly the man of the moment. The mandate has been unsparing and unambiguous.
The grand old party, the Indian National Congress, stands vanquished, reduced to the lowest-ever tally in its history of post-independent politics. The grand potentials of tomorrow and thumping rejections of yesterday stand before us unapologetically, unwaveringly. Are we at a cusp of tectonic change? Perhaps.
The 16th parliamentary elections that gave its verdict on 16 May 2014 tell us many things. For one, the support, the surge, the swell that turned into a tsunami of hope, rage, angst and expectations on the day the results were declared, was for, clearly and unquestionably, for Narendra Modi. It was for what he represented to an 81.4-crore-strong teeming bustling electorate, comprising first-time voters, urban professionals, Dalits, entrepreneurial women in small towns, religiously-inclined Hindus of heartlands, faces and appendages of corporate India, and most important of all, the burgeoning and aspiring middle classes from every corner of India.
Narendra Modi sold these disparate segments of India’s demography, not a dividend, but a dream. It was the dream of a better India (Achchey din aaney walen hai). It is, in all probability, a dream of a well-governed, uncorrupt, and decisive administration at the top, which allows the citizens to lead a better life. It is also the desperation to rid itself of the years of malgovernance, bureaucratic and legislative corruption, fragile leadership and a general atmosphere of rudderlessness that was epitomised by the ten years of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
The irony couldn’t have been more evident than the fact that the Congress has been left to twiddle its sore thumb after getting just 44 seats in the 16th Lok Sabha. Barring the two Gandhis, Sonia and Rahul, and one or two top leaders who scraped through (such as Shashi Tharoor), the entire pantheon of Congress leaders have been defeated and with whipping margins. BJP, on the other hand, has gained over 170 seats since the 2009 general elections, notching up a thundering 283 out of 543 tally, while the National Democratic Alliance sits at a happy mark of over 336 Lok Sabha seats. In fact, not just Congress, the rout has been felt by all the regional players who relied on the uncouth politics of caste while paying lip-service to secularism. The examples that can be furnished include, chiefly, the bitter rivals of Uttar Pradesh – Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. It’s not an electoral accident that the BJP’s total tally in UP (71) exceeds handsomely the Congress’ national score. What does this tell us?
First and foremost, between sloganeering/legislation and implementation falls the democratic shadow. Development, the chief plank of Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi-led UPA before Modi stole their thunder, had become, unfortunately a matter of political rhetoric only. Even though watershed legislations like MGNREGA, Right to Information, food security and land acquisition acts were brought in during the ten years of UPA rule, they have been so rickety and wobbly that the results have been terribly uncomplimentary. While MGNREGA has been found to benefit thousands, it also suffered the ignominy of being so poorly implemented and so leaky that thousands of crores were lost in translation. On the other hand, explosive corruption scandals like telecom, Coalgate, Railgate, among others, sapped the faith that the expansive democracy had kept in the UPA during 2004 and 2009. It is therefore telling that the development plank was appropriated by Modi, who had his ‘Gujarat model’ to show off, even though his version has a slight undertone of religious supremacist message hiding in the message of growth. Despite bringing in development, UPA was undone by its own demons, of which corruption and fragile governance were just half the story.
Second, what UPA also signified was the defeat in silence.
Communication, or the lack of it, was one the biggest failures which Modi capitalised on, effectively and voraciously. Modi’s concept of leadership and strong governance rode the high horse of brilliant communication and propaganda machine, which so efficiently put across the leader’s vision of India in clear and unorthodox terms. Gone was the refuge in rhetoric, in pandering to a culture of patronage-hungry demographic. Instead, assertive and bold application for the job of the country’s topmost elected minister was extended by Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s thrice-victorious chief minister until now and BJP’s unambiguous mascot. In other words, Modi sold India the dream of good and robust leadership, globally and domestically, which the nation overwhelmingly accepted. He got the job.
Thirdly, Modi’s clear victory promised India a ‘deliverance’ of sort from the political sham and faux federalism that is the theatre of coalition government in case of a lack of absolute majority. Mission 272+, as promised by Modi, was accomplished, thereby delivering a mandate that is both hopeful and positive. It ended three decades of a patchwork politics, of stitching together a ragtag alliance reeking of sheer opportunism and post-poll hypocrisies. It cobbled up a whole out of badly juxtaposed partners, warring and self-serving, without a political consensus. While the idea of a Third Front, in theory, could be the realisation of a truly democratic republic, neither UPA, nor pre-Modi NDA had been exemplary in their coalition dharma, who spent most of their time appeasing disgruntled allies instead of taking India forward in the path of progress.
Fourthly, the fear of anarchy in case of a cobbled-up, shaky government has also been quashed by the rise and rise of Narendra Modi. Does that mean that democratic dissent will not be tolerated or lent ears to? Hopefully no. Product Modi knows that to translate Brand Modi into real achievements, he needs to let go of his trademark ‘authoritarian’ attitude to dissent and engage with constructive opposition, whether political or civilian. So will Modi file an FIR against the richest man in India? We need to wait and watch.
Modi’s choice is India and there is a definite intelligence in that design. Notwithstanding that he’s verdict2014, Modi, or many could be the deterrent factor as far as national security threats are concerned. Would neighbourhood bullies be forced to think twice before carrying out an offensive along the line of control? Perhaps. Would homegrown terrorists and extremists be compelled to rethink their message in violence? Perhaps. There is only hope that such is the case, since India, overwhelmingly, considers the possibility.