New Indian balance in making
The largest electoral event in world history so far covered 28 states, 7 Union Territories and had to cater for a little more than 814 million voters spread over the length and breadth of the country. The size of the entire exercise was daunting. To do it with complete fairness and with no mishaps is a tribute to the Election Commission of India and its giant team of officials. Despite insinuations and innuendos and a few overt accusations, the Election Commission is not only seen to have acted with impartiality, but also did so.
Indeed they have created and sustained the democratic fabric of the country and have graduated into one of the most respected institutions in the modern-day world. The logistics of conducting a general election in India is a monumental challenge. And yet the model code of conduct which comes into being as soon as the date is set manages to force all contesting parties and their candidates to stay within the decorum of the code. Violations were swiftly dealt with even as the election process continued towards its logical conclusion. The nation has breathed a sigh of relief that this long drawn out election process is now over.
What a conclusion!
We are now looking at its conclusion. And what a conclusion it is! The country has overwhelmingly voted in favour of the party that has been in opposition for the last ten years – the Bharatiya Janata Party – giving it a majority (282) of the 543 seats; along with its allies under the umbrella of the National Democratic Alliance it has an unassailable majority at 336 seats. That the BJP and its allies would win a majority was evident and almost everybody in the business of political analysis had predicted it. But that it would get a majority on its own was not in the frame of the analysts. Only one exit poll actually predicted over 300 seats for the BJP and its allies and also a majority for the party. The incumbent Congress-led government crashed to its historic lowest ever tally of 44 seats. The BJP got over 31 per cent of the votes cast while the Congress got about 19 per cent.
Good days are coming
One of the most obvious and most remarkable facts of these elections has been the very well organised and extremely well coordinated campaign led by Narendra Modi. Over six months ago the party put him out in front and despite misgivings within its inner circles he was declared its prime ministerial candidate. He did not fail. His every campaign meeting, the issues he addressed and the manner in which he reached out to the people – weaving a dream, promising ache din aayenge (good days are coming) – transformed reluctance and reservation into a positive preference for him. He positioned himself as the beacon of change for governance of the country and got the party a majority so overwhelming that it left no room for argument. By contrast, the Congress campaign was listless. Its members had collectively thrown in the towel and individually had no dream to sell to the people. Their best leaders had nothing to say for their 10 years in office and the disenchantment with their arrogance and complacency was very high and successfully exploited by the main contender for power – the BJP.
Hopes and expectations
This election was about the young people of India. It was their aspirations that needed to be anchored by the political parties contending for the majority in Parliament. There was a huge disconnect of the Congress leadership with the youth and also the other segments of the population. Somehow they showed no enthusiasm for the anxieties and impatience of young India for an effective economic environment that could give them a chance to make their livelihoods and those of their children. Their most visible face – in Rahul Gandhi – had no vision to share and above all showed no capacity to lead. The concentration on invective against the main opponent, Narendra Modi, cut no ice with the voters. The specious shelter of ‘secularism’ was blown by the opponents with the promise of economic growth and prosperity. In the end it turned out to be a no-contest.
The country is now waiting to get moving, full of hope and expectations. The man who led his party to a historic victory, a first for a non-Congress majority in India’s democratic journey, has thanked his constituents and all of the country with all the impressive oratorical eloquence he is famed for. There is a huge agenda of governance that needs immediate attention. Obviously, governments take over the baton and have to move from that point.
The heritage includes problems and possibilities. The new government led by Narendra Modi will need to address the problems and convert the possibilities into positive realities. Whether India will move ideologically to the right or stay centered is for the future to show. There will surely be a new equilibrium. He will be purposeful, for sure, and does not need to look over his shoulder for directions. India awaits.
The author is Director of the India Habitat Centre, Delhi