Taller than BJP
Resounding appeal for a strong leader is reflected in the general mandate of 2019
Narendra Modi has performed a believable act. Nobody thought BJP will cross the 300-mark. Before the votes were cast for 2019 Lok Sabha election, the general speculation was that BJP may emerge as a single largest party and an unstable coalition will be formed, implying that India will become weak and vulnerable. That danger has now been warded off and, irrespective of politics; India will have a rock-like stable government. That is, perhaps, the biggest achievement of this election. Also in the poll-2019 people voted in the name of Modi and nobody took the name of BJP. One may say that Modi has grown taller than the party.
In a stunning landslide win, when normally an incumbent PM faces some dissatisfaction at the end of his term, it was not so with Narendra Modi. With BJP hovering around the 300-mark on its own, India is set to enter an era of one-party dominance, with BJP occupying the position once held by Congress. That will have its spin-off effect on the country's politics, governance, social dynamics and constitutional functioning in the months to come. Congress's decline remains unabated and Smriti Irani's unseating of Congress President Rahul Gandhi in the Nehru-Gandhi family's long-held fiefdom of Amethi is only straw in the wind to indicate what ails the party; but also the changing mood of India.
India's 'Grand Old Party' has been virtually confined to Kerala, Punjab, and piggy-backing on DMK's popularity in Tamil Nadu. It could not stem the Modi effect even in states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh — it had won only six months ago. Congress, as it exists today, has shown no match for Modi's BJP, either in its leadership or its organisation, planning, strategy and hard work required to counter its opponents.
BJP's hold on the north and west India is near complete while the party made impressive gains in the east, BJP-JD(U) chemistry has worked with Modi Magic and Nitish Kumar's popularity amongst women voters and extremely backward castes yielding rich dividends for NDA. BJP breakthrough in Bengal is a warning to Mamata Banerjee that her citadel is crumbling and may go out of her hands in the assembly elections less than two years away. It is as much a vote against the violence of the Mamata regime as a preference for Modi who had come to occupy the opposition space, with the collapse of Congress and Left in West Bengal.
Even in South, BJP has improved its position in Karnataka and this may hasten the ouster of already vulnerable H D Kumaraswamy government. The Madhya Pradesh government may also come under attack from a resurgent BJP. Its unexpected entry into Telangana should worry not just K Chandrashekhar Rao but also other state Satraps about the saffron juggernaut's relentless march.
India saw milestone elections earlier. 2019 is also a seminal moment in the electoral history of the country. The verdict acknowledges the growing Hinduisation of Indian society and polity. Any party making a bid for power will now have to take this into account. Rahul tried to address it by his temple hopping. But neither Congress nor other opposition parties have managed to find a liberal equivalent of the Hindu-nationalism-patriotism theme advocating a muscular India led by a strong leader — the current mood in the country — that could have an appeal for a vast mass of people. After Pulwama and Balakot, issues such as rampant unemployment or agrarian distress took a back seat.
Modi repeated jibes against the "dynasty", at Rahul as "shehzada". These have found resonance with Rahul losing in Amethi, and the defeat of associates like Jyotiraditya Scindia or RPN Singh or Milind Deora, or Parth Pawar and two of Mulayam Singh's clan, as were some members of the H D Deve Gowda clan in Karnataka.
The poor showing of the SP-BSP gathbandhan in UP, despite the force of numbers, represented by Jatav-Dalits, Yadavas, and Muslims only shows that the young among Jatavas and Yadavs rooted for Modi, going beyond caste loyalties. The first time voter has obviously gravitated towards Modi, and this is significant since the median age in India in 2020 is going to 29 years.
A BJP sweep in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – the two key heartland states, which the Congress won five months ago — and Karnataka, where it trounced Congress-JD(S) alliance, may have implications for the stability of the governments in these states.
Soon after winning 25 of the 28 seats in Karnataka, the state BJP chief Y S Yeddyurappa — who has the tacit support of 20 Congress MLAs — said the future of coalition will be sealed in a few days. BJP leader D V Sadanand Gowda has also claimed that the JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy will not be CM for long.
Meanwhile, in Rajasthan, Chief Minister Ashok Ghelot, whose son, Vaibhav lost from Jodhpur, may face a demand for his replacement. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, on the other hand, may not face that problem, as his main detractor Jyotiraditya Scindia, veteran Digvijaya Singh and late Arjun Singh's son, Ajay Singh have all lost. The only seat Congress won in MP was Chhindwara, where Kamal Nath's son, Nakul, was the candidate. But the Congress has a razor-thin majority in the state.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)