The huge electoral victory of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP is an endorsement of the social and economic polices of the party. The new Government must now steer the country towards inclusion and development for all and deliver on unfulfilled promises
The historical win of the Modi-led NDA has established the fact that its claim to form a full majority Government was based on ground realities and a close assessment of the people’s pulse. The confinement of the mahagathbandhan not only proves Modi’s popularity but also the failure of narrow-minded parties, who played the caste card. Questions raised by the Opposition regarding Modi’s recent visits to Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines during the last leg of the election, his local attire in both places, his meditation for soul-searching in a small cave, spirituality, dialogue with the media and love for Uttarakhand made him even more popular. The huge tally of more than 300 seats as also the margin of victory clearly indicates that this political exercise was about Modi versus the rest. Interestingly, the latter was not at all comfortable with the former’s body language that spoke volumes about courage and confidence. Modi’s motto of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ became a source for the fall of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and the grand old party.
This election also changed the narrative of ‘hatred’ and ‘intolerance’ towards Modi and his style of functioning, which was also expressed by Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister, who had stated that Modi’s five-year rule was the most traumatic and devastating for India’s youth, farmers, traders and all democratic institutions.
Singh had also looked down Modi’s foreign policy legacy and diplomacy by accusing him of adopting a flip-flop policy towards Pakistan from visiting the neighbouring country uninvited and inviting the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to the Pathankot air base to probe a terrorist attack. He also criticised the relationship with other neighbours and his economic policy. Various articles, which portrayed Modi as the front-runner of spreading a new language of ‘hate’ and shifting the focus from fighting corruption to generating ‘hate’ like Trump, also reflected the lobbying to slander Modi nationally and internationally.
The numerous nicknames — ranging from psychopath, bad economist, nautanki, showman, immature and divisive politician, Hindu nationalist, communal, to chowkidar chor hai — further amplified the insecurity which Modi with a humble beginning and background generated in mahagathbandhan leaders. The tactful linkage of nationalism to national security, spirituality, religion and minimum Government swept away this coalition in all directions, including the Hindi-speaking belt. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and others proved no competition to Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah’s strategy and careful handling of this election. The Modi factor had influenced the political parties so much that they not only lost direction but converted the usually multi dimensional and multi issues-based election into a single issue: How to stop Modi from regaining power. Congress leaders accepted that their only aim was to stop Modi from wresting the top seat.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) the Samajwadi Party even formed an alliance to check the rise of a single person. But these groups easily forgot that it was Modi, who called the shots in this much-hyped and personalised election. The violence in West Bengal was yet another example of the fear of Modi and BJP gaining an upper hand in Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s bastion, which to some extent, proved true. The landslide win is an example of Modi’s clever rhetoric, vision, connect with people and affirmative approach.
The issues of jobs, poverty, infrastructure, development, building of youth, which should have been the key to any national election, became secondary and hatred towards Modi became the primary goal for the Opposition. This, in fact, worked towards Modi’s advantage. As for a large number of people, particularly in rural areas the numerous schemes like the supply of cooking gas without black marketing, toilets for convenience, medical schemes, cleanliness drive, connect through ‘Mann Ki Baat,’ ease of doing things like passport services, makeover of cities, infrastructure development, digitalisation, transparency, reduced corruption and red tapism, Government e-market procurement scheme, competition for better facilities and desire to bringing international standards in education by improving quality facilitated by the Modi Government became a very admirable figure among a large number of people. Though voting percentage was low, but people preferred to ignore the pains of demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax and even the politics of caste and religion and supported Modi unconditionally. This was all possible due to the policies of inclusive development.
The bold foreign policy steps like Balakot strike, face-to-face resistance at Doklam at Ladakh border with China, refusal to participate in Belt and Road Initiative summit of China despite Chinese persistence, oil imports with Iran despite US pressures, getting Masood Azhar declared as international terrorist even after China’s reluctance, participation in multinational naval and military exercises and talking equally with all powers to advance India’s interests earned Modi a different kind of admiration and image of being a tough leader. No leader in India has earned such ire and adulation, therefore, this phenomenon is quite unique.
The repeat of 2014 victory in 2019 by the BJP despite so much political hatred and caste and politics of religion is unprecedented. The Government must now vouch for achhe din, corruption-free India and all-inclusive development for all. The people have given their support to the BJP and Modi in particular. It is now for them to fulfill promises.
(The writer is professor of political science, HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar, Garhwal, Uttarakhand)