With a positive agenda, cultural rootedness and success in delivery of various schemes, Narendra Modi has permanently changed the course of future politics.
He has set the bar high for competing politicians who will henceforth have to bring a lot more in the arena than mere caste, religion and rhetoric.
The 2019 Lok Sabha verdict was so bewildering that it threw all conventional analyses out of the window. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) not only swept state after state, it polled more than 50 per cent votes in 16 states and Union territories. BJP alongwith NDA repeated its miraculous performance in the Hindi belt and dramatically expanded its footprints in Bengal, North East, Orissa and Telangana.
Analysing 2019 verdict in terms of caste permutations, anti-incumbency, alliances or even electoral strategies would be insufficient, rather futile. Rising above caste, regional and ethnic identities; and rejecting the promised transactional benefits, India braced the elections as its hour of reckoning. The verdict, if anything, marked the roar of a resurgent nation.
It was as if the high pitch political squabbles had been royally ignored and people were simply queuing up to perform a sacred rite in fulfillment of their duty towards the nation. The lengthy debates were for the hedonistic tribe seeking pleasure in cerebral gymnastics; and doubts for the perpetual cynics. Janata janardan, the majority, was sure. The deluge of faith and certitude washed away in its sweep distrust, hostility and suspicion.
Aam jan, the common man, was convinced the nation had to be saved. The common most refrain in the run up to election was "agar Modi wapas nahin aaya to desh barbaad ho jayega" (if Modi doesn't return to power, the nation is doomed). In Narendra Modi, the sitting Prime Minister, the masses had seen a leader of their lifetime. They could not be accused of getting swayed because Modi had been judged on his five-year record.
The election had turned into a contest between dynasties on one side and democracy on the other. It was a conflict between politics of entitlement and governance by empowerment. The idea of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ was bitterly challenged by politics of division and hate. As a nation, it was a choice to be made between hope and despair. Eventually, hope crushed cynicism and wisdom prevailed over cleverness.
An Emotional Outburst
Though the general consensus by the end of February this year was already in favour of Modi returning back to power, only the diehard enthusiasts could imagine the final sweep. The overwhelming mandate was more than a mere positive endorsement, howsoever passionate the Modi fan base might have been. The complete saffronisation of state after state could only be explained as a rush of emotion.
Even after a sustained campaign by a powerful section of media and an inimical opposition, Modi's credibility had remained intact. Though there was some irritation, in a section of voters, with the implementation of goods and services tax (GST) and demonetisation, Modi's intents were largely appreciated. The 'upper caste' anger which resulted in the loss in three states had been contained by 10 per cent quota for economically-weaker sections.
Various central government initiatives had provided the poor tangible benefits impossible to be dismissed as jumla by opposition. After the interim budget, the opinion shaping middle class was back to its enthusiastic best in support of Prime Minister Modi. Whatever numbers might have been left in gaining an absolute majority for BJP on its own, were being filled by mindless, vicious attacks on Modi.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi's reckless Rafale charge and his spiteful "Chowkidar chor hai" was generating severe anger in the masses. The latent fury reached its peak after the noxious barrage of vituperative reactions in the wake of Pulwama attack. Prime Minister Modi was now not just an honest, efficient and well-meaning leader; he was, in popular imagination, someone being hounded for standing up for the nation.
Disparate parties such as the ultra-Left azadi gang, Islamists in Kashmir and Hyderabad, Left liberal intellectuals, Congress and various other regional parties, and 'secular' media were all seen as one. Their ceaseless, senseless and reflexively hostile reactions to Modi made him the David, up against Goliath.
The offence caused by one group affected the rest because divergence in organisations or even positions was blinded by asinine Modi hate. The emotional outpouring in favour of Modi was as much due to his positive agenda as to the blind hatred against him. The fact that all senior Congress leaders except Sonia Gandhi lost by huge margins shows this mandate was also an expression of rage against Congress party.
India Has A Mind Of Its Own
Over a time, a class has developed in India which believes it has a moral obligation to advice rest of the Indians. Their vocations in media, academia, activism or films, they treat as secondary. Their primary job, they feel, is to tell rest of their lowly countrymen what to think, whom to loathe and whom to vote. Like clergy in an organised religion, these self-appointed high priests of Indian republic detest people questioning their wisdom, much less disobeying them. They issue fatwas of communalism, secularism, good and bad intents.
Their colossal and seemingly complex task is simplified by a code which believes proud Hindus as base, BJP as evil and Modi as Satan. Their servility to dynasty, under whose patronage they have grown, is ruptured intermittently by fantasies of revolution. But it is democracy overthrowing dynasty which gives them nightmares. As such election time sees them in a hyperactive mode. This election was no different.
Unfortunately for them, the masses not only continue to disregard their opinions, they are treating them firmly as part of the problem. In 2019 much like 2014, they were put in their place. Indians refused to submit to the agenda and bullying of these high priests. They reiterated once again that they have a mind of their own.
Wisdom Trumps Cleverness
Ever since Prime Minister Modi's ascent on the national scene, deceit and low cunning have become an integral part of politics and public discourse. From "Churches under attack" to the manufactured Rafale scam, media narratives were set to smear government and help the opposition. India's age-old social, behavioural and economic problems were being laid at Modi's door.
The Muslim appeasement politics of various parties had compromised national security and internal peace. But any mention of political, administrative and institutional bias was being shamed as communal.
India, according to the detractors, was facing the 'severe most job crisis', notwithstanding the fact that youth was thronging Modi rallies like crazy. Everybody was abusing Modi in the vilest terms while cribbing lack of freedom of speech in the same breath.
'Seculars' and left liberals, who would instinctively go back in the past to abuse Veer Savarkar detested people discussing the impact of Nehruvian policies on present day India. BJP cadre was being murdered in different states by opposition party workers but the same BJP was being called fascist.
The malice was such that sceptics were readily believing Pakistan but not their own government. Congress tried its best to trump up the Rafale deal as a scam. Media instead of questioning the basis of the scam promoted it as a talking point. Masses, however, were convinced if there was any scam it was the concoction of the scam.
On issues like Ayodhya, Congress party would send their senior advocate leaders in Supreme Court to delay the proceedings but their spokespersons in TV studios would taunt "where is the Ram Mandir". Among different social groups they would take diagonally opposite positions to incite them against the government.
While Congress and its ecosystem prided in its deviousness, bhindi-chopping housewife and hookah-smoking tau would watch them in seething anger. They would answer the dedh hoshiyar, clever by half, Jhas and Surjewalas through the power of vote.
Appeasement Politics Will Invite A Certain Backlash
Until a decade back, for most political parties the standard electoral model was personalised vituperation, handouts, promised doles and forging of caste alliances; hoping in the end, to top it all with support of en bloc Muslim vote. A frenzied competition for Muslim votes led to a state where globally designated terrorists were addressed with honorifics and radical Islamists being pampered to the limit that a humanitarian law seeking criminalisation of triple talaq was opposed.
The contention behind Muslim appeasement politics has been that while Muslim vote is a monolith, Hindus are politically fractured. Lok Sabha elections 2014, UP assembly elections 2017 and the just concluded Lok Sabha elections show that Hindu consolidation as a political force has finally arrived. Even in the acutely identity conscious caste groups like Jatavs and Yadavs, there is an increasing propensity to be counted primarily in the larger Hindu fold. With increasing urbanisation, cross India mobility and sense of placement as an Indian in the global order, the Hindu identity is more prominent than ever.
Continuous cultural and political assaults on Hinduism, direct and through proxies, and minority appeasement politics have created a vote bank larger than its Muslim counterpart to put ‘secular’ parties at a bigger disadvantage. It is now clear that appeasement politics will invite a certain Hindu backlash. Attempts to shame Hindu consolidation as communalism have failed and instead been counterproductive.
Development Is Finally A Vote Catcher
Both politicians and commentators used to believe that development speak was a nice side issue to project images but never adequate enough to win elections. Many who found ideologies too much of a burden for pushing convenient and specious reasonings loved the word just because it provided a veneer of legitimacy to political opportunism masquerading as centrism.
Narendra Modi, however, has demonstrated that if the efforts are sincere and benefits tangible than development can be a central electioneering theme. Carrying forward his developmental legacy from Gujarat, through various central government initiatives like Ujjwala, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Swachh Bharat and Ayushman Bharat, Modi has strikingly transformed BJP's support base on the national scene. He has shown that if vikas could not win votes in the past, it was only because none had ever attempted it like him. Gareeb who had been an object of pity and hollow protestations so far was being visited by government officials with defined goals to achieve.
Many reports in media suggested that beneficiaries of various central government schemes now constituted a distinct vote bank, hitherto unattached with BJP, in every constituency. This single factor coupled with direct benefit transfers has been the main reason for Modi gaining an iconic stature.
With a positive agenda, cultural rootedness and success in delivery of various schemes, Narendra Modi has permanently changed the course of future politics. He has set the bar high for competing politicians who will henceforth have to bring a lot more in the arena than mere caste, religion and rhetoric. Their task will be made even more difficult because of an aware electorate which now judges not only politicians but also media and commentators.