Never before has a General Election changed the political hue of a country like the 2014 elections, writes Vijay Dutt.
By the time counting was over on 16th May, a saffron tsunami took over the country, giving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a win of 282 seats in the Lok Sabha and ending an era of over three decades of coalition government.
The Congress that led the outgoing UPA Government had 206 MPs in the Lok Sabha. It was reduced to a rump of 44, equal to the number of seats BJP got in Maharashtra and nearly half of 73 won in Uttar Pradesh (UP). The man who has taken over the reign of Government is Narendra Damodardas Modi, once a chaiwallah at the railway station of Vadanagar, the historic village where he was born and went to school.
No wonder it was Diwali on 16th May evening. Despite celebrations, this Man of the Moment is despised and admired with equal intensity. His priority, one of many, will convince those who still have nightmares over the 2002 riots in Gujarat, that that is in the past. That he, and the country have moved on. He promises to be prime minister of all people and that the interest and welfare of all Indians without distinction are safe in his hands.
It is also true that the minority will have to stop living in a time wrap and give him time to prove himself. All rumours of more riots must be scotched. Even impartial analysts who have listed riots since 1952 wonder why only 2002 has been kept aloft? Has the media run by intellectuals anything to do with it? Barkha Dutt one of the key anchors at NDTV was speechless when Amit Shah told her that her channel too was involved in depicting the 2002 riots worse than they actually were. Even Asaduddin Owaisi, president, All India Majlise-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen who won his seat from Hyderabad agreed that he will wait and watch how Modi behaves as prime minister.
Modi has shown dexterity in winning over people. This is evident from his rise from just one of the chief ministers to be the leader of the country, liked particularly by the young, first-time voters, and women. He was wanted by a huge percentage of the electorate to be prime minister, all this dramatic transformation in just nine months.
Very cleverly Modi has won over the young by his call for vikas or development and parivartan, or change. The young have come to regard him as a wizard with a wand who can make both development and change happen. Their conviction is reflected in the number of seats won by the BJP and the NDA. Modi’s mantra of vikas and parivartan has broken all barriers of caste and creed, regions and religions, giving a clear majority of 282 seats to the BJP and an unprecedented 344 seats to the NDA.
The BJP is now truly a national party by winning seats in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra and West Bengal, without forgetting the surprise win in Assam. The most important change for the Indian polity is that the hitherto magic word secular, that is the politics of appeasement has failed to entice voters this time round and did not prevent them from voting for the BJP. This clear negation of vote-bank politics is possible because people have opted for development rather than religious considerations and to accusations that Modi is divisive.
The young prefer development over the blame that Modi is a Hindu fundamentalist. Hopefully, this development will persist and appeasement politics for a minority vote bank will be history. This kind of politics has played havoc encouraging divisiveness and leading to friction between the majority community and minority communities. It created a chink between Hindus and Muslims. Caste politics too failed as is evident from the defeat of Mayawati whose party failed to win even a single seat in UP. But the defeated are unlikely to let their potent weapons go redundant. Already the worst losers are talking about bonding with all the secular parties to build a strong opposition to the NDA and the BJP.
Secularism versus Communalism
Secularism versus Communalism is the new hope of the defeated in the last elections that has decimated the 129 year old Congress Party. Leaders of these political parties will not hesitate to use the Divide and Rule ploy, their time-tested ideology mantra, wrapped in the garb of development of the downtrodden. But these so called secularists will not be able to get together or stay together. Mamta and the Left cannot share the same table, Mulayam Singh and Mayawati despise each other. And Jayalalitha and Naveen Patnaik are veering towards Modi.
The secularists realise that their best ally and leader, the Congress is in a state of confusion, shock and blame game.
Mercifully, the people, particularly the younger generation are familiar with these dirty tricks. They have come in large numbers to vote and to ensure that Modi, a simple chaiwala from a small town in Gujarat is chosen with a proven track record is elected prime minister.
A commentator sums Modi’s persona as, artful, effective, evocative, possibly dangerous and according to his detractors, diabolically sly but a hero of sorts. His supposed attributes make him sound god- like. Most observers think that the combination of all these factors has brought success to Modi.
His outstanding skills include excellent public oration, his stamina to traverse long distances and to address four or five rallies in a day and to talk of development and his invitation to people to participate in developing India and which have made him a national leader in nine months. Rahul Gandhi, 20 years younger to him and with all state resources available to him, could not match Modi.
While Modi talked of development of more employment and business opportunities for people as a recipe to overcome poverty, Rahul talked of more welfare schemes. Modi talks about the eradication of poverty, Rahul wants to relieve the poor from hunger, but offers no solution. Modi convinced because of his proven record of progress and the politics of development in Gujarat, the organisational base of the BJP supported by the RSS and of course the track-record of the Congress Party and its sick and silent governance burdened by scams and scandals.
But Modi will have to hit the ground running. The list of priorities before him is long and forbidding. The legacy of the UPA, ramshackle administration, indolent bureaucrats, corruption from the top to the last babu in public utility departments have made life for the man on the street miserable. Modi has to counter the non development of infrastructure. The economy is in the dumps, there is insecurity amongst women, there is a reign of terror, a drying up of investments from abroad and flight of Indian investors are other challenges.
The country has given him a chance to solve these problems early. The young who have largely supported him are aspirational, vociferous and in a haste. Modi has no leisure time. Everything thing has to be done immediately. But Modi is the only man who might be able to face up to these challenges. If he gets the Cabinet he wants and stitches together a group of bureaucrats he depends on, Modi could get things moving fast and towards golden times, the promised Ek Bharat, Shresth Bharat ! One India, the Best India.
The list of Priorities before Modi
Removing the 2002 nightmare is to assure the minorities that there will be no interference in their faith or culture. As he has said repeatedly in reference to Gujarat, he helps neither Hindus nor Muslims but all Gujaratis. Such an assurance will not only exorcise the fear of Muslims but counter mischief makers and incorrigible rabble-rousers.
The regeneration of the economy will include heavy investment in infrastructure, creating a climate to once again make India the most favoured destination for foreign investors.
A Dekkho at people’s hardship is a must to check inflation and ever rising prices that have bent the back of every householder. This was one of the main reasons for voters rejecting the Congress. Immediate steps are needed to arrest runaway prices. The resolution of relations with neighbours is urgent and Modi has already said that he will speak the language Pakistan understands. With China, he will have to see that trade increases further without intrusion. Modi also must keep a wary watch on developments in Afghanistan.
Building up India’s defense capability is to get army equipment is manufactured in India. Industrialists like Tata are a major asset to help India to build strong defense capability as soon as possible.
The writer is a Delhi based senior journalist of Lucknow Origin