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View: Be prepared for drastic changes in the idea of India

With a verdict like this, 2019 India gets ready for a long-term Modi Raj.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Updated: May 24, 2019, 10.07 AM IST
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By Omkar Goswami

By noon on counting day, for a Khan Market strolling, Muslim-friending, non-believing pseudo-‘sickular’ like me, it was all over, bar the mourning.

India’s overwhelmingly superior master campaigner, Narendra Modi, and his poll-booth focused, cadre-pulling organisational strategist, Amit Shah, have successfully proved that an immensely powerful personality wave could be created, unleashed and sustained; that incumbency didn’t matter, only Modi did; that rising unemployment, falling growth and agrarian distress could be swept aside by unswerving rhetoric of muscular nationalism; and that anyone in her right minds had to vote for the country’s only powerful pan-India leader — the one who could deliver more in the next five years versus the effete wimps who opposed him.

It was brilliantly focused electioneering that connected with today’s growing population of an ‘aspirational India’. Of people who want to get ahead in life faster, and believe that only a strong leader with a solid electoral majority can deliver the goods. Of people that hate what they call ‘minority mollification’, and believe that time has come to focus on majority Hindu interests.

Of people who want the clout of swagger and aspire to portray strength. Modi not only epitomised all these characteristics, but also played them out with a flourish, rally after rally. It wasn’t about voting for the BJP candidate. It was about voting for Modi.

Against this incredibly well-crafted and consummately executed campaign, what did Messrs Modi and Shah face? A ridiculously fractured opposition. Neither Rahul Gandhi nor his sister — nor anyone in Congress — was a patch on Modi and Shah. In addition, a bankrupt Congress’ age-old notion that it is still powerful enough to fight on its own prevented it from sewing some of the key alliances that it needed to stem the Modi-Shah juggernaut.

Just contrast that with Amit Shah fashioning pre-election alliances with Shiv Sena, Janata Dal (United) JD(U)and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). As someone commented on a TV programme earlier in the day, “Here was a party with no leader; no campaign; no narrative. A party that parachuted in unknown candidates, just as it did state-level leaders without enough time to work across the states.” A party whose electorally savvy president lost his seat at Amethi.

The voters also showed tremendous electoral savvy. Many fondly thought that after Congress’ assembly election victories in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the party would romp home in the Lok Sabha poll. Far from it. After ridding itself of Vasundhara Raje from Rajasthan, the electorate has given BJP a clean sweep across all the 2019 Lok Sabha seats.

In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, too, the BJP candidates are very much on top. Till now, pundits thought that the tide of recent assembly polls would flow on to national elections. It has not, with voters clearly demonstrating that state polls are different from national elections.

To me, BJP’s most significant achievements have been in West Bengal and Odisha. Regarding West Bengal, it is a fact that over the last several decades there has been a significant proportion of Bengali Hindu voters who would happily vote for a Hindu nationalist party. That party arrived with BJP.

Moreover, many people were fed up of Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress (TMC). When these two factors came together in this election, the result was for all to see. As I write, TMC stands to lose 11 Lok Sabha seats, and BJP is probably gaining 16.

Voters in Odisha have also shown the dichotomy between Lok Sabha and assembly elections, both of which are being held simultaneously.

Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has won 106 seats out of 147 in the assembly elections, but it has lost six Lok Sabha seats, five of which has gone to BJP.

What might be the consequences of this huge Modi win over the next five years? The most immediate one is the calumny of seeing a horribly divisive, venom-spewing woman taking her oath in Parliament as the ‘honourable’ member from Bhopal. The second is the rise of majoritarianism.

For all of Congress’ incompetence, Modi won because he rallied Hindu forces across the country. This electorate — a key segment of ‘aspiring India’ — has now seen its day arrive; and it will demand that its agendas be put in the forefront. Expect to see greater accommodation to the Hindu majority, and systematic restraints on secularism that some of us still hold so dear.

The third is the hubris of strong leadership. Go back in time and look at history. Or, more recently, see the enormous powers that have been cornered by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Hungary’s Victor Orban and you will appreciate my fear.

Finally, with an incumbent’s victory such as this, and no Opposition worth the name, shall we see a longterm hegemony of the Modi raj? We probably will.

( The writer is the Chairman of CERG Advisory)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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