A Political Watershed
The BJP’s victory in the just concluded Lok Sabha elections must be seen as a vote for stability. It ends the era of coalition politics which witnessed a motley group of regional parties polarizing around a major national party to rule at the Centre since 1989. The 2014 election signals an extraordinary paradigm shift in Indian politics with far reaching impact and redefines the polity in more senses one.
The ten years of UPA’s rule, though endowed India with some of the most remarkable pieces of legislation, the governance left much to be desired. Though led by a person with impeccable credentials, UPA government has ended its tenure at the peak of popular frustration which manifested itself in several agitations and protests.
The Bhartiya Janata Party can savour the moment as its victory is emphatic and has a pan-Indian stamp, coming as it does come from all across the length and breadth of the country—three out of six seats in Jammu and Kashmir and the Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu at least symbolically point to two geographical extremities. To boot, its most prominent adversaries have been reduced to pulp. It is not likely to even encounter hurdles from major regional parties.
Mr. Narendra Modi enters the South Block amid great hopes of heralding a new era. He has more than sufficient numbers to back him and is not encumbered with nagging partners threatening to pull the plug at any move that annoys someone among them. The fact that Gujarat under his leadership had some economic accomplishments—hyped though—to his credit inspires hopes for the jobless and the business communities. To be fair to the party, it did keep at bay some fringe elements prone to communal vitriol during the campaign. It encourages one to hope that the course of governance would not be muddied by partisan considerations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself having risen from a humble origin and a subaltern section of the society, can even legitimately claim to understand and be sympathetic to the concerns of those on the lower rung of the social ladder. His advent also signals the end of a decade of duality of centres of power that characterized the UPA government. Mr. Modi will lead the government from the front and the party is all likely to fall in line. These are distinct advantages while he begins his innings.
With the advent of the single party rule at the Centre after a quarter century, the national polity hits a new watershed. From now on, dissonance will be witnessed more on the Opposition side. Even though Congress received 19% of the popular vote, it fails to translate into a uni-polar Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Facing disparate and mutually hostile elements from the opposing side, the treasury benches are assured of smooth sailing. Moreover, famous dynasts from the Hindi heartland barring the duo from the Nehru-Gandhi clan, have been almost been wiped out. But by the quirk of circumstances, the regional dynasts—Telugu Desam, Akali Dal, Shiv Sena—can all be seen on the ruling benches.
But the new government has to contend with some real challenges, both from within and without. Projection of a strong leader works wonders in campaigning. It helps in creating an euphoria with high emotional quotient. But would it help in carrying the party, cabinet, the partners in the government and a federalized national along, is a moot question. It will be difficult for the supreme leader leading from the front to resist not being assertive in his own decisions now that he is the chief architect of the victory. If so, it would spell trouble from the party. Similarly, there would be resistance to subordination by heavyweight leaders who had waited for a decade for positions.
The new Government’s real test will come from economy. Given its social base, the party has traditional represented the upper middle class—businessmen and professionals. But fruit will be expected all across the social spectrum. Previous Congress regime bought the loyalties of the uppercrust with policies crafted in favour of cronies and wooed the lower ones with doles. Both failed to produce results. People aspiring prosperity with dignity require jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Will it happen now?
Finally, with the election results as they are, Muslims of India have lost out whatever political leverage and say they could have in the federal polity. Their leadership failed to read the writings on the wall by pursuing anti-Modi campaign. If hate campaigns are bad, even the revenge-seeking attitude could be counterproductive. Mood of alienation is bound to grow till the community starts to think afresh. Besides, mere campaign do not mean anything. The community is required to invest intellectual and economic resources into devising political strategy.