The greatest show on Earth has ended. This may be a cliché but is a very apt one. Out of an electorate of 834 million, which had 162 million in the 18-25 age group, about 67 per cent voted. This makes this the highest turnout since 1984. In other words, the 551 million voters were equal to the combined populations of US, UK, Canada and Germany or more than the entire population of the rest of the SAARC countries. Narendra Modi held 437 rallies and covered 410,000 km since September 2013. Rahul Gandhi, his undeclared opponent, covered much less (250 rallies), travelled less and spoke much less.
Tipping point: It was the ‘Stop Modi’ slogan by the Congress party, other parties, the media and sections of our intellectuals that actually made Narendra Modi the focal point. Pic/PTI
Narendra Modi was the totem pole around which the entire techno-savvy, well-coordinated campaign was managed.
The Congress campaign, in contrast, seemed disjointed, reactive and petty at times. It was the ‘Stop Modi’ slogan by the Congress party, other parties, the media and sections of our intellectuals that actually made Narendra Modi the focal point. He used this to advantage like a wrestler’s feint for throwing his opponents. While Modi talked of development and progress, his rival was stuck with secularism and poverty. The former was the message of hope while the latter was a tired and tiresome slogan.
The attempts of the ‘liberal intellectuals’ were to keep the 2002 issue alive in the name of secularism without talking of the riots of 1984, 1992 or 1993. Secularism does not need to keep religious issues alive without solving them. Our leaders from the so-called secular parties, which mostly represent sectional regional interests, have collectively bandied around the slogan of secularism but have done precious little to achieve this except to use the minorities as vote banks and throw sops at them at election time. The result has been that we now have a section of our society who feel they are threatened by the possibility of a Modi government and this future government’s imagined attitudes towards them.
They have been encouraged to remain sullen and neglected as if it was only Narendra Modi who was responsible for their present ills and not all the other previous governments who must share the blame.
Modi will have to embellish his strong governance image where he has to be fair and seen to be fair in his actions. If winning an election was tough, governance and delivery in India is going to be much tougher.
Modi’s other challenge is also internal — to help realise the dreams he has sold. He cannot overlook that one third of the world’s extreme poor live in India and the hopes of millions of youth will be pinned on him. Telling people that there is no magic wand will be part of that reality and also that nothing short of hard work will enable the fulfilment of these dreams. This is more so as the next ten years is the most crucial for our country’s success and attaining our true position in the region and indeed in the world.
Unfortunately, the manner in which democracies function, the opposition will work to prevent fulfilment of these dreams in order to pull the government down. Divisive policies are not the handiwork of the ‘Hindu Nationalists’; they are as much the tool that the liberal extremists use frequently to attain power. Meanwhile nothing will go right for the Cassandras who are not prepared to accept a verdict that does not suit their narrative. Election rhetoric does not really translate into action, simply because the realties and limitations of power particularly in a vast, diverse country such as India ensure that any government, to succeed, will have to carry the diversity with it.
The electorate has decided. The writing is on the wall. It would be wise to accept the verdict and not sneer at it as that result of choices by the lumpen merely because it did not vote for the kind of leadership our wise intellectuals presume is best for all Indians. It is a travesty to laud democracy but snigger at results that do not agree with our perceptions. The hope is that after decades, this time India will get a government that has a comfortable, not a brute majority, which allows it to function and deliver the goals it has set out for itself and the country and an opposition that is strong but not obstructionist with an electorate that understands that democracy extends beyond casting one’s vote. We will have matured into a responsible democracy away from dynasties.
The writer is a former chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)