India now has a new prime Minister in Narendra Modi. He is rightly described by the world famous economist Jagdish Bahagwati as “People’s Prime Minister”. After all, there is his humble origin and subsequent struggle for sheer survival. He had no mentor or Godfather who nurtured him, both in his childhood and adulthood. In this respect, Modi is even unlike B R Ambedkar whose higher education was funded by the Maharaja of Baroda, now known as Vododara, something I was reminded of by none other than Modi himself during his victory speech in this very city on May 16. Modi funded his own education through correspondence courses. Though as an RSS activist his personal needs were minimal, it is a fact that for a living during his early adulthood, he was doing all sorts of menial jobs.
However, for me he is “People’s Prime Minister” because of a more important reason. Unlike the case with any of his predecessors, Modi’s candidature as the Prime Minister originated from the below. Modi was not the choice of the party mandarins controlling the BJP in Delhi. He was also not the choice of the top leadership of the RSS as has been wrongly claimed by some Modi-critics. In my considered opinion, if the RSS or for that matter BJP decided on Modi, it was essentially due to the pressure coming from the myriads of the ordinary activists or sympathisers below, both in the party and outside. That way, Modi was the people’s choice to lead the BJP.
No other Prime Minister of India has been under such rigorous public as well as judicial scrutiny as Modi over the last 12 years. No other Prime Minister of India has been so badly targeted as Modi; in fact it is not wrong to say that the previous UPA government left no stone unturned and brazenly abused the investigating agencies to implicate, prosecute and punish Modi for his various acts of omission and commission. That Modi survived all these attempts to finish his political career, something that was further magnified by a hostile national media, dominating elites in the intelligentsia, and myriad foreign-funded non-governmental organisation, is a remarkable story in itself. Possibly, all this added to the public sympathy for him. And this sympathy subsequently turned to be the support for him.
Modi’s critics within the party, let alone his enemies outside, systematically fed the overwhelming sections of the national media to propagate the theory that Modi is a deeply divisive figure and that he would be a political disaster for the BJP outside Gujarat. There was a similar vitriolic campaign that the BJP as a party would disintegrate if Modi became the Prime Ministerial candidate. It was also said that the allies in the NDA would desert if a divisive Modi led the BJP. In fact, there are elements of truth that certain anti-Modi elements in the BJP misguided the JD (U) and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to part ways with the party over Modi, thinking that by so doing Modi’s anointment as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the alliance would be stalled. That Nitish fell into the trap and left the NDA even before the BJP’s formal decision to make Modi its leader for the 16th general elections in the country is something that the Bihar Chief Minister will rue for the rest of his life, given his present fate at the hustings, notwithstanding all his bravado. As I write this, I am told that Nitish has tendered his resignation and asked for fresh Assembly polls in Bihar. In fact, in this column I had written once that Nitish committed political suicide the day he parted ways with the NDA.
It is the Indian people who have punctured the “the divisive” image of Modi, methodically perpetuated by his critics. Under his leadership, the BJP has achieved the seemingly impossible. It has emerged as a truly national party by leaving the Congress far behind. It has now support all over India. The party might not have done well electorally in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and West Bengal, but the fact remains that the BJP under Modi has expanded its electoral base impressively in all these states. In fact, in West Bengal, the party may well emerge as the alternative to the Trinamool Congress when Assembly elctions are held two years later. The BJP in West Bengal has emerged as strong, as, if not stronger than, both the Congress and the Left Front.
It is under Modi that the BJP has rewritten the political theory in India as far as the country’s party system is concerned. For the first time after 1984, the BJP has become the first party to get the majority on its own in the Lok Sabha, thereby negating the conventional wisdom that India can no longer have a single-party government and that the coalition rule is going to be a permanent phenomenon. This is not to suggest that coalition governments are necessarily bad. In fact, despite the BJP’s majority in the Lok Sabha, Modi is heading a coalition government, that is the NDA government. The point here is that Modi’s coalition government is going to be much more stable than any of his recent predecessors. Because, with his own party having the majority on its own, the Prime Minister will be less susceptible to pulls and pressures, often for wrong reasons, of his allies. Unlike Manmohan Singh, Modi will be not compelled to drop tax-related cases against the likes of Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Yadav. Modi will not be forced, like his immediate predecessor, to compromise Delhi’s building laws and gift rebuilt government bungalows to Mayawati.
Undoubtedly, Modi has now forced the political scientists the world over to review the existing theories that explain Indian politics. Modi has proved the limitations of the often lauded identity politics of caste, creed and region. The results of this election have proved beyond any shadow of doubt that people have not voted on caste lines. That explains the dismal performances of the likes of Mayawati, Mulayam, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav.
Indian democracy will be much stronger if one votes as an Indian, not as a member of a particular caste or religion. Unfortunately, the dominant sections within our polity, and this includes our intelligentsia, glorify the identity politics. For instance, if Yadavs, Muslims and Dalits vote as a block, they laud the phenomenon as consolidation for their respective rights. If somebody opposes this trend, he or she is branded as communal. In my considered view, in this election, people at large have rejected this phenomenon and its champions. Whether it is going to be durable counter-phenomenon or not remains to be seen.
Similarly, in my considered view the majority of the people have rejected the blatant communalistaion of the electioneering on the part of the Congress and the so-called secularists in this election under the grab of protecting the minority rights. It is quite possible that the majority community, that is the Hindus, have punished those who were only pandering to the minority votes. This may not be exactly a healthy development as it, in essence, is equally communal. That is why I have often argued that the so-called secularists are the real enemies of the Indian minorities. Because, mindless appeasement of the minorities and overlooking their extremist elements and views will attract adverse reactions from the majority community, the Hindus, at some point of time or the other. It should be remembered that India is secular because the majority community of India is secular, not otherwise.
Viewed thus, the punishment to the so-called secularists and the champions of the identity politics by the Indian people is a welcome development. Hopefully, the so-called secularists, or for that matter the nation as a whole, will introspect now over the dangerous implications of the perverse identity politics. But what is heartening already is that the Indian youth, including those who voted for the first time (it is said of the 814.59 million registered voters in the country, about 100 million were first-time voters), have solidly rallied behind Narendra Modi who talked about safety, security and development for all Indians. They found Modi aspirational. And it is not only the young who believed in Modi. The poor too, both in the urban and rural areas, seem to have reposed faith in Modi and rejected the politics of glorification of poverty. After all, they need to be empowered so that they can overcome poverty, not remain perennially poor to receive the government’s alms and act as vote-bank of the ruling parties. That explains why despite the UPA government’s various populist schemes, all brought about over the last six months with the specific intention of buying votes, people have voted for the BJP. Hopefully, there will now be the reviews of the politics of dole. Modi has proved that distributing sops will not fetch votes any longer.
The people of India have responded splendidly to Modi. They have defied again the predictions of the nay-sayers that Modi did the biggest blunder of starting his campaign nearly eight months before the polls. The nay-sayers argued that his campaign would premature early and he would not be able to sustain his exercise of meeting the people all over the country and addressing as many meetings as possible to convey his message. But now, it is the turn of Modi not to disappoint people of India.
By Prakash Nanda