Masses Give India’s Reins To Chaiwallah
Seemingly indefatigable and determined Modi faced and overcame the relentless campaign of calumny, of distorted charges that would have sunk most, apart from the concerted campaign by intellectuals, members of the Lutyen’s Club and the media, which seemed intent to either have him sent to jail or make him a demon, an ogre in the eyes of the voter. But what a victory Modi has scored. And India has shown what a vibrant democracy it is. A chaiwallah, shouting at a railway platform chai, garam chai, becomes Prime Minister of a country of 125 billion
Braving the heat and dust of the Indian summer, majority of over 65 per cent voters—a record turnout—chose to bring back the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power and anoint a man as India’s 15th Prime Minister who pales in comparison to previous prime ministers’ family background or academics achievements. And what a glorious anointing! Sonia-led 129-year-old Congress Party has been reduced to a rump while the BJP truly becomes a national party. The UPA got less seats than the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. No one ever, possibly with the exception of Modi and his close friend and adviser Amit Mishra, could imagine the number of seats BJP, both alone and with its allies secured. The Gandhi dynasty has lost its clout and charisma and if the present Gandhis do not have the tenacity of Indira and Sanjay Gandhi, it would be history soon. A slogan coined by a wag, “Congressmen are shouting abki baar antim sanskar.”
And all this has been achieved by one man, Narendra Damodardas Modi. What a victory he has scored. And India has shown what a vibrant democracy it is. A chaiwallah, shouting at a railway platform chai, garam chai, becomes Prime Minister of a country of 125 billion. Seemingly indefatigable and determined Modi faced and overcame the relentless campaign of calumny, of distorted charges that would have sunk most, apart from the concerted campaign by intellectuals, members of the Lutyen’s Club and the media, which seemed intent to either have him sent to jail or make him a demon, an ogre in the eyes of the voter.
The elite and the intellectuals felt nauseated at the thought of Modi becoming Prime Minister. Recalling his chaiwallah background quipped one whom Lord Megnad Desai called ‘a proud devotee of the Gandhi family’– “He can come and serve tea at the next meeting of the AICC,” while dismissing Modi’s chances of becoming Prime Minister. One wonders how such people are reconciling themselves. To put it succinctly, the unexpected has happened for some. And expected has happened for some others. Narendra Modi who came on the national scene only last year won a resounding victory, defeating the Dynasty-led UPA and all other parties that flaunt their secular credentials.
Very cleverly, Modi aimed to win over the young by his objectives of ‘vikas’ and ‘parivartan’. The young came to regard him as a wizard who by flicking a wand could make both development and change happen. Their conviction is reflected in the number of seats won by the BJP and the NDA. A commentator summed his persona well, “Artful, effective, evocative, possibly dangerous and, according to his detractors, diabolically sly—(Modi) is being presented as a hero. His supposed attributes make him sound god-like. His is the blowhard air that is forcefully occupying the vacuum of Indian civic conversation.”
The Congress believed that no one would take Modi seriously. The chanting of 2002 several times would evaporate Modi. But undaunted he continued to win over more people. So a chorus of “no Modi wave” was started. Intellectuals in the west were roped in to sound the alarm in the foreign press about the danger India was facing from Modi. What all these gentlemen who said they would dread for India if Modi became Prime Minister would do now? Possibly drown a couple of pints at their local pubs.
Modi’s counter was ‘silence’. He never bothered to react. Modi has no time for such armchair analysts. He communicates directly with people and they are his supporters, why would Modi care about the Rushdies and such like, said a source. His counters to the Gandhis had more substance. He talked of development and economic reforms to salvage people from poverty. But the Congress harped on welfare schemes for the poor. This could be done only by sacrificing growth. This policy has been rejected.
By the middle of the campaign, it had become clear that nobody else, not even the BJP without Modi, was being seen as capable of bringing about the change that India’s new middle-class and youth wanted. The fact is that his nearly 500 rallies, his oratory or his style of selling a developed modern India won him the coveted post. But much more than his efforts the inept Congress leaders did to project him. It was no surprise, therefore, he repeated a 1980 by Indira Gandhi, a 1983 by NTR or a 1984 by Rajiv Gandhi. We have to acknowledge that it has been a laudable victory for Modi-led BJP in 2014.
The writing on the wall is also clear! The last rites of the grand old party are distinctly on cards. Arvind Kejriwal’s bravado seems to have found its resting place. His senior colleagues have also been drubbed. Fighting the intellectuals was not easy, but Modi could sense well that they never solved any problem, instead their objective was to keep the masses away from the rulers and vice versa. An invisible wall prevented the change-seekers from entering their world. Modi demolished the wall of state-sponsored ‘intelligentsia’, something which Gandhi had done. He led the masses to break this wall. Modi did the same and the wall fell on May 16. And Modi has led the people inside this elite preserve. The masses have tasted blood, and would not give up their participation in politics or policy formulations. This basic of democracy had been forgotten by the Congress whose bosses created the political caste division, the ruler and the ruled.
So, after a roller-coaster ride, Modi has reached the top. For this he had to launch his campaign relentlessly and then his dramatic delivery, and ubiquitous development message did the rest. He has converted a complex parliamentary system into a presidential-style referendum on himself. Over the last nine months, Modi has travelled 300,000 km, or seven times the Earth’s equatorial circumference. He has attended 5,187 events, addressed 477 rallies in 25 states while sleeping barely five hours a night, and harnessed the Internet and mobile telephony to connect with an estimated 230 million people, or one in every four voters. That’s more people than the population of Brazil and three times the combined annual traffic of Delhi and Mumbai airports.
WHEN BIAS BECOMES THE BLINKER
As they say, revenge is always sweet. This time it is also powerful. In getting capturing power, Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi brought two things that the BJP long lacked, namely, acceptability and electability. He did this despite the heavy baggage over Gujarat riots of 2002—remarkable and historic by any standards. The size of the BJP victory has overshadowed all the accomplishments of the party since its founding in December 1980 and Modi successfully combined the long-held dual face of the party, namely, hardcore nationalism and development.
For the first time in three decades, the Indian electorate has given the mandate to a single party rule and even in those areas where the party had no previous presence Modi’s footprints are unmistakable. Not only the BJP secured the simple majority on its own, in many places the victory margin was over one lakh votes.
Decimation is too soft to describe the electoral outcome. Parties run along ideological, dynastical and caste lines either went into oblivion or were decimated. Some will not be represented in the next Lok Sabha. The victory of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh is confined to the election of its president and vice-president.
True, the Modi wave failed to breach the citadels of Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and they continue to be the exclusive domain of Naveen Patnaik, Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee. Ironically, their overwhelming success is nothing but a curse; with the BJP securing simple majority on its own, their victory lacks commensurate political leverage. To be nationally relevant these leaders would have to work in tandem with the NDA government but on Modi’s terms.
At the same time, no one should underestimate challenges facing Modi. Running the country is far more complex than administering a state. His position on a number of important domestic and foreign policy issues is unclear let alone certain. If inexperienced Rajiv Gandhi messed up the massive mandate, former Karnataka Chief Minister Deve Gowda failed to raise national challenges. Caution, thus, would be his daily mantra.
Moreover, unlike the other dynastic parties, victorious Modi is not the unquestionable leader of the BJP. Jealous is human, especially when Modi accomplished what other ‘towering’ leaders could only dream of. It would not be easy for aging and competing leaders within the BJP to recognise Modi’s decisive role in the stunning victory of the NDA coalition.
Modi silenced his political opponents through his decisive victory. Beginning with the Congress, all parties will have to reflect, review and undertake painful reforms to be politically relevant. Otherwise, Modi had also written their obituary.
Answering the Indian elite would be more difficult. For over a decade Modi has been at the receiving end of adverse publicity, campaign and innuendo. Divisive, communal, authoritarian, dictatorial, megalomania, pro-rich, anti-Muslim and, of course, Fascist are some of the colorful but printable adjectives thrown at Modi.
Modi never had a fair treatment from the Indian elite. He is no less arrogant or authoritarian than some of the powerful sections of the Indian elite. Why they suddenly woke up and found fault with the first-past-the-poll Indian electoral system for the size of Modi’s victory. Had he been defeated, it would still be under the same system.
The predominantly rural and semi-literate Indian electorate has also given a decisive verdict against the arrogant Indian elite. Enamoured by the superiority of their worldview and righteousness of their perceptions, a large section of the elite had been uncharitable and hypocritical towards Modi. It was fashionable and politically correct to demonize Modi.
The elections reiterated the first lesson on social media. Facebook likes don’t transform into votes and animated television presence increases TRP rating but not votes. The verdict should be a humbling experience for some elites-turned- candidates. They have more followers on the Twitter than the votes they secured. Having lost the Varanasi election by a margin of over 3.7 lakh votes, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal had a lot to ponder and less to speak.
For the rest of his life, Mani Shankar Aiyar would be lamenting his elitist and irresponsible ‘chaiwallah’ remark. Outsmarting politicians, some even warned of communal polarisation and bloodbath if Modi were to be elected. There are others who competed with politicians and threatened to leave India, should Modi be victorious. Even those who pretended apolitical were playing shehnai a few days later for a political roadshow.
A critical perspective about Modi, like others, is essential both as an academic endeavour and as a warning to the society we live in. At the same time, it is essential to recognise the simple truth: however strong and persuasive they are, views are a perspective of an individual not the definitive truth. Despite having lived through so many cultures, faiths and worldviews, a large segment of the Indian intelligentsia failed to recognize that what they were espousing was just a perspective. Rather than admitting it as one of the perspectives, they sought to depict their understandings and warnings about Modi as the gospel truth.
Human progress has always been a contest of ideas and perceptions. This goes on without an end and a without a definite winner. For long, the communists were the champions of the downtrodden but in recent months AAP has taken over this mantel of fighting for the weak and marginalised. Things change and so does the people.
At the same time, as human beings it is impossible to be unbiased. Differing social, economic and cultural environments result in people living with a set of bias and prejudices. Some of these pre-conceived notions are good and helpful and others are not. Fundamentally, the elite are human and hence can’t escape from bias in favour or against a particular ideology, faith or worldview. Wisdom lies in admitting this inherent and inevitable human bias and to recognise the plurality of views.
Even while seeking to ‘convert’ others into one’s own viewpoint, it is essential to remember that the world is big enough for different people with different views on the same subject. Intellectual monotheism is harmful both to the thinking intellectual and to the target audience.
This arrogance on the righteousness of one’s own view is more harmful than the illiberal trend that Modi is often accused of.
Dismissing BJP’s “impressive” victory merely to “propaganda blitzkrieg and advertisements” as AAP leader Prashant Bhushan did, is fool-hardly and arrogant. Television talk shows, social media and other forms of pontification are essential but the Indian electorate has also issued a warning to the elite: introspect or become irrelevant.
In their preoccupation with NDA securing or not securing 272 seats, no one paid attention to the other arithmetic, 10 per cent of the seats to be recognised as opposition in Lok Sabha. The Congress not getting this number, opposition coalition would be the order of the day. Thus, at least in the short run, the principal and vocal opposition would be the Indian elite.
This is where Modi’s real problem begins. His words, actions, challenges and missteps would be more severely scrutinised, commented and admonished by the elite and answering them would be far more difficult for Modi than capturing power.
The electoral verdict will undoubtedly force the decimated opposition, its leaders and activists for painful introspections. But, will it bring about introspection among Indian elite? Rather than offering unsolicited advice to Narendra Modi, will they ask a simpler question: “Mirror, mirror on the wall…”
By Prof. PR Kumaraswamy
(The author teaches at Jawaharlal Nehru University)
It’s Modi’s India now. How would it fare? The immediate problem he faces is to win over the Muslims. Erasing the charge of being divisive would be one of his priorities. They by and large were not enthused by Modi’s call for vikas and parivartan. They have remained scary and sullen. Now that Modi would be in power more fear could be instilled in them by the Congress and other parties. Rumours were afloat that riots would be triggered once Modi took over. The anti-Modi groups are not letting Muslims come out of 2002 happenings. Talk to them and they hark back to 2002.
Modi has to be determined to gain their confidence and move fast to do that. It has to be drilled into them that they are harming their interests by remaining stuck in a time warp that is perhaps no longer relevant. It is true that all the so-called ‘secular’ political leaders have used Modi to frighten Muslims into voting for them and this includes Kejriwal. It is also true that Modi has not worked hard enough to convince Muslims that he is not the monster they think he is. There is one hope. Modi has repeatedly said with reference to Gujarat that he neither helps Hindus nor Muslims but only Gujaratis. Similar statements could help Muslims to look at Modi differently.
Accused of being divisive, Modi cannot be inclusive without the co-operation of Muslims. Both have to take a step to close the distance between them. A source close to him said that Modi could move fast to start getting to create trust for himself, as he does not believe in tokenism, he would not resort to measures like appointing a Muslim in some key position. The solution lies in convincing Muslims that they would hurt their interests if they lock themselves in a cocoon.
MODI COULD SURPASS VAJPAYEE AS PM
There are no formal ratings in India on regular basis about the performance of the Prime Ministers but in the US there is regular reckoning of comparative performance of the heads of the state by different institutions. Three Presidents who appear almost constant amongst top three are Roosevelt, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In India, in one ranking done last year, Indira Gandhi, Atal Behari Vajpyee and Jawaharlal Nehru emerged as top three. This may not be very accurate.
There is no doubt Vajpayee is rated high by his own party as well as by others. He could manage disparate elements in a multiparty government for long time and could survive for five years. Ultimately, BJP fell badly after India shining campaign. His problems was that he did not command enough influence to usher in radical or bold measures as BJP had only 186 members in the house. The arrangement of running the government was that he generally looked after the macro peripheral and mass communication being an articulate orator. He was liberal and a human being of wide sympathies as well as acceptance amongst majority of politicians in the country. The party organisation was mainly handled by LK Advani and both of them carried forward old agenda of Hindutva diluted to suit the coalition. But Vajpayee was not an astute global player and he faltered in Kargil, even inviting Musharaff after the war was a folly, Kandhar hijack was badly handled at the cost of national security, no progress in Kashmir stalemate, terrorists attacked Parliament and similar important national issues. His greatest contribution was to allow business to prosper without interference and with good monsoon showed high growth of economy. He was greatest compromiser and he allowed corruption to go unnoticed even when it was alleged in his own house and similarly overlooked opposition Congress relations doing such things. I don’t disturb you and you don’t disturb me was the credo that he carried with other parties.
In this background, Modi is likely to emerge as a stronger leader with better showing in Lok Sabha to command greater influence, and with a decade of track record of economic administration of a state that is management model. Napoleon said, “Imagination is superior to intelligence” and Modi shows vision and creativity in his performance so far. The campaign of election was so creatively and dexterously devised that most of the political observers were overawed by it. He has changed the agenda of the party from old worn out slogans of mandir and Murli ManoharJoshi type obsession with Vedic astrology, to a modern approach of economic reform and development. His style of leadership is not autocratic of Indira Gandhi type nor compromising democrat of Vajpayee type nor of weak Manmohan Singh type rather he is mission directed leader who will be using various strategies but with clear mission of serving the national interest and values of good governance. The only area he has to bridge is concerning assurance to minorities that they will be protected and developed like any other citizens of the country. People like me who have never been committed to anachronism of BJP are attracted to him in drones after getting convinced with his proven charter of ‘ New humanism of treating all equal, good governance and economic reconstruction’. He knows the biggest issues are manufacturing revival and agricultural productivity. He has jostled with these issues in Gujarat successfully. His policy to treat international relationships on equality footing rather than with belligerence and present weak-kneed responses will recover honour of the country. No wonder the entire world is responding to it with inquisitiveness. We hope and pray that better days will come to the nation.
By NK Singh
The other problem he will have to deal with is to unwind too much centralization and autocracy of bureaucrats. The practise of gathering of all power by 10, Janpath would be discontinued. Modi has already announced that chief ministers would have a free hand in running their states and he would be consulting with them regularly. Like if some policy is to be formulated for coastal region, he said, chief ministers of coastal regions will be invited for discussion. He would force the bureaucrats to discipline themselves and work in time-bound frame. This is how he could get all his development plans implemented within the Budget and time.
Modi’s another priority would be the regeneration of economy. The effect of Nehruvian policies still lingers. Nehru was a Fabian sociologist and anti-business. Many say he was a pathetic economist. He could never understand ‘capitalism’. He could not understand technology. He could not understand the real aspirations of Indians. He could not understand Gandhi’s economics. He chose socialism over capitalism. He chose spiritual elitism over religion.
Nehru believed in political liberty but he was against economic freedom. Gandhi, on the other hand, knew that political liberty could be achieved only with a strong backbone of economic liberty. Which is why, he had social reformers and political thinkers on one side and Birlas and Bajajs on the other.
Modi, rather astutely, positioned himself as a pragmatic technocrat, focusing his election campaign on reviving India’s stagnant economy, cleaning up a corrupt government, and a tough stance on national security. He also distanced himself from his party’s right flank, assuring voters that while he is a proud Hindu nationalist, his priority is “toilets first, temples later”.
The Gandhis established the principle of loyalty over merit. Scheming over competence. Loot over contribution. Corruption grew. Guilt grew. Fear grew. With every scam, family started making the intellectual wall bigger and bigger. This wall got full of scamsters, crooks, agents, brokers, pimps, lobbyists, character assassins, land sharks etc disguised as lawyers, journalists, NGOs, feminists, advisors, professors, socialists etc. “They became the robbers of Indian treasury, brokers of power, pimps of secularism. They are the intellectual mafia,” says Vivek Agnihotri, a film producer. “They filled India’s psyche with fear and hate. They hated all indigenous, grass-root thinkers. They hated Sardar Patel, Lalbahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Chandrashekhar, PV Narsimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and now Modi.
ELECTION COMMISSION IS A CONSTITUTIONAL BODY, SO…
The ugly spat between the Election Commission (EC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership, an unprecedented one, almost at the fag end of the 2014 general elections, once again showed how low Indian polity has sunk. An institution to ensure fair election was challenged about its fairness. A serious development!
The EC’s authority is not just due to the fact that it is a constitutional body but because of its expected impartiality. That was questioned by the BJP leaders. The differences could have led to an uncontrollable volatile face-off. It could hurt the very basis of democracy–a free and fair election. Who is to blame for it? It would be unfair to judge but the facts stress that the EC should not only be impartial but seen to be so.
The conduct of the EC came under shadow of doubt when it reacted differently to alleged violations of electoral codes by Modi and Rahul. The EC registered an FIR within hours of report that Modi allegedly violated electoral laws by displaying the BJP’s lotus symbol in Gandhinagar near a polling booth. No such quick reaction came from the EC when Rahul Gandhi apparently broke the rules.
Pictures of Rahul Gandhi peering at an EVM inside a polling booth and talking to a few persons, presumably voters, again in a polling booth were published in The Times of India and flashed on various TV channels. The reaction of the EC was to put it mildly tardy. It said report was sought from the local authorities.
It had a set of pictures with it, and the explanation from Rahul Gandhi should have been sought. But after a few days, the EC closed the matter saying Rahul was looking at a defective EVM. Ironically, along with this report was a contradictory statement of the ToI’s photographer who took those set of pictures. They showed Rahul near EVMs in different polling booths along with a few persons, presumably voters. He said voting was going on.
This contradiction by the cameraman was conveniently ignored by the EC. Why? It was a serious charge. Why did the EC let doubts about its impartiality creep in? The charge was justifiable when compared to its ordering an FIR against Modi alleging that he addressed a press conference and displayed the party symbol lotus within 100 metres of a polling booth without waiting for further confirmation. Why was then a report from the local authorities not sought and an FIR registered against Modi? The police investigated following the FIR and found Modi was 120 metres away. The EC had no answer.
The EC again invited charges of double standards when the returning officer (the District Magistrate of Varanasi) Pranjal Yadav banned a rally of Narendra Modi in Beniyaganj area of the city. But at the same time Rahul was given permission to hold a rally at the same location. The explanation given by commentators was that while Modi was a high security risk and a divisive person, Rahul would not attract a big crowd like Modi does, and the fact that he was not a divisive leader, and did not run the risk as Modi did. What a left-handed compliment!
“The lives of ordinary people and leaders would have been at risk,” said Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath in a rare televised conference. He also said the commission “deplored” attempts to accuse it of bias in the final stages of the marathon election. But his own colleague admitted that the poll panel should have acted more speedily in tackling the issue of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi entering the voting area of some polling booths in Amethi as any delay could lead to people questioning its intentions.
“If you delay and parameters are different, people will start thinking,” Election Commissioner HS Brahma said during an interview with Karan Thapar on Headlines Today. Brahma was responding to a question on the Election Commission registering an FIR within hours of prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi allegedly violating electoral laws by displaying the BJP’s lotus symbol in Gandhinagar while no action had been registered 48 hours after Gandhi apparently broke the rules. He also acknowledged there was a “communication gap” between election officials in Varanasi and the BJP over the denial of permission for a rally by Modi.
It is not without reason we say that some are above law and they are dealt with gloves by even constitutional authorities. Rahul is certainly above Modi, for EC it seems. Meanwhile, the usual set of anchors, commentators, media analysts and, of course, political spokespersons of non-BJP parties condemned the charge of partisanship made by the BJP leaders. They all said a constitutional authority should not be criticised.
A retired member of the Election Commission without questioning the merits of charges made by BJP said it would have been better not to accuse the EC of bias, instead of that the BJP could go to the court after the election. Sage advice this! But one supposes he knows the fate of such cases. An election petition against P Chidambaram filed after 2009 polls is still pending in the Chennai High Court. Any decision now would be of no use to the petitioner.
One must also recollect the insinuations made by Congress ministers and leaders against Rai, the CAG. That is also a constitutional post. The fact is this election turned into a do-or-die feud between the Dynasty and Modi. This high-voltage fight has singed everyone. Passions were running high. It is no surprise that harsh words were bandied about.
But to avoid such shameful fracas, a suggestion by Yashwant Sinha is worth considering. He said a bench of Supreme Court judges could be set up so that an aggrieved party could appeal to it for a quick ruling. The EC should administer during elections but not without any judicial leash. The other thing is a transparent system of selection of members.
The dignity of the EC as an institution has to be preserved, the incumbents at any given time, are just passengers in transit. (VD)
“They run media. They coin useless and irrelevant jargon to confuse masses. They have designations but no real jobs. They are irrelevant NRIs who want us to see reality which doesn’t exist. They want plebiscite in Kashmir. They want Maoists to participate in mainstream politics.” Simply put, they have been beneficiaries of Congress’ largesse.
Modi started a silent revolution against them. Left liberals realised that defeat was certain and with this defeat they would lose that ‘elite thinkers’ tag–and the plum posts, foreign trips and bungalows and other perks. They felt threatened for the first time. The hitherto suppressed masses, who have suffered intellectual injustice most, started getting restive and they raised their voices. It’s the organically secular majority of India, which had been made to feel like communal evils, that started to assert its identity and that too with pride. Modi was just their face. So, it would be a mistake to think that it was Modi vs others. On May 16th this wall fell.
Modi-led masses have entered the sanctum sanctorum of the exiled intellectuals and of the rulers. The new India, the Modi’s India, one hopes will again be on the way of becoming a superpower. And make people proud of being Indians.
But one word of caution! Modi cannot afford to be a Vajpayee, compromising and appeasing everyone.
If LK Advani or Sushma Swaraj sulk, let them. They hardly matter with the kind of majority of the NDA and his popularity.
By Vijay Dutt