Will the victorious BJP perform or will it fritter away its advantage?
RAHUL SİNGHIt has not just simply been a Narendra Modi wave; it’s been a virtual tsunami. May 16, 2014, will go down as one of the most historic days since India got its independence in 1947, a veritable turning point.
The only other election which compares in historical significance was the one in 1977, following Indira Gandhi’s notorious and dictatorial “Emergency” rule. That election swept the Congress out — with even Indira Gandhi and her son, Sanjay, losing their own Parliamentary seats — and brought in the Janata Party.
However, the Janata Party disappointed, breaking apart through vicious infighting, enabling Indira Gandhi and the Congress to roar back to power. It remains to be seen if the now victorious Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is sweeping to power on its own, without the need of any allies like the Shiv Sena, also fritters away its advantage as the Janata Party did. The BJP needs now to remain united and perform. Much is expected from it, especially from the 100 million new, young Indian voters who helped it come to the helm.
The stock market is at an all-time high and the rupee stronger than it has been against the dollar for a long time, indicating how warmly business and corporate India has welcomed the BJP victory. The Congress has been badly decimated, perhaps terminally so, with a defeat worse than the one in 1977. Then, at least it held its own south of the Vindhya hills in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala. This time, however, except in Kerala, it has put up a dismal show. In Tamil Nadu, it is Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK all the way, with Karunanidhi’s DMK pushed almost out of significance.
In Andhra Pradesh (now called Seemandhra), Chandrababu Naidu’s Telegu Desam Party (TDP) alliance with the BJP has paid good dividends and he should be the state’s next chief minister. Even in the new state of Telengana, whose formation the Congress virtually pushed through, it has not really benefited.
In two other major states, Odisha and West Bengal, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress Party (TCP) respectively, have both performed exceedingly well. Banerjee will be vying with Jayalalithaa for the single largest clump of seats in the Indian Parliament and Naveen Patnaik will be elected as the chief minister of his state, for the fourth successive time. Mayawati, the once-formidable Dalit leader, has been one of the major losers, her party going completely out of the reckoning even in her own state of Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP has done exceedingly well, winning as many as 70 of the state’s 80 seats, as it has in Bihar. In fact, the BJP success in U.P. and Bihar has really been the key to Modi’s successful road to New Delhi.
In Maharashtra, for long a Congress/Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) stronghold, the alliance has been more or less wiped out by the resurgent BJP, with Congress big-wigs like Sushil Kumar Shinde and Milind Deora biting the dust (though final results have not come in, at the time of writing).
In Delhi, where the Congress held sway for such a long time, having won all seven Parliamentary seats there in the last General Election, it has been mortifyingly placed third, behind the BJP and the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP). The BJP is winning all seven Delhi seats (at the time of writing). Though the percentage of people who voted for the AAP has gone up since the state election, this has not translated into any wins, which is bound to be a disappointment to the AAP. However, it has done better than expected in Punjab, where it could win three or four seats. It could be a major player in five years time, when the next general election is due, if it changes its strategy, since it has definitely caught the mood of the young in north India.
The only major failure of the BJP is the loss of Arun Jaitley to Captain Amrinder Singh, the former Patiala Maharaja and chief minister of Punjab. Though Jaitley, a BJP heavyweight, could still find a place in the Cabinet and get nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, his clout in his party is bound to be diminished. If only he had stood from a constituency in Delhi!
With once high-profile ministers like Salman Khurshid, Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma facing defeat, where does that leave the Congress? Traumatised and in deep introspection. There is also bound to be a big question mark on the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul. Though both have retained their seats, albeit with a much reduced majority, Modi and his team clearly outsmarted them. He was a far better and more mesmerising speaker who appealed successively to the main concerns of the Indian public, in particular their desire for better and cleaner governance, more jobs and decisive leadership. Now, he has to deliver. An expectant and euphoric India is waiting.
*Rahul Singh is the former Editor of Reader’s Digest, Indian Express and Khaleej Times