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Friday, May 16, 2014

Dawn of a new era?

The people have spoken, and more decisively than for a long time in the recent past.

Here are a few off-the-cuff observations, entirely personal in nature, looking at the results as available on the night of 16th May.

1.      I am glad that the Congress has not just been soundly trounced, but reduced almost to insignificance. Perhaps they will at last start the many-decades delayed process of cleaning the Augean stables, starting with getting rid of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty once and for all?
2.      I confess I did not expect the BJP to win absolute majority on its own. This changes the game like nothing else could – given that a) they don’t even need the other NDA partners to form a government, and b) that one man had been projected almost unanimously as the new leader right from the start of the electoral campaign. Whether we like it or not, we are going to get a ‘strong’ government with a vengeance.
3.      Giving all political pundits the lie, regional parties have suddenly shrunk into insignificance on the national stage. For some time to come, at least, it is only what the top leadership of the BJP think that will matter so far as Indian governmental policy is concerned. This was not the case on Vajpayee’s watch. There will be a lot of interesting developments following from this, I am sure.
4.      The Aam Admi Party has vanished into the inconsequence it richly deserved. I was fed to the back teeth with the politically illiterate and puerile ‘anti-corruption’ melodrama conducted by someone whose basic claim to public attention – for the short while it lasted – was that he graduated from IIT and was good at using twitter. The fellow had begun to dream that he could at least become kingmaker. RIP.
5.      Ms. Mamata Banerjee has seen the fulfilment of her life’s dream – to see the CPI(M) being virtually wiped out of West Bengal at every level from the panchayats to the Lok Sabha. (Given that the Left Front hardly existed without West Bengal, and given that they have won about 12 seats in the Lok Sabha this time, their very survival might be at stake). I wonder, though, whether she will be able to deliver good governance to the state in the next few years – and the fact that she has queered the pitch with the incoming Union government by campaigning virulently and very personally against Narendra Modi is not going to help matters where the state’s interests are concerned, since her 30-odd seats in the Lok Sabha are worth nothing to the PM-to-be.
6.      The government of the United States must be squirming and sweating blood. The man who is about to become PM of India is still on their list of people to whom a visa remains banned! Talk about having to swallow humble pie. And I wonder what they are thinking in Islamabad and Beijing…?
7.      Modi’s sweeping success at the hustings underscores something I have believed for a long time – that the opinions of the urban, well-off intelligentsia or the chattering classes or whatever you call them, especially as expressed through English-language newspapers and TV channels, just don’t matter. They are most of the time – maybe they choose to be – hopelessly out of touch with ground realities.
8.      Corporate India seems to be happy, and the stock markets are on a roll. Shape of things to come, or will the dream sour within months? I won’t lay bets, just wait and watch…
9.      I have not suddenly become a Narendra Modi fan. Just let it go on record that I am awestruck by the speed with which he went from someone who was hardly known outside his home state even a year ago (unless it was for his so-called ‘tainted’ record of being communal) to being the anointed claimant to the national throne. And I certainly believe that he is a determined, full-time politician not a dilettante (the type I most despise), that unlike many of his fellow politicians he knows his own mind, and that he deserves a chance now that he has come this far, if only to prove that he wasn’t worth the hype and hoopla. After all, he has played by the rules, and he has never shown any signs that he wants to break the basic rules – what else do you want in a democracy? And it makes my blood boil to hear the argument that ‘after all he started as a chaiwallah’. I am an unabashed elitist in many ways, but this is not the kind of elitism I believe in. Finally, the fact that there has been a wave in favour of the BJP even in Uttar Pradesh, with its very sizeable Muslim population, seems to indicate that despite everything, our Muslims have not decided en masse to treat him like an untouchable demon. Vox populi, vox dei, remember, all you disgruntled folks?

India 2014-2019 is going to be an interesting place to live in.

P.S.: This blogpost of mine provides what I should think is an unexceptionable roadmap for any government that wants to make a real and permanent difference for the better.


DevDas said...

Very well said Suvro-da,
It will surely be exciting to see new Government's foreign policy and how they can handle the job market to harness the youth potential,

Abhishek Anand said...

Respected Sir,

I shall never forget 16th May, 2014. It was the first time in my life that I had political opinions (howsoever immature they might be)and I am glad to see that the results are better than my wishes and expectations.

I agree totally with your first observation. Arguably, we needed that badly. Also, I am glad to see that many "secular" parties(who had framed a totally new definition of secularism)are nowhere in the present political frame. Perhaps, they deserved it.

Mr. Modi's election campaign has been more 'presidential' than 'parliamentary', and it has brought the BJP unprecedented success. I wonder what that means.

I do not know how reasonable I am being when I say that I have a lot of hopes from this strong government. However, when I hear people like Jagdish Bhagwati say "Modi promises a second revolution", my hopes are strengthened. I hope that as far as possible, this new government will sincerely try to bring the black money back to India. It goes without saying that Mr. Modi was more on the 'development track' with regard to the election campaign than any other rival. He truly deserves a chance. Now that the BJP has alone crossed the 272 mark, it'll be really interesting to see how far does Mr. Modi go with his promise of making the Parliament 'criminal free' and what happens with the Uniform Civil Code's proposal.

The sixth observation hits the nail on the head. However, America's economic interests are likely to suffer under Modi, with his stress on indigenous defence production being just one medium. Even two months back, the news channels in Pakistan had Mr. Modi as the central topic of their discussions. I don't know whether that's fear or hope. So far as the Chinese are concerned, their economic and 'expansionist' aims might just have to change if Mr. Modi delivers as he has promised. Finally, he has been more than just vocal on the Bangladeshi infiltration. Is all this so easy? I wish I knew.

The BJP manifesto says they plan to form a 'Team India' comprising the PM and the various Chief Ministers. However, Nitish Kumar has already resigned and leaders like Ms. Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav have not missed a single opportunity to speak against Modi. Will it be a friendly and cohesive Team India? Perhaps, we can only wait and watch.

Arguably, Mr. Modi has been able unite Indians by braking the bonds of caste, religion and personal interests to a considerable extent. Five weeks back, The Economist had printed an article where it had indirectly attacked Modi along communal lines(the 2002 riots). Indians from various corners of the world responded and almost all of them readily dismissed the article as being 'biased', 'ridiculous' and 'a result of fear of Indian resurgence'. Even the newspaper had to admit the it was overwhelmed with that response. I have many relatives living in Varanasi. They told me that most of the 'young' Musilm voters were clearly in favour of Modi. At least they did not consider him an untouchable demon by any standard.

Finally, all I can say is that the higher one rises, the greater one can fall. If Mr. Modi delivers, the coalition era might just fade away into obscurity. But if he fails, things might be just the other way round. However, I hope with all my heart that he may succeed.

Yours faithfully,
Abhishek Anand

Abhishek Anand said...

Respected Sir,

I am sorry for the 'braking' in the first line on the second last paragraph which should have obviously been 'breaking'. Also, 'to' is missing in that line.

I wanted to add one thing. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) has, beyond doubt, played a very important role in BJP's victory. It will be interesting to see how RSS' swadeshi agenda and Mr. Modi's attraction towards foreign investment go hand in hand. In Gujarat, however, Modi had prevailed over RSS.

India 2014-2019 is truly going to be an interesting place to live in.

Yours faithfully,
Abhishek Anand

Navin said...

Dear Sir,

also it is the first election in my life time, when people have blurred caste lines across india to choose a person from the lower caste!

This may well signal a historic turnaround for india's consciousness irrespective of whether modi does anything or not !

with regards,


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Many of you were too young to have distinct and significant memories of the last BJP regime. It is a fact that they had earned the world's attention if not also grudging respect with the nuclear test, and they did give a fillip to economic growth. The Gujarat riot aside, there was social peace overall. Indeed, I feel they could have handled the Indian Airlines hijack case much more firmly, and done more to ensure, US-style, that things like the terrorist attack on Parliament House never happened again. In any case, Modi has time on his side, and a large parliamentary majority; no matter what his detractors say, he does not sound like any kind of fanatic, and he does seem to have a developmental agenda which deserves to be tested. As he has himself said, he will submit a 'report card' in 2019, and I insist that he has won the right to be given a chance: I hate the pseudo-liberal lamentations which seem to have pre-judged him already. Also, a prime minister comes to power with a mandate that is decided by a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha (whether that is a good rule or bad is to be separately decided). So Modi has. Therefore, I find it ridiculous to hear that some people think his first job should be bending over backwards to appease all kinds of minorities... talk about warped and imbecile values! By the rules of the game, all he needs to do is to ensure, as best as he can, that he will win a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha in 2019 again. I do not believe that starting off by mollycoddling minorities would be the wisest way to go about it. And if there are parts of his personal agenda that some of us don't like, we must allow that if he can carry the majority with him under Constitutional rules to achieve them, we have no right to say he is doing wrong. We can only acquiesce with good grace or bad. Anyone who disagrees with that must stand up and be counted as being fundamentally anti-democratic. You have every right to hold views contrary to majority opinion, but you cannot demand that you be obeyed rather than the majority: that is precisely how tyranny begins every time.