The victory of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the general election held in India recently indicated the mood of the people for a change in the Government.
Their expectation is that such a change should be for better, including the economy and delivery of public utility service and elimination of graft.
India was swept by the ‘Modi Wave,’ which has also been labelled ‘Modi Tsunami.’
Public anger was clearly directed at the Indian National Congress (INC), leading to its pathetic performance. The country’s oldest political party won just 44 seats, less than 10% of the 543 seats in Parliament. It was a stark reminder to politicians that people will not suffer inept and corrupt administration for long.
While the BJP and its supporters rejoice over their victory and as Mr Modi puts together his Cabinet, there is a need to remember an important fact: that the people of India have given the Party and the new Prime Minister a chance to prove their mettle and deliver on their promises.
The BJP has been in Government earlier. It came to power in 1998 but had to resign in 13 days, failing to keep an unruly alliance together. But the Party returned to the Treasury benches in 1999 and served a full five-year term, the only non-Congress Party to do so.
The Party has gained an absolute majority in this year’s general election, scooping 282 seats, marking a record. It was the first time since 1984 that a single party has had the right of rule on its own.
Conversely, the defeat for INC is far worse than what it has experienced in its long history of dominating Indian politics. The Party was wiped out in most States of North India, where it has had a stronghold for more than 60 years.
Corruption was only a part of the story of the defeat of the INC. People have been complaining about the deteriorating law and order situation, safety of women, rising prices, slowing growth and the general callous attitude of public servants.
As the Economist said, such voter grumpiness, usually summed up as ‘anti-incumbency,’ is inevitable for a Party that had been in power for a decade.
“Yet more has happened here. Take, for example, the utter defeat of the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati, the Dalit leader in Uttar Pradesh. She was not an incumbent and her party managed to collect some 20% of the votes cast in the State. Indeed, after the BJP, and Congress, it got the most votes nationally of any party in the election. Yet it failed to win a single constituency. By contrast, the BJP not only collected a huge tally of votes but also turned those efficiently into seats. With 31% of the national vote-share, they captured nearly 52% of the seats in Parliament.”
That suggests an important shift in Indian politics. The BJP did extraordinarily well because it approached the election in a far more professional, strategic and efficient way than its rivals did. The methods it employed were modern, and the skill at which Mr Modi and his fellow leaders conducted their campaigns rivalled the sort of performances put in by American presidential contenders (and with similar quantities of money to spend).
“Rahul Gandhi of Congress, in the end, proved to be a hopeless amateur, poorly advised without even decent media-management skills or the ability to present a strong campaign message. Many regional figures proved similarly out of date in their campaigning. The BJP’s roadshows and rallies, the door-knocking by volunteers, the influence on India’s press and television channels, the ability to set the agenda of discussion, all went to making the election a remarkably one-sided affair.”
The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, tendered his resignation on May 17, after his Party was flattened by the BJP in the State. Assam’s Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi (from Congress) also offered to quit. That was not because of anti-incumbency; voters in Bihar are happy with the work Mr Kumar has been doing, but because the BJP’s campaign was vastly superior.
To the disgusted and disgruntled public, Mr Modi appeared as the saviour, not with a magic wand, but with policies and programmes that would benefit common people.
The victory he achieved is more the result of his talk of strong government and improvements to the material lives of voters than anything else.
That is encouraging. It suggests that he will now seek to govern in a way that stimulates economic growth, job creation and better infrastructure, along with further reductions in poverty and inflation.
Shaping the future
Said the Economist: “Mr Modi has been dropping strong hints that he hopes to remain in power not only for the current five-year term, but to win re-election and reshape India’s economy and political landscape. In other words, he is considering his long-term prospects by keeping in mind the rise of a powerful new constituency that will only gather more influence as the years pass: the young, urban, educated and impatient set of voters who aspire for material gains to their lives.
So far so good. As the dust settles down with the euphoria gone, people would expect results. They would expect a clean administration that is free of corruption, red tape and unwanted systems and procedures in the modern era. They would expect Mr Modi to walk the talk and ensure that the economy picks up steam again.
Mr Modi would certainly have a Cabinet of capable ministers.
But a country is not run by Cabinet alone.
It is run by millions of people, including high-ranking bureaucrats, law enforcement officials, revenue collectors and other public servants. It is important that they realise their responsibilities and rise to the occasion.
On another note, corruption occurs not just because there is someone to receive but also because there is someone to give. It is essential to usher in a culture of accountability, transparency and integrity in all ranks of the Government.
People of India, indeed the world, will watch India with interest.