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Mainstream, VOL. 52, No. 21, May 17, 2014

Modi Wins Massive Anti-Congress Mandate

Monday 19 May 2014

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

The verdict is out. It is a decisive victory for Narendra Modi rather than for the BJP or the NDA. The Congress has suffered defeat of a magnitude that its worst opponents could not anticipate. The Left has been all but wiped out. There is no denying the fact that Modi did succeed in creating a groundswell of support for him. The youth believed he was the Messiah who would deliver them from poverty, hunger and joblessness. Whether and if so how far he would be able to fulfil these expectations the future alone would tell. At the moment Modi is poised to become the next Prime Minister with his party, the BJP, alone commanding a majority in the Lok Sabha, without having to depend on the allies in the NDA.

The Congress defeat can be directly attributed to the performance—or the lack of it—of the UPA Government led by Manmohan Singh. The series of mega-scams, uncontrolled price rise of all essential commodities, the virtual collapse of the public distribution system, and the constant denigration of all the constitutional authorities by arrogant Congress Ministers whenever these auth-orities pointed out the UPA Government’s profligacy or collusion in corruption—all these turned the people against the Congress, the centrepiece of the UPA. It is the party now which will have to atone for the sins of the government.

At this moment it is worth recalling what Mahatma Gandhi said about the future of the Congress. Writing three days before he fell to the assassin’s bullets on January 30, 1948, the Mahatma warned the Congress that: “A living organism ever grows or it dies. The Congress has won political freedom, but it has yet to win economic freedom, social and moral freedom. These freedoms are hardest than the political...... In its difficult ascent to democracy, it (the Congress) has inevitably created rotten boroughs, leading to corruption and creation of institutions, popular and democratic, only in name...... The Congress business should be to see that no faked name gets in and no legitimate name is left out. On its own register, it will have a body of servants of the nation...... Thus, and in no other way, can the Congress regain its fast-ebbing unique position in the country...... If it engages in the ungainly skirmish for power, it will find one fine morning that it is no more.”

Perhaps that morning has arrived. If the Con-gress is to be revived, if it is to regain its politi-cal relevance, if it is to become an instrument of social change once again, it has first to disengage itself from the albatross hanging round its neck—the legacy created and left behind by Manmohan Singh. The Congress has to return to its Nehruvian moorings—of a vibrant participation of the state in economic activities, of following an independent foreign policy, reversing the policy of a free market economy in which the corporates dominate and the state either plays the second fiddle or does not have any role at all.

Whether the Congress will be able to do this or is at all willing to do this, remains to be seen. Otherwise, its difference with the BJP will be obliterated. The two parties will come to be perceived as the obverse and reverse of the same coin—one inefficient and the other energetic and efficient.

On their part Narendra Modi and the BJP can legitimately claim that they have never concealed their politics and their political aims. They have openly campaigned for a majoritarian, non-inclusive brand of politics. What the top leaders of the party refrained from speaking out, was left to the lesser luminaries to articulate, like Giriraj Singh saying all terrorists belong to one particular community. Nobody asked him whether Yasin Bhatkal and Swami Assemanand belonged to the same comm-unity. Modi himself, during his campaigning in West Bengal, openly called for the ouster of Bengalis of Bangladeshi origin. He was roundly rebuffed by Mamata Banerjee who dared him to deport a single Bengali to Bangladesh.

Talking of Mamata, she and Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu are the two leaders who stopped the Modi juggernaut in their respective States. In West Bengal, Modi’s deliberate attempt at dividing the electorate on communal lines backfired. It led to the massive mobilisation of the minority vote behind the Trinamul Congress. But Modi did succeed partially in polarising the Hindu vote. This enabled the BJP to win a couple of seats in the State. Many from the Left camp openly worked for the BJP and voted for it. To them, Mamata was a bigger enemy and a greater danger than Modi. Their ludicrous propaganda that Mamata will join the NDA after the elections and that her tirade against Modi was a ‘got-up’ game had no effect on the Muslim voters as the poll results hasve proved. The Left did equally badly in its other citadel, Kerala. The revival of the Left depends on whether it can discard its discredited leaders with myopic vision and pass on the baton to the next generation.

As for the Modi-led BJP, it must be conceded that there was a veritable Modi tsunami accross the country, especially in the Hindi heartland in its entirety, not just the Hindi-speaking States where it was in power. In the two major Hindi-speaking States of Bihar and UP (accounting for as many as 120 seats) it literally swept the polls. Its resounding victories in Maharashtra and Karnataka too were noteworthy. According to well-informed observers, a large part of Modi’s success in north India (in Bihar and UP in particular) was attributable to consolidation of Hindu votes due to communal polarisation, in which Modi’s accomplice, Amit Shah, as the party’s election manager in UP, played a pivotal role. No wonder minorities, mainly the Muslims, are feeling apprehensive after the results have come out. And the secular democrats are also deeply concerned

The people know nothing about Modi’s foreign policy, especially with regard to India’s immediate neighbours—Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mayanmar and Nepal. In all these countries, China is trying to widen its influence. The BJP Government will have to tread carefully in the domain of foreign policy. But its litmus test will be the economic policy. The massive support that the corporate sector gave Modi and the way they funded his campaign (in which astronomical sums were spent in the run-up to the polls) indicate that Modi will follow the neo-liberal policy of Manmohan Singh with greater zeal. The corporates decided to back Modi to the hilt because they were certain that he won’t suffer from the policy paralysis that afflicted Manmohan Singh and will more aggressively suppress the anti-multinational and anti-corporate struggles of the indigenous people and those leading them.

How the Modi Government treats the States ruled by non-BJP parties and handles Centre-State relations will be watched carefully because the Narendra Modi-led BJP will be quite substantially different from the NDA headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee a decade ago.

May 16 B.D.G.