Mainstream, VOL LII, No 25, June 14, 2014
2014 General Elections marked a Watershed in India’s Post-independence Political History
Saturday 14 June 2014, by
For the first time a non-Congress political party, the BJP, was able to get an absolute majority on its own in Parliament. The BJP had in the past—first for 13 days, then for 13 months, and later for a full term—formed governments but those were in alliance with a multiplicity of regional parties (some 24). The present victory is unprecedented. It has given the opportunity to the BJP to form a government without depen-dence on its allies some of whom proved unreliable.
Reflecting on the results of the 2014 elections, it comes out that ‘stable government’ was the most important issue in the mind of the electorate which gave a nationwide mandate to the BJP for formation of a stable government. The people in all parts of the country and all sections of society were uneasy with instability which had troubled governments over a quarter-century and made them weak and indecisive that increasingly made for ‘policy paralysis’—a general term for hesitant governance—leading to stagnation in the economy and lack of job creation on the one hand, and relentless inflation and mega corruption on the other. People felt that only a stable government can deal with the problems facing the people.
People did not have confidence that any party would give them a strong government. It goes to the credit of Narendra Modi that he gave them that confidence. Modi was first named a year ago by the BJP as its chief election campaigner and later as the prime ministerial nominee. He had been elected thrice as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and had given stable govern-ments there. Gujarat prospered with commendable growth in the economy. Investment was attracted to Gujarat. Big businesses greatly appreciated the investment climate provided by the Modi Government in Gujarat. Once he was nominated as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, he went full steam with whirlwind tour all over the country addressing hugely attended mass meetings where he gave the message of ‘development’ and ‘good governance’. His assurance of job creation and skill development particularly appealed to the youth of the country. The Opposition parties and some sections of the media tried to malign Modi endlessly harping on the carnage of 2002 in Gujarat for which they fixed the blame on him despite the finding to the contrary of the Special Investigation Team and the pronoun-cement of the criminal court. Obviously the electorate, particularly the youth, preferred to look at the future than perpetually harping on the past. With stability people looked for progress which they expected under Modi’s leadership.
Modi ran a presidential type of campaign asking voters to vote for him—not only for the BJP whose prime ministerial nominee he was. His addresses at mass meetings were widely broadcast on TV channels. Modi also used 3D technique for nationwide reach. The appeal was for voting in the ‘Modi Sarkar’. The electorate responded to the appeal. There was indeed a Modi wave though doubts were expressed about the existence of such a wave.
With absolute majority—282 on its own and 336 for the NDA—Modi can form his Council of Ministers and allot portfolios without bargain-ing and compromises which dogged government formation in the recent past and detracted from good governance. He can choose his Ministers on merit and form a cohesive and effective Council of Ministers.
Modi would not face a strong Opposition with the Congress party reduced to 44, a little more than the two regional parties, AIADMK and Trinamul Congress. Modi caustically obser-ved—he might have been graceful in avoiding doing so—that there was need for coalition in the Opposition.
With absolute majority gained on the basis of the presidential-style campaign and a weak Opposition, there is reason to fear that the authoritarian tendencies, which he has been accused of, might come into play. Modi has to save himself from the authoritarian tendencies which can have harmful results. Legitimate concerns may be overlooked and roughly brushed aside but that would not make for good governance.
It must be pointed out that Modi is the first person who has risen to the position of the Prime Minister without any experience of working in the Union Government. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Vajpayee had never worked in State govern-ments. Moraraji Desai and Narasimha Rao had been Chief Ministers of their States but had years of experience in important Ministries in the Union Government. The canvas of the Union Government is much wider than that of the State governments and the problems far more complex, and policy-making and planning are on a much larger scale than in the States. No doubt experience of State administration can come in handy but Modi would have to make deliberate efforts to understand the working of a Central Government with its vast Ministries—each is an empire on its own. On the other hand Modi can be more useful in coordinating the work of the Union Government and that of the State governments. For long the States have felt that the Union Government has been indifferent to the requirements of States. In a federal polity of India it is extremely important that the Union and State governments work in unison and Modi, with his long experience as the Chief Minister of a State, can achieve this much better than what existed in the past. The Central Government can provide a truly federal governance in the country.
For effective government it is necessary to eschew ‘remote control’ such as the one which, it was widely believed, weakened Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister and downgraded his role as the ultimate authority in government. Would Modi also have the remote control of the RSS, as is suggested? If that happens it would surely detract from Modi’s performance as the Prime Minister. Modi would have to restore the institution of the Prime Minister as primus inter pares in the government.
Formerly Secretary to the Government of India and Vice-Chancellor, Goa University, Dr P.R. Dubhashi, IAS (Retd.), is currently the Chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Pune Kendra. He can be contacted at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org