The BJP won in Gujarat. Narendra Modi triumphed in Gujarat. The nuances of language are not lost in politics as in battle. Victory is the culmination of a series of strategic wins. Triumph was an ancient Roman public celebration to applaud the victory of a successful general. The Assembly poll results last week left no one in doubt that Gujarat was Modi’s triumph.
However, both the Prime Minister and the BJP have some points to ponder.
Does the BJP have an idea of India without Modi?
Is there an Idea of BJP in the Age of Modi?
Gujarat is indisputable Modi territory. However, the BJP’s tally dropped below the psychological mark of 100 for the first time. For a party battling incumbency lag for five terms, it was a creditable performance. But, it was clear there was no BJP wave in Gujarat. There was only a Modi wave. In the initial phases of counting, the Congress had even achieved a lead of 10 seats.
In Uttar Pradesh, from the first phase of counting to the last, the pace did not waver for a moment. But there, too, the BJP wave was riding on a Modi tsunami.
In the halcyon days of first victories, an ephemeral mantle of invincibility surrounds the winners, giving the victors the mystique of gods. Modi is the BJP’s divinity. But will the BJP be able to live in heaven without the Prime Minister’s charisma and service record keeping the angels on its side?
An idea lies at the root of an ideology. Hindutva is the BJP’s prana. But Moditva is an ideology on its own. In the orchestra of public perception, the Idea of Modi and the Idea of India have segued into one. As the PM emotionally told party MPs, “This is a big victory; we are now ruling 19 states. Even Indira Gandhi, when she was in power, was in 18 states.” Modi had bettered his political doppelganger. Thereby, he has given the BJP the advantage to go beyond ideology and capture the idea of India.
The saffron party has to be aware that Rahul Gandhi has also realised the power of Hindutva. Janeyu politics and temple visits in Gujarat were surprise elements which the Congress incorporated into its electoral optics. The party is making a bid for soft Hindutva—a secular version of religion most Indians are comfortable with.
The power of soft Hindutva was a strong factor that bought the BJP victory in cities, small towns and villages—combine with a belief that a non-corrupt government that understands the people will deliver prosperity. Both demonetisation and GST found traction in the Idea of Modi, yielding spectacular economic and electoral gains.
But the moral authority of soft Hindtuva is threatened by the fringe minority, which is threatening to hijack the mainstream by unleashing violence against Christmas and Urdu as blows struck in India’s name. Ignoring the fact that it was Modi, and Modi alone, who had declared war on Saffron Plus, some BJP chief ministers even debased themselves with abject capitulation and police action against the victims.
Meanwhile, the Congress lost in Gujarat and the dynasty won in the Congress. Rahul Gandhi nailed the presidentship—the sixth in his family to take the post. The defeat also came as a political gift to him, because a combo of soft Hindutva and caste-Hindutva got the Congress more seats in Gujarat than expected. The BJP, munching on the energy bar of Modi Power, can become the Idea of India in 2019 only with inclusive Hindutva as its core belief.