The May 23 results have exploded many political myths—that charisma of the Nehru-Gandhi family on voters is intact; that money, caste, religion, inheritance and muscle-power win elections; and that leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu and Naveen Patnaik who champion regional aspirations are invincible. It is not that these factors played no role. But it was heartening to see how voters stepped out of their resigned attitude to corruption, favouritism, tribal loyalties and fear of religious persecution to vote for NDA. What pleased more was the manner in which temple-hopping and calls from muezzins, priests and pundits were completely ignored while making a choice at the ballot box.
My recent visit to Jharkhand villages explained this turnaround quite neatly. The toilets, pucca houses, cooking gas, health benefits under Ayushman Bharat Yojana and financial benefit of `6,000 per year for farmers did the trick. Added to this, were vastly improved supply of electricity, extensive connectivity by road and the Mudra Yojana. Rafale, Hindutva, surgical strikes, Kashmir, GDP and the Constitution were of no concern to them.
NDA II needs only to ensure that these benefits cover all deserving Indians. It can also think of supplying sanitary pads to women for `1, like it did in the case of LED bulbs. This will overnight transform prevailing sense of personal hygiene in 80 percent homes in India. Two other areas—drinking water scarcity and education—also deserve to be tackled on war footing. Distressingly, even 72 years after Independence, only 7 percent Indians have access to safe drinking water. It’s a shame that calls for long-term solution. Another crying need is to rewrite books of history for schools that adequately reflect glory of our ancient civilisation, heroics of brave hearts who secured Bharat with their blood and sweat, and greatness of builders of our nation in the field of science, social service and economy.
In this context, PM Modi’s choice of cabinet is quite reassuring. He has suitably accommodated performers and given new entrants an opportunity to outperform his expectations. Since economy and foreign policy are his priorities, he has picked individuals who can work tirelessly to execute his vision and policies. The appointment of Amit Shah as Home Minister is particularly significant. It came more as a relief than surprise.
Shah faces several tough internal security challenges, mostly bad legacies of the past. The foremost among them is how to work around article 370 and 35A in order to make J&K meaningfully integrated with India economically and politically and, remove regional imbalances within the state. The other is how to push through the citizenship bill and make NRC compulsory for all states. His management skill will also be tested as and when Supreme Court delivers judgement on the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute. Alongside, he has to fight separatists, secessionists, Islamic extremists and Naxalites to finish. A squabbling nation will keenly watch as he tries to resolve each of these contentious issues. firstname.lastname@example.org