NEW DELHI: The word “landmark” is used rather too often to describe elections in India, but on May 16, 2014, even that word seemed insufficient. Even the normally over-enthusiastic exit polls were found to have underestimated the tectonic nature of the shift in Indian politics, as the pan-Indian electorate handed the most spectacular mandate to BJP’s man of the moment Narendra Modi, all set to be the country’s next Prime Minister.
It was a full harvest of firsts. The first time in independent India that a non-Congress party got a majority on its own. The BJP has 284 seats on its own (339 with allies), the first time a single party has won such a mandate since 1984. It is also the first time the Congress seems so decimated as to perhaps not even merit the Leader of Opposition status. That BJP won more seats in Uttar Pradesh (71) than the overall Congress tally of a mere 45 seats and a nought in 17 states and UTs, tells the story of an election that saw the most viciously fought, fractious and costliest campaign.
The BJP-led NDA with 339 seats and an overall vote share of 32.4 per cent as against 20.2 per cent of the vanquished Congress need not bother about any of its Plan B scenarios. No pesky deal-making with potentially troublesome allies. If they come, they’ll need to come on the BJP’s terms.
For the Congress, the future holds a bleak picture. Dissension over Rahul Gandhi’s clearly ineffective helmsmanship and a hard rethink over the utility of cohering around the Gandhi family — nothing can be ruled out now. Apportioning the bulk of blame on outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sheltering Rahul from the onus is a tactic that may not work with their own cadre, forget the aam aadmi.
Speaking of which, the new party on the block, the AAP, has made modest returns, but has given enough signals about both its intent to stay in the game and fight, and its potential for growth.
For the established parties outside of BJP, it was an AIADMK sweep in Tamil Nadu (37 of 39 seats), a relatively strong Trinamool showing in West Bengal (34 of 42), a TDP riding on BJP’s back in Andhra with a 16 seat-win and a confident BJD under Naveen Patnaik surviving a fourth term and cornering 19 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in Odisha.
Outside of that, the Left bloc, NCP, SP, BSP, RJD, JD(U) and even NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal faced a rather stern reality check with extremely below par performance being the norm.
But for now, all eyes will be on the BJP and its chosen mascot, Narendra Modi. For an election that was so unifocal, he is unlikely to be spared the attention in its aftermath.