While I write this column on Friday afternoon, history has been created. The BJP has won a majority on its own, the only party to do so after 1984. While the NDA has bagged 329 seats (at the time of writing). the Congress, with a tally of merely 53 seats, the lowest in its history, is heading for a disastrous rout. Looks like the Congress will have more members in Rajya Sabha than in Lok Sabha!
True to its traditions, the Congress, instead of introspecting, is busy shielding its first family. The buck for the stunning defeat, is sought to be passed to the “collective leadership”, a phenomenon which is alien to the party.
The election campaign was long and bitter. The one factor that distinguished this election from the past, however, was the Narendra Modi factor. Also, this election is a verdict on the performance of a government that has failed in every respect. The story of frustration of both the employed and unemployed, the broken aspirations of the young was the writing on the wall. The young constitute over 65 per cent of the electorate. The large turnout had only one message to convey—they spoke through the ballot. More so, when you had a specific alternative of a leader whose governance in the last 10-plus years in an educated and entrepreneurial state has made waves as far as in London and New York, Paris and Pittsburg, Berlin and Boston, yet he spoke only of the country’s roots, whether in Varanasi or in Vadodara. Perhaps one did not need psephology to guess what the electronic box brought out on Friday.
Some analysts at least have noticed that the one domino that should have been strutting from rally to rally in this election for the ruling coalition simply is largely absent. Outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh, who should have been defending his government and the Congress party, was largely absent from the dust and din. Why? An honest reply to this question explains the rout of Congress at the hustings.
This absence in a way is all that needs to be said of his leadership of the government—or rather the lack of it. It is sad for a man of such reputation for personal integrity that his government has become a byword for endemic corruption and crony capitalism.
The tragedy of the diarchy that was practised in the Congress with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi taking all the decisions and cabinet ministers even looking to the well-defined “Ma-Beta” duo for guidance skirting the PM has now been told by many who worked in the government.
First came The Accidental Prime Minister by Singh’s chosen press adviser Sanjaya Baru. Then the skeletons rolled out of the former coal secretary’s book. More insiders are coming out with the truth of a Congress president running the Prime Minister’s Office often even behind the economist PM’s back. The secret in all governments everywhere is that all their secrets are very soon talk of the town. Even his own cabinet ministers are now admitting that Singh was too uncommunicative. Rahul Gandhi repeated ad nauseam that under the UPA regime, 170 million people were lifted out of poverty and that his party was going to give more sops to the poor. He failed to recognise that India has changed and more than 30 per cent of the population now lives in cities where the aspirations of people at all levels have risen. With urban as well as rural unemployed thirsting for spending more on learning skills, their capability to afford more skills is severely eroded by inflation eating into their family incomes. The result is deepening frustration. Sops like even food entitlements at low prices make no impact on them.
The poor do not want more sops; they are looking for opportunities. The Congress should have known this when the last set of state Assembly elections got the party nowhere despite the unfurling of the food security legislation.
On why the party failed to read the writing on the wall, the best explanation I have heard is that most of the partymen were looking for favours from the first family that held all the strings and not to the grass roots where the voters lay.
Why was it that the young in droves followed Modi’s rallies and technology marvels of reaching out though he himself is now middle-aged, while the projection of Rahul Gandhi as leader of the Congress in his early 40s failed to generate the same exuberance?
In a country of 1.2 billion that now flaunts 950 million mobile phones, of which the young are mostly using the new wave of smart phones, it was not the young Rahul Gandhi who was seen as technology savvy but Modi whose reaching out image was magnified by the holograms, the social sites of the emerging cyber land, the common chai parties and in myriad other meeting places apart from rallies.
Technology has captured the public imagination, especially of the young 65 per cent voters in the 15-35 age group and Modi showered his message of hope by reaching out to the imagination of a bulk of the new voters.
Against this, the Congress was seeking to resell the tired old communalism versus secularism slogan. Modi’s was the message of hope, the “Ma-beta” duo was raising the message of fear. The outcome of this election has been foreseen not only in the pre- and exit polls but in every visible institution of the people, in tea shops, chaupals, college campuses, on riverfronts and boats.
The BJP-led government has to live up to the decisiveness that people expect of it. It must act against the cronies who made fortunes out of scrambling for the nation’s natural wealth. It must curb the imports that have destroyed millions of workshops that used to meet the demand for many consumer items.
It is not reservations for a few but a surge of opportunities for the many that must be created enabling the entrepreneurial talent of millions to surge like a wave that lifts all boats. People will look to it to use heavy hand to curb the Islamist terror on the one hand and the extremist Maoist challenge to the State on the other.
The NDA government has to establish a respect for law, including the law on capital punishment to the guilty. It is our decisiveness in policy at the central government level that will make our neighbouring governments respect us rather than take us for granted as they do now.
Above all, the BJP will be the only party that will convey to everyone in the world that what it says would be what it means to implement. The BJP’s win is a political outcome of what the bulk of India’s people have seen in Modi as decisiveness in every aspect of government policy.
Balbir Punj is National Vice President, BJP. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org