THE AUDACITY OF HOPE

After the soaring mandate, and expectations from Modi to hit the ground running, the government’s responsibility to usher in a new dispensation of reforms and governance has never been greater

Sanjay Kapoor Delhi 

The forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan is an expanse of red clay, normally used for the ceremonial welcome of visiting dignitaries. On May 26, around 6 pm, when Omita Paul, Secretary to the President of India, stood up to seek his permission to begin the oath-taking of the ministers from the recently-elected National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the air amongst the 4,000-strong audience was rent with the same slogans and excitement that had propelled the BJP candidate, Narendra Modi to a stunning electoral victory.

Couched in this historic moment was not just the promise of hope, but also deep forebodings about the future, aggravated by a divisive election campaign that exposed the fault lines in our society as well as body politic. How to interpret the mandate would depend not just on Modi, but also those who displayed their triumphalism at
Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Nattily dressed in an off-white ensemble of kurta, churidar -pajama and a Nehru jacket, Modi seemed uncertain about the kind of expression he should have while taking oath. Appearing tough and resolute as he looked up from the sheet of paper from which he was reading out his oath, he must have realized that this audience was vastly different from those who attended his 400-odd rallies, in his determined march to this very forecourt. There were not just the outgoing UPA leadership, but also heads of state of seven SAARC countries who had pleasantly accepted his invitation. There were also the big boys of Indian industry, who had endorsed him with their hands, feet and ample purses, to see the back of the UPA government that had brought them grief, misery, embarrassment and CBI cases. Also present were the dharma gurus who came with their fancy hairdos and religious paraphernalia. As also the top apparatchik from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who had worked tirelessly to help Modi and the BJP realize this impossible dream.

As darkness descended, the grandeur on Raisina Hill stood out in all its creative illumination. As the swearing- in of the rest of the council of ministers ended, and Modi occupied the dais to greet the SAARC leaders, it was apparent this was his moment, in both light and shade. Unmindful of the occasion, as some people shouted “Bharat mata ki jai!” and “Har har Modi!”, it was easy to comprehend why the war cry of his spectacular campaign was resonating in the stiff, protocol-regulated environment. For those who may have been overwhelmed by the occasion, the noisy brigade spoke volumes about Modi’s RSS and nationalist moorings and how he would govern the country.

There is little denying the role the RSS has played in getting their favourite protégé elected to this job. It worked itself to a standstill, cognizant of the threats to its existence if the BJP did not come to power on its own. The joyful countenance of Indresh Kumar, a senior RSS leader once interrogated by the CBI for his alleged involvement in Hindutva terror cases, made clear what Modi’s elevation meant to him personally and in the organization. Modi may have soldiered on from one rally to the other, but it was the RSS volunteers – buoyed by a friendly media – that turned the support for the PM candidate into a tidal wave. Booth management was not simply one of the tasks they had undertaken; the RSS pracharaks used all their networks to pull out voters in states where the BJP was in power. Even in states where they did not have enough presence, they pulled in sizeable votes. The BJP may have managed to get a 31 per cent vote share, but their strike rate in BJP-ruled states was murderous. The Congress couldn’t get a single seat in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh or Goa. In most states, the BJP managed to get in excess of 50 per cent votes, while the Congress came a distant second. Compared to its performance in the assembly elections, the Congress had slipped ignominiously. So rapid was its decline that in about 240 seats, the winner piled on, on average, 1.75 lakh more votes. Although 69 per cent of the people of India did not vote for Modi and the BJP, the party managed to win seats literally from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Even in states where they did not win many seats, the vote share had increased considerably.

Besides the hugely successful pitch of development, the BJP benefited from the consolidation of the Hindu vote against what was dressed up as policies of secular parties to appease the minorities. This consolidation not only took place in Western Uttar Pradesh, where communal riots played a major role, but in other parts of the country too. There was a feverish mood in the majority community that wanted to punish the Congress for being allegedly pro-Muslim. There are about 200+ parliamentary seats that have more than 10 per cent Muslim votes, which are crucial in deciding the outcome. This time around, the BJP got a majority of these seats. So intense was the polarization that no Muslim could win a seat from UP. Their representation in Parliament has come down to just 21 seats – the lowest since 1952. In the last Parliament, there were 30 Muslims in
the House.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JUNE 2014