From Modi to Didi: What the 2019 Lok Sabha election results teach everyone

Amit Shah, Narendra Modi,
Photo: PTI.

After a torturous seven phase elections, spread over six weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is back with a bang with an increased majority.

A triumphant Modi delivering his second victory speech Thursday evening pledged that in “national interest he would take along everyone as the trust reposed by the electorate places increased responsibilities” on his shoulders.

Those sentiments will have more force if Modi leaves behind his campaign tactics, some of which were divisive and un-prime ministerial but were cleared by the Election Commission on mere technical grounds.

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Modi and his party chief Amit Shah have promised that despite BJP gaining a majority on its own it would still be an NDA coalition. The allies have spent the first five years clamouring for a modicum of recognition for being part of the team. They would be hoping to be heard this time.

This enormous victory should shut up senior leaders within BJP, including some cabinet ministers, who have been uncomfortable with the ways of the Modi-Shah duo. Hopefully they would get a voice rather than be forced to grin and bear it for the next five years.

Though BJP and RSS’s enormous organisational machinery helped Modi win this election, the reality is it’s been more a vote for Modi than a vote for BJP. In several constituencies in Hindi heartland it did not matter who the BJP candidate was, the only thing that mattered was Modi and they voted for him. Therefore the onus is on him to take along everyone.

Institutional degradation has been one of the recurring themes of the previous regime. The enforcement agencies such as CBI and ED were accused of acting in a partisan manner. Even Election Commission came under severe attack. National economic data that indicate crucial growth and unemployment figures too have been under a cloud for a while. Hopefully this would change.

Congress campaign met with dead end

But it’s not just Modi and Shah, the mandate has huge message for the Opposition as well. The biggest loser of this election is Rahul Gandhi and his Congress party. As a leader Rahul did manage to improve his image, but he still seems far off from establishing himself as a credible leader. His ‘chowkidar chor hai’ slogan, the love guru approach, his message for economic miracle etc seem to have all evaporated quickly. He and his sister Priyanka ran an enthusiastic campaign but met with a dead end.

Following the defeat there has been a rush of advice for the Gandhis. Some said they should have decided to work for “survival’ and not “revival” of the party. They should have tied up with regional parties such as SP, BSP and AAP even if that meant taking some losses. Rahul should not have called the prime minister ‘chor’, should not have run a ‘negative’ campaign on Rafale etc. Most of it sounds like hindsight wisdom in the wake of stunning results. But dissolving Congress party, as suggested by Yogendra Yadav, may not be the solution. Congress has to figure out how to reboot itself.

Decide who is your friend

The Left parties would be licking their wounds as they have been wiped out of Bengal and suffered a bloody nose in Kerala. The space vacated by the Left in Bengal is now being rapidly occupied by the BJP. The Left leadership should stop indulging in polemics of who is their true “enemy” or for that matter true “friend”. Party leader Prakash Karat has had quite a difficult time differentiating between the Congress and the BJP.

The message from the electorate is that the regional parties too must start behaving. The limitations of one-man-one-family show is starkly evident. In Uttar Pradesh even yadavs seem to have deserted Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party. His son Akhilesh will have to find a new narrative to keep his flock together.

In Telangana, within six months of a massive win in the Assembly elections, the electorate has delivered K Chandra Sekar Rao a stark message that he cannot take governance for granted. KCR had taken a month to constitute his cabinet after a decisive win in the Assembly elections.

The Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janta Dal have to quickly learn how to face the onslaught of the BJP. In the past they may have been pussyfooting with the saffron party, but now will have to redefine their politics and governance model as the electorate is looking out for alternatives. Amit Shah has warned that soon his election machinery would run over Bengal.

The dynasts must learn that they can’t take politics for granted. The entitlement politics so pervasive in India seem to have got a thumbs down. Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, K Kavita, Vaibhav Gehlot, Parth Pawar, Nikhil Kumaraswamy etc have lost. Interestingly, the slaying of dynasts has not happened across the spectrum. New dynasts such as Ravindranath from Tamil Nadu have survived.

Liberals should re-evaluate caste

Liberals would be trying to interpret the meaning of the mandate. They have to come to terms with new realities and find innovative ways to understand the message being delivered by “New India”. Religion and caste continue to play a role. They may have to draw a line between affirmative action for social uplift and its cynical exploitation merely to capture power.

After a bitter, battered, bruised and divided campaign, a new government would be in place soon. Is it naiveté to expect all this to happen? Hope springs eternal.

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