A New Era

As we are all reeling under the hangover of the election results and mulling over the statistics and brass tacks of the percentages, it’s a good time to do some reflection on what happened and what’s ahead.

The tsunami, or rather tsunamo as it is being called, has swept the nation. Barring a few states, the whole of India was brought under the spell of the hypnotist called Narendra Damodardas Modi. His campaign was one of the greatest shows seen in Indian elections. Congress’ ouster was their worst ever performance. They should do themselves a favour by going into a very long huddle now.

This victory wasn’t without its scars. Modi’s role or the lack of it in the 2002 elections hasn’t vanished with this stupendous victory. Amit Shah’s record in human rights violations is still going to be questioned albeit feebly. How many of these allegations are intentionally slapped by the UPA or genuine we don’t know. With this result, perhaps we’ll never know. The elusive apology that every member of the intelligentsia has been demanding from Modi is never going to come. Even this campaign had a tinge of polarisation in parts of the country where they thought it was necessary. The fringe players such as Giriraj Singh and Ramdev showed some abrasive side. Some implicit polarisation was conveyed to the electorate. As a result, the new parliament is going to have the lowest number of Muslims MPs since independence.

With quiet, backroom communalisation, Modi is going to take charge. It remains to be seen what other subtle activities are going to be initiated against the already insecure minority.

Having said all that, this election has created history on several counts. With Congress suffering its worst ever defeat, the Indian people have clearly spelled their anger with the outgoing government. They have told them, in no uncertain terms, they will not tolerate such brazen corruption, inaction, policy paralysis and remote control management. In these ten years, not once has Sonia Gandhi conducted a proper press conference where she answered the questions of correspondents. Every good thing such as MNGREA or RTA was attributed to her and every bad thing such as CWG and 2G was attributed to Manmohan Singh. People, of course, saw through these cheap tactics. Rahul Gandhi was exposed as an immature, clueless leader. The Indian electorate has shown that just the possession of blue blood alone is not going to count. Some of the disruptive state players such as Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayavati, Laloo Yadav and Karunanidhi have been put in their place. The victory has been decisive, and in places such as the UP, thumping. This is the first time a non-Congress party has won full majority. For all intents and purposes, this is the first time it is going to be ruled by the Right.

That’s exactly what concerns many people. With his majority, would Modi try to bring in Uniform Civil Code? Would he abolish Article 370? Would he attempt to build the Ram Temple on the grave of Babri Masjid? Would the minority communities be targeted? Would India be rechristened as Hindu Rashtra?

Well, first off, his majority in Lok Sabha is not sufficient enough to implement their Hindutva Agenda. All these other changes* require constitutional amendment for which the government would need two-thirds majority in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, lower and upper houses. Currently the BJP doesn’t have majority in the upper house and they would need the support of their alliance partners to pass any crucial bill through. It would take about two to three years for the BJP to acquire sufficient majority in Rajya Sabha** and even if BJP attempts to pass any of these bills, when it goes to the president for his assent, he can either return it to the cabinet for reconsideration or sit on it for as long as he wants. There is no explicitly specified deadline for how quickly the president needs to approve the bills. Also, by that time, there would be so many street protests in the country about the proposed bill, by the media, by the civil society and by the affected communities that the government would have no option but to withdraw the bill. And in his government would face a crushing defeat in the following elections.

The question is, whether Narendra Modi would squander his fame, name and this hard-won victory for some useless ideologies that were thought up by some RSS ideologue decades ago? Would the selfie-clicking and video-conferencing tweeter take seriously what MS Golwalkar wrote in the 75 years ago? I think Modi clearly knows that these items in the Hindutva shopping list are actually tokenisms and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Instead, there might be some concession allotted to the Hindutva mongers. There will be some tinkering here and there in the school syllabus, a memorial or two for their heroes, some bellicose attitude against Pakistan, etc., but largely the focus would be on the economy, job creation and infrastructure building. He would keep himself busy in large infra-structure projects, trade agreements and capital-intensive investments. The focus would be on making the establishments in Delhi less bureaucratic and land and labour reforms more liberal. Mind you, these reform measures have their own drawbacks. Large infrastructure projects will have ecological impact, the labour reforms would send the labours crying foul and the land reforms might end up helping the crony capitalists. But then, can we think of any economic initiative that wouldn’t have any side effects?

What we can clearly expect is that these initiatives would be rapidly decided and swiftly implemented. Modi would be aware of the pressure he is under, and therefore be as decisive as required. With this mandate, the disruptive forces within his party also won’t have much say. If we were to go by the reports, Modi doesn’t give much heed to RSS anyway. It has been Amit Shah who was bridging the gap between the two. At least for the first five years, RSS is likely to give him a free hand.

Above all else, the paralysis called the Gandhi Family that’s been gripping the Delhi administration has gone. Now the policy decisions can be freely made. The question of whether the Congress government’s economic decisions are called Leftward, Rightward or Centre Left are all gone. There’s no confusion now. Modi’s economic agenda is clearly on the Right. Whether some of us appreciate right-wing policy or not, we can debate that on the gallery, but we can’t deny that he has got a clear mandate to pursue his agenda. As mentioned earlier India never had a clear right-wing government. Even Vajpayee, the first BJP Prime Minister, was actually called Nehruvian by many. So, for the first time in India’s independent history, a decisively right-wing government is going to take over, that too with a clear majority. A new leaf has been turned in the economic history of India. It may not be good for everybody, but no economic ideology is. What we can surely say is that a new era has begun. So far, since the results are declared Modi has been saying the right things and making the right gestures. We will soon come to know whether the good times have come, acche din sach much aa gaye hain ya nahin.

 

* Ram Temple doesn’t require constitutional amendment, but the disputed land is currently in the control of Supreme Court and no construction activity can be taken up there. The government can wrest the control back, but, to take back the land from the court, the government would have to pass a resolution in Parliament with two-thirds majority in both the houses.

** As the tenure of many of the Rajya Sabha MPs end and more new MPs can be sent from the BJP ruled states thereby increasing their tally.