Monday 23 May 2022
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Hope wins

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And despair loses. Braving vicious criticism and slander of political rivals and a hostile media spanning more than 12 years, a man of humble origins, after staying undefeated in his home State of Gujarat for three terms, has led his party to a resounding victory across India. Such has been the prevalence of Narendra Damodardas Modi over the minds of the voters that, even in places where the Bharatiya Janata Party has little organisational presence, its candidates have either won or have come at a striking distance of victory. The jarring note struck by party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani was unwarranted. The contribution of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that he wished to credit the triumph to was at his disposal, too, five years ago. Neither could he inspire the same degree of confidence in the swayamsevaks, nor did the youth of the country back him as they have rallied behind Modi this time. If the octogenarian politician wants an analysis of the BJP attaining absolute majority on its own strength, it is simple: An aspiring India wanted a vision and hope for tomorrow, not an uncommunicative government seen to be complicit in acts of corruption, and not a whining newbie who couldn’t stand the success of industrialisation or appreciate the benefits accrued on ordinary citizens as a result. The want of development has been so telling that Dalits have abandoned the Bahujan Samaj Party, Other Backward Classes — including the Yadavs — have deserted the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the BJP candidates have won in more than 20 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh where Muslims either dominate or give electoral results a decisive turn. Politicians in the Northeast had so far been either of the Congress or of its allies. Now they have sent BJP representatives to Parliament. If free and fair elections could be conducted in West Bengal, the pan-India winner’s tally in the State could well have been better. Karnataka has been won back after it rejected the party at the Assembly elections. The National Democratic Alliance has done well in the so far undivided Andhra Pradesh with ally in the State, the Telugu Desam Party, making psephologists’ favourite YSR Congress head Jagan Reddy concede it was “Modi wave” that sunk his party. Tamil Nadu and Kerala stayed distant, but raised futuristic hope for the BJP. Even the so-called alienated Jammu & Kashmir has sent to the Lok Sabha 3 BJP legislators. In the rest of the country, it is almost a clean sweep.

The decimation of the Indian National Congress in Election 2014 must force the oldest party’s members into a huddle for introspection. Brain-storming sessions should deal with two fundamental questions at the least. First, even if the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is essential to keep the organisation cohesive and unidirectional, has it electorally turned into a liability? Second, if market-friendliness makes the INC look indistinguishable from the BJP, should it not adopt a subsidy-free, alternative form of socialism that would serve as a distinct ideology marker? If China is mentioned in debates to make the point that communism has survived, and some identify Singapore as a socialist state, should the INC advocate enforced capitalism under a terrifying raj, or benign socialism of Scandinavian and some other European countries? That the United Progressive Alliance Government II enjoyed freedom from leftist allies’ obstructionism and yet continued with the policies of I proved the INC was characteristically socialist and not a compelled one. For the sake of looking different from the BJP, this policy of the INC must continue, but it badly needs a new avatar. For the biggest loser of these polls as well as the defeated regional players, a silent prayer would also be in place: May there not be so much of development, growth and inclusivity in the next five years that coming back to power at the Centre would become as onerous for them as it has been for the INC in Gujarat!

For the BJP, celebrations should be short lived. The new government has the task of extricating the people from depression borne out of a sluggish economy cut out. As the new government is expected to unleash massive infrastructure growth, a sustainable land and water policy and a pledge to conserve the ecology are imperatives. Thereafter, its core supporter base will question why the party is not pushing the long-demanded Uniform Civil Code and abrogation of Article 370 despite its comfortable majority. That the Treasury Benches would need sufficient numbers in the Rajya Sabha, too, is a technicality that will not calm the Sanghis. The BJP Government must, therefore, tread the path carefully, beginning with convincing the minority community that a standardised code for all Indians would not be a Hindu code; rather, the best from all Personal Laws would be incorporated. Since Muslims all over the country are not losing sleep over the status of Jammu & Kashmir, its complete integration with mainland India is no communal issue either. It is only the Sanghis demand in Ayodhya that ordinary Hindus who have voted for the Modi-led BJP — not as Hindus but as Indians looking for a vibrant tomorrow — may find a divisive, undesirable agenda. It is best avoided also because a truly secular state is not supposed to indulge in building or destroying places of worship of any faith whatsoever. As an OBC, Modi has been a great leveller as he rose through the ranks of a Brahmin-Bania dominated party. The advantage of this example of social justice ought not to stop with the elections. Modi must launch affirmative action programmes that go beyond reservations in education and employment to offer the downtrodden untouched by quota opportunities to live with dignity like the rest of the population. Since Modi has taken a sacred vow — appreciably so — not to do things separately for communities, he must address the concerns of vocations that typically observe huge minority participation. Enhanced business opportunities for weavers, for example, will benefit the Ansaris. Increased income and security for fishermen in coastal Kerala will draw Christians of the region closer to the perceptibly party. Incentives to artisans and craftsmen will similarly help some castes or some communities in particular. Finally, the fresh dispensation owes to the coming generations world class education and an era of excellence in science and technology.

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