The landslide victory that Narendra Modi has eventually notched up in the 16th Lok Sabha elections has stunned one and all. That the BJP under Modi was placed in the most advantageous position in this election was well known. As the main opposition party it was expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the vacuum created by the UPA government what with its record of massive scams, soaring prices and an utterly unresponsive and incommunicative leadership represented by the troika of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. But Modi had the blessing of many more factors. The explicit corporate preference for a stable Modi-led government, the loud pro-Modi campaign by almost the entire spectrum of the corporate media, a massive propaganda blitzkrieg most lavishly funded by corporate India, a highly determined RSS-BJP network on the ground and the highest all-India voter turnout till date all contributed to the final one-sided outcome.
Of course, the Modi vote is still not more than 31% (or 38.5% if we include the votes of the allies, but then the allies also have their contribution in the BJP’s own vote-share), and it has brought to the fore the inherent anomaly and imbalance in the first-past-the-post system where the winner takes all, and millions of votes go unrepresented. There is indeed an urgent need for electoral reforms to counter the inherent imbalance and disparity within the existing system by introducing measures like a proportional representation system, strict limits on expenses incurred by parties, and stopping of opinion polls after announcement of elections and so on. But in the immediate political context, there can be no overlooking the fact that the BJP has expanded its network on a really all-India scale and its growing influence in states like Assam, West Bengal and even Kerala surely merits serious attention. Instead of remaining complacent with the 69% figure that did not vote for Modi, it is important to carry the message of alternative politics to sections of the 31% who voted for Modi.
What are the implications of such an emphatic Modi victory? The manufacturers and marketers of pro-Modi ‘consent’ keep telling us that the Modi campaign has been all about ‘development’. They would like us to forget not just Gujarat but also Muzaffarnagar and the communal vitriol that formed such a key component of the campaign rhetoric. The buzz now is that post May 16 we already have a different Modi at the helm – one who breaks down in the middle of a speech and reveals his ‘softer side’, who speaks the language of ‘inclusion’ and ‘moderation’ and is eager to reach out to the 69% who did not vote for him, who is benevolent and determined enough to bring betterment in the lives of 1.25 billion Indians. The invitation to SAARC heads of state to grace the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as India’s latest Prime Minister is also being touted as a new and imaginative approach to peace and cooperation with all our neighbouring countries.
Given the ideology of the RSS, the history of the BJP and the ominous record of Modi’s own Gujarat model which will now be sought to be replicated on an all-India scale, the claims of pro-Modi propagandists will hardly inspire confidence in people who have been at the receiving end of the Sangh brigade’s hate politics and who can see the organic links between India’s crony capitalism, the old feudal-patriarchal mindset and the Modi variety of politics of ‘law and order’ and ‘corporate-led development’ encapsulated it his slogan ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. But we must also acknowledge the rise of young generations not very aware of the real politics of the BJP-RSS, who can only develop their ideas of democracy, justice and progress through their own political experience. Among those most willing to give Modi a chance have been sizable sections of India’s youth, and India has no other option but to go through this phase.
If the experience of 13 years of Modi rule in Gujarat is anything to go by, we must remain vigilant against the danger of an amplified ‘Gujarat model’. It is significant that even as Modi has been anointed PM there are serious cases pending against him in connection with the Gujarat genocide and the Supreme Court has passed two key judgements against the Gujarat government while acquitting Muslims framed in Akshardham blasts and annulling a land deal cleared by Modi’s successor in Gujarat, Anandi Ben Patel. The Gujarat model has been all about the power of an unfettered crony capitalism and systematic suppression and subversion of various institutions and wings of the state apparatus. The danger of such sinister trends manifesting themselves on an amplified all-India level is certainly a real threat that calls for powerful public vigilance and the courage and readiness to resist any assault on democracy, India’s cultural diversity and the people and their rights.
While confronting the implications and challenges of Modi’s landslide electoral victory, we must never lose sight of the political vacuum created by a rapidly declining Congress and an increasingly stagnant stream of identity-politics or what is commonly described as the camp of social justice. The need of the hour is to develop a progressive democratic alternative to fill this vacuum. The coming days will call for still more planned and determined work among the masses and agitation on their key issues; patient, persuasive and lively interaction with the young generations, and certainly wider communication and cooperation with various progressive democratic streams and forces of people’s struggles..