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Narendra Modi’s win and after

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-05-2014 Anil Padmanabhan

In less than three hours of vote counting, the writing is on the wall: The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is headed for the biggest win since the seminal victory the Congress party recorded in 1984.

In this moment of euphoria (especially with the Sensex breaching 25,000), it is a little difficult to coherently thread the implications of this verdict. That said, there are five broad conclusions that one can draw from the advance trends (an aside that the exit polls called it right: third-time lucky).

First, the most obvious, this has reinforced Narendra Modi’s claim to the unchallenged leadership of the BJP. In one fell blow, his critics, both within and outside the party, have been humbled. As a virtual outsider in Delhi, sans the usual familial connections, his arrival is a classic blow to the glass ceiling defined by the politics of privilege., the verdict marks a break in the Indian political story. It will be the first time that Indian politics will be bereft of the anchor provided by the Congress party. Not only does it raise serious questions about the future of the Congress party (or as in some quarters, its leadership under Rahul Gandhi), it also opens up the political space—entities like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may have found their moment.

Third, it is a resounding slap on the so-called secularism industry (I have no quarrel with those among us who legitimately fear that communal forces may get a fillip) representatives. Hopefully, it will take the discourse beyond divisive politics based on social identity. Throughout the campaign, the only response that BJP’s (rather Modi’s) opponents could serve up was to accuse the saffron party of communal acts of commission. Whether it be Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh Yadav—self-professed vanguards of the minorities—the outcome of the communalism vs aspiration debate has been identical. Worse, their campaign (and the response) has left the country on a communal edge.

Fourth, the verdict reiterates the message of aspiration. Despite the massive entitlements that the voters benefited from (150 million people were lifted out of poverty in the last 10 years), they eventually voted for the message of hope: the promise by Modi to deliver on aspirations. People have unambiguously signalled that they don’t want fish, instead they want to be taught how to fish.

This brings us to the final conclusion: the verdict will now test the ability of Modi to deliver on the promises that he served up as part of his compelling campaign. It is easier said than done. The economy is still dangerously poised, jobs are hardly being created and a high voltage campaign has stoked social tensions.

Clearly, Modi’s victory in the 16th general election is just the beginning of another more important battle, which promises to rewrite the contours of Indian polity.

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