Stunning Modi victory whets people for more;
Must redraw the economic contours
The BJP, no Narendra Modi, has stunned the world. Resounding victory touching 352 plus is a rare feat. The spread is stunning as the fortress West Bengal collapses.
Indian elections are known to spring surprises. Each parliamentary election, except for the first four since 1952, has been different. Each of it has shown the electorate maturing and taking decisions that have surprised the world, even when literacy was low.
Would Modi now be doing so in the economy too? That’s what party men are discussing. The last five years were a mixed bag even with a difficult if not earthshaking demonetization. Everyone now awaits a new economy, a different economy that is not a shadow of Manmohanomics.
The 2019 elections would be remembered for a different reason. It has returned an incumbent BJP-led NDA government, which was facing tough and at times vulgar and abusive criticism of the opposition conglomerate.
The split opposition led by Congress that ruled the country for over 50 years has been vituperative in a bid to revive itself. Congress president Rahul Gandhi lost his family seat of Amethi to BJP’s Smriti Irani. Rahul, however, won from a seat he also contested from Kerala in the south and has offered to quit party presidentship.
It shows that people have lost faith in the caste and one-man parties – SP, BSP, RLD, RJD, NCP, TDP. It is a failure of the political class who had been fooling people to fill up their family coffers. Process for democratic correction has begun.
The SP and BSP has lost credibility among its caste followers and so has the Jat lord Ajit Singh and his Jayant Chaudhury. The voters have called the bluff.
They penetrated Trinamool Congress and Left fortified West Bengal to win 16 seats. TMC could survive polarized Bengal possibly because for religious polarization and Mamata’s scientific and violent rigging.
The RLD has been virtually wiped off Bihar. It also shows whatever it is some leaders good or bad matter for political existence. Incarceration of Laloo Yadav shattered RLD fate. If not leader the party ought to have a credible ideology.
The BJP and its allies sail with it for an ideology that may be less understood but wins popular support. It is aspirational. It is like the Hindu religious promise of a wonderful life. Did not Marxism survive for 63 years, in the glory of Soviet Union almost for a similar promise?
That is the challenge for an ideology. It has to be a paradise nothing less than that. The BJP now faces the toughest challenge. Mere booth management does not win polls, it realized in the three state polls in December 2018. A correction today has led it to win 62 of the 65 seats. Devastated Congress managed with three.
Except in southern states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Andhra and Telangana, the BJP devastated the opposition. Good. But that is a limitation. Winning away the rest of the south needs an economic strategy. Jayalalitha did it with dole-based politics now followed in Telangana and Odisha.
The BJP has to realise that though it has almost replaced Congress everywhere, it has to make the party also more democratic and open to the vaux pas. The Soviet Union collapsed for this reason and Donald Trump is facing a crisis for his arrogance.
The 2019 is an aspirational vote, a process of social synthesis. The caste divide in Indian social system has been obliterated by a strong Modi at least at the political plane. People overwhelmingly voted for him rejecting caste combines of SP-BSP-RLD in UP or NCP-Congress in Maharashtra.
The voters aspire for a better life and believe only Modi can provide it. His universal sanitation, Swachha Bharat; Ujjwala, that provides cooking gas and Pradhan Matri Awas (Housing) schemes and Rs 6,000 a year cash support to farmers instilled confidence among the poor.
Now Modi has a tougher task. Poorer people, having got the basics of food, cash support, house and toilet, would be more demanding.
India is entering the middle income category of countries around $ 2,000 per capita income. Newly emerging consuming classes are driven by aspiration rather than feudal style dole outs. Even less-demanding rural youth vie with the urban youth.
Economy needs a boost. The last five years have seen a benign environment where food prices recorded a modest increase. Now a global economic slowdown is visible. There are incipient signs of stress on the price front while global trade wars, may be even real wars, are breaking out.
Another area he has to look at is jobs. With teeming millions providing job to every youth is not easy. His host of other schemes like skill India and entrepreneurship, MUDRA, is to face a test and Modi has to come out of it. So he has now to do in education and manufacturing.
The tax system needs reform as the one nation GST has hit many sectors like education and NGOs. Income tax reduction is awaited. It is a tough task as people’s purchasing power has to be increased as also the government’s revenue.
The Congress economy that Manmohan Singh ushered in has to change. Much of the failure of BJP’s economy was for continuing with that economic vision. The economic vision has to be redrafted. The NITI Aayog has to be invigorated. It has to find out why jobs are not increasing, inflation is back and why there are many flip-flop policies like toll that hamper growth. It has to be country’s think tank.
The country has reposed trust. It wants to be paid back. It cannot wait for another term to deliver. Indira Gandhi till today is till today ridiculed for failure of her garibi hatao. A lion of a Modi cannot repeat that. It would devastate the people. He has to function to invigorate the faith in leadership.
The aspirations today are more than it was in 2014. Indians believe Modi has the magic wand to solve the problems and make India the leading economy. It hopes next five years would be shining.
* Prof Shivaji Sarkar is Sr Journalist & Noted Columnist of India