Though sung in a different context, two lines from a song sung by Abba, a once popular pop group, “The winner takes it all/the loser’s standing small,” could apply quite aptly to Narendra Modi’s spectacular victory in the Gujarat assembly elections, the third in a row. With the force of a human Hadron Collider, the Gujarat chief minister has smashed much of the opposition into a veritable black hole. Though his victory was a foregone conclusion, many had hoped that the imperious Modi would not notch up such a comprehensive victory in the assembly elections.
Modi is not an easy man to like, but no one in the state can take even an iota of credit for this victory but the chief minister. The BJP leader was like a man possessed this election even though his opposition was lagging far behind. He seemed to have left absolutely nothing to chance. From the somewhat eerie holograms of himself addressing large crowds in different parts of the state simultaneously to the punishing pace of rallies that he notched up, Narendra Modi really walked the walk and talked the talk.
While no one can take away from his remarkable achievement, I wonder what many in the BJP in Gujarat are feeling. They must be happy at the thought of another term for the saffron party but they must also feel that their noses are a bit out of the joint given that it is hard to even remember the name of another Gujarati leader of note from the BJP other than the omnipresent Modi.
The central leadership in Delhi, too, did not count for a hill of beans in this particular victory. Of course, we had people like poor Venkaiah Naidu bleating on about how this was a victory for Narendrabhai Modi and the BJP in the state. Wrong, dear man, it was a victory for Narendrabhai, the BJP and its ideology had little to do with it and the star power of its leaders had even less to do with it. It was a one-man juggernaut and it was called Narendra Modi.
I am very certain the fun and games will begin now. As I have said earlier in this column, Modi has been like the Derby winner left to canter in the paddock all this while by the party. Now he will definitely want to enter the big race and who is going to stop him? But all I can say is that the people who are most dismayed by his thumping victory are within the BJP itself. The Congress knew all along that it did not have a fighting chance. In many ways, a huge victory for Modi is good for the Congress because the BJP will now have to deal with a major power centre within its ranks.
As for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the pater familias to which the faithful run each time they have trouble, it now has to contend with a person who does not really need the organisation’s rank and file anymore. The RSS’s outdated exclusivist ideology has little use for the Gujarat chief minister today. He is not talking about religion, he is not talking about caste, he is not mentioning Hindutva, he is not talking about the ‘other’, he is simply delivering on development, albeit in a most authoritarian manner. In many ways, he has outgrown the RSS in which he cut his political teeth.
The race to Delhi, however, is not going to be all that easy for Modi. In Gujarat he is unchallenged. But it quite a different matter to head a coalition, for that is what it will be if the BJP is ever in a position to form the government. For a start, the Modi fan club among other political parties is a bit thin on the ground. Other regional satraps will not play second fiddle to Modi. He is clearly not a consensus builder like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. So, to first get together a bunch of allies who will go along with Moditva will be tough. If the BJP pulls it off, it will find these allies constantly bickering and quarrelling and paralysing the government much as happened to the UPA with the likes of Mamata Banerjee.
Modi was able to deliver on many promises in the state because he was a single-window authority. At a fractious Centre, that will not be the case. To his credit, Modi has a clean image, he lives a spartan life and he does not have any politically ambitious family members. This is also true for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and that did not count for much when he faced allies with an agenda like the Trinamool Congress and the DMK.
For the moment, however, Modi must be savouring his triumph. It really is he who has had the last laugh. Though he may spurn western culture as represented by Abba which I have quoted at the beginning, he should be at home with a thought expressed by the great Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh when he said, “Winning isn’t everything…it’s the only thing.”