Thank god it’s all over. The heat and dust and the incessant chatter over chai shops and roadside dhabas and the incredible variety of opinion at temples, mosques and ghats which sometimes reflected in TV chatter and what-you-had-read-that-morning-with-your-cup-of-tea and all the impassioned circle of life in between. It was magical, it was rejuvenating and we are grateful for these regular experiments in democracy which give us the opportunity to refurbish our constitutional credentials.
But thank god it’s all over now and even those of us in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand can get back to the daily business of living. To now recharge ourselves and take a good, hard look at the business of governance and democracy in between elections. This, after all, is the bread and butter of a secular nation and none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi must lead the charge.
Enough of him being just a BJP leader and taking on the opposition these last several weeks (“when you do good things, you think of the Gayatri mantra, but when the Samajwadi Party does something they think of the Gayatri Prajapati mantra,” the PM said at a Jaunpur rally the other day, referring to the rape charge against the Samajwadi party leader). He can now get back to being prime minister of all India. That is Modi’s mandate, to look at all citizens without lotus-tinted glasses, and to regenerate the mood for development irrespective of partisan politics, faith or gender.
Uttar Pradesh’s outgoing chief minister Akhilesh Yadav also wasn’t able to resist a dig at Modi when he called into question an advertisement featuring Gujarat’s wild asses. Of course this was deliberate on Akhilesh’s part. Whether UP wants him back or not, Akhilesh has shown that he is here to stay. The young chief minister probably gave voice to thousands of thwarted youths whose ambitions have been in turn thwarted by their own parents. Now is the time for Akhilesh to move beyond the numbers game and partner with NGOs and others in reinventing his frayed-at-the-edges state.
The Congress’ voice on the other hand has been so muted until the incredible Akhilesh-Rahul roadshow in Varanasi on Saturday, that it must have reminded the Congress of the good old days. Let them use this heaven-sent opportunity to return to the people. Certainly, the Gandhi family’s secular credentials are impeccable and they have made the kind of sacrifices for India few others have. But, India is changing. That is another lesson from this latest set of elections. It will not wait for the Gandhis to decide when they will want to lead the nation.
As for Mayawati, the incredible energy she has generated by coalescing the Dalit and Muslim vote cannot be allowed to be wasted. Eastern UP remains among the poorest parts of the country, with some of the worst socio-economic indicators. Let Behenji and her BSP leaders now campaign for the improvement of maternal and infant mortality indicators, better health and education in those villages where Dalits still live beyond the pale. If she’s able to generate a new awakening in those villages where the real India lives, Mayawati will be unstoppable five years from now.
The last bells will toll this evening and the loudspeakers will fall silent until March 11. Certainly, the ballot boxes will decide the fate of several of those in this highly contested fray. Win or lose, this has been an incredible election. But it’s time to get back to our daily humdrum lives for now.