First things first.
A bouquet, the first, the biggest and the most luxuriant, for the Indian electorate that went in continental numbers to bring the world’s greatest election festival to a tectonic finish. The next, to the Election Commission of India, the State Election Commissions and the countless men and women, including those in uniform, who set the election machine going, kept it free and fair, and delivered the game-changing result.
Right, and then?
A namaskar, seriously meant and sincerely given, to the hero of the election, Narendra Modi. Many do not and did not want Narendra Modi to be Prime Minister of India. But many, many and many times more have wanted to see him reach that office.
They have got their heart’s desire. Courtesy requires, civility demands and culture insists that those — like I — who did not want that result should be gracious, not pinch-hearted and niggardly, at a moment like this and must congratulate our new prime minister-to-be and offer him good wishes.
For several weeks now there was no doubt that when the EVMs ended their five-week silence, they will proclaim NDA the winner. This is not just because surveys were predicting that but because Modi was, literally, everywhere.
From his very own Gujarat to Assam, from Punjab to Kerala, he toured, hectored, in varying attire and unvarying gauche. Before he arrived anywhere his face appeared on thousands of surfaces, fixed and moving, with some, on balloons, flying. And after he left, his picture, on posters and hoardings, masks and as badges, did not allow anyone to forget ‘the face’.
Modi’s was not just the face of the 2014 elections, it was the only face, full, up-front. All others were profiles. Modi was, in reality, if there can be such a thing, ‘un-utsav-murti’, a festival statue on wheels.
The BJP has not won the seats it has, Modi has won them for it. The NDA has not won the seats it has, Modi has won them for it. No one in South Bangalore voted for the five-time MP Ananth Kumar, they voted for Modi. No one in that constituency rejected Nandan Nilekani, they rejected Rahul Gandhi.
This has been as transparent an election, as open and free as any anywhere can be. But if any election has had secret winners, hidden sculptors of the victory of the victorious, it is this one. Who are those?
Modi is the face, the figure of this election. He is the Statue of Victory. But this beyond-all-credibility tall sculpture has two principal co-architects. And, they are a ‘secret’. The first is that nameless, faceless, soul-less and most secretive entity, money. And its great co-architect, a grand collaborator, a joint sculptor is none other than the Indian National Congress.
Not Gujarat, not the BJP, it is the Congress that has gifted Modi to India. It is not the NDA’s image, or that of the BJP, it is UPA 2’s star-crossed innings that has choreographed the move of Modi from Gandhinagar to New Delhi. No party in office has ever obliged anti-incumbency with the ambidextrous prodigality of the Congress in UPA 2.
There is a third player to this win. Not a fellow-sculptor, perhaps, not a sthapati, but a saha-sthapati, an associate sculptor. And, let us make no mistake about it, that is Arvind Kejriwal.
In every seat contested by the BJP, the Congress and AAP, and won by the BJP, AAP has, without intending to do so, contributed, and contributed hugely, to the alloy of the win. Not too many BJP votes have moved to AAP, Congress votes have.
Hindutva does not travel, it stays put, grows in situ. Liberal secularism is all over the place, moving from vehicle to vehicle, first class to chair car to unreserved berths.
Narendra Modi will be the government, the government will be Narendra Modi. Everyone else, be he or she ever so senior, ever so prominent, will be irrelevant. He will be the mind, the face of the government.
The risk of the BJP/NDA becoming a mindless flock behind that face is strong. That will only lead to those not in the flock to act as cast-in-the-role rebels, hecklers, disruptors. Parliament cannot be allowed to wallow in short and disrupted sessions, with untransacted legislative business, un-redeemed assurances.
But more than those requirements of routine, the 16th Lok Sabha has to become an institution of conscience, a physical co-efficient of the Preamble to our Constitution, a House of very individual MPs, if not independent ones.
Matters like Article 370, a Uniform Civil Code, the Ram mandir in Ayodhya, a dangerous review of our nuclear policy, and, most importantly, minority self-confidence will require 24x7 alertness, struggle, on the part of the Opposition.
That should be done, first, with due respect. No mocking, scoffing, scorning from now on. If, thus far, Modi was an aspirant, he now is an incumbent. He is the person and the office.
Next, the facing of that face should be done without fear. So, no worshipping or bowing either. If millions have voted for him, some fewer millions but millions nonetheless have voted against him. He knows that better than anyone else.
Will the Congress look him in the eye? It better do so, with due respect, but without fear. This will not be easy, for whenever a Congress MP rises to protest, a howl of counter-protests reminding the UPA of the CAG’s various reports alone will drown out his or her voice. That will be a great inhibitor, for quite some time.
MPs from parties that are in power in the states, like the TMC, AIADMK and BJD will, for sheer prudence, need to not alienate the Centre. They may oppose but will not challenge it.
So who will be the relentless guardian for secular, pro-poor, anti-monopoly, anti-corruption programmes that we will need? Who will be the guardian of the minorities against sheer fear?
It will have to be the Congress. But not the Congress as we have known it to be, post-Jawaharlal Nehru. Shaking off the vice-like grip of its skeletons, it will need to crawl back into its own pre-1964 DNA. It will need to re-discover its values from the debris of its opportunisms.
And if it does that it will re-discover in its veins the alchemisms of a struggle, and a struggle it will be, for all that the Preamble of our Constitution proclaims so eloquently but, alas, so helplessly.
(Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor. The views expressed by the author are personal.)