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Modi win embodies decisive mandates

Modi is the biggest example of what a mass-based, charismatic leader can achieve for a party. But the BJP has been able to cross the 272-mark because Modi had a team of satraps whose appeal transcended several traditional barriers.

india Updated: May 17, 2014 12:46 IST
Sandipan Sharma

The 2014 verdict reinforces the trend that had begun with the elections in West Bengal three years ago. The Indian voter is no longer confused and believes in giving a clear and decisive mandate.

The enormity of a win first surprised everybody in Uttar Pradesh when Akhilesh Yadav led his party to a huge win. Then came Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, all decisive mandates for the eventual winner.

But for the muddle in Delhi and a bit of trouble for the Congress in Uttarakhand, the vote has been in favour of a single party. Perhaps we missed it, but the age of jugaad-ki-sarkar and aaya-ram, gaya-ram ended in India several months back.

Seen in that context, results of the 2014 polls appear to be a natural culmination of the Indian voter's yearning for a strong and stable government.

The verdict in almost every state has been one-sided. And, with the exception of Punjab, the third force has been sent packing in all states.

But why is this happening? Speaking to the media after the result, BJP chief Rajnath Singh said the BJP won because it managed to transcend boundaries of caste, geography and regionalism. But there is more to it than just clever, crafty campaign.

Verdicts seem to be getting clearer because of the rise of strong regional leaders who tower above their parties. And fascinated by strong leaders, the voter is drifting away from their earlier political and ideological moorings.

Narendra Modi greets his supporters after addressing a public meeting in Vadodara. (Reuters)

Narendra Modi is the biggest example of what a mass-based, charismatic leader can achieve for a party. But the BJP has been able to cross the 272-mark because Modi had a team of satraps whose appeal transcended several traditional barriers.

Consider Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. For ages, the BJP was known as a party of Brahmin-Bania-Rajput in Rajasthan. This handicap reduced the party to just an urban legend. But Vasundhara Raje managed to scythe through this caste divide and establish herself as a leader of the masses. One of the results of her wide appeal was that several communities that were traditionally averse to voting for the Tilak-Tarazu-Talwar coalition happily embraced the party.

Similarly, in MP, Shivraj Singh Chouhan's appeal transcended even the final frontier—the communal divide. The MP chief minister is equally popular among the minorities, a factor that has helped the BJP get entrenched in the state.

The same could be said of leaders outside the BJP: Naveen Patnaik, Mamata Banerjee, and Jayalalithaa, all of whom have become brands bigger than their parties.

Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses his supporters during a public meeting in Vadodra, Gujarat. (Reuters)

Elections have now become a referendum on their personalities, polarising voters for and against them. This helps the voter cut the noise and make up his mind.

In a way, the Congress, too, helped the rise of regional leaders. Its culture of forcing leaders upon states from 10 Janpath—and before that from Indira Gandhi's home—ensured that people were starved of mass leaders with high-level of acceptance among voters. In the vacuum created by the Congress, leadership outside the Congress flourished. The Congress today is paying the ultimate price of its flawed strategy: Not only is it headless today after Rahul Gandhi's failure but it has nobody left in the states to lead the party.

The 2014 election, thus, is a great development for the Indian democracy. Voters have reinstated their faith in strong regional leaders and have booted out the Congress and its culture of forcing minnows and courtiers as chief ministers.

Consider the political map of India today: In the west we have Raje, in the south Jayalalithaa, Mamata and Navin in the east, Shivraj at the Centre and Modi in Delhi.

Narendra Modi flashes the victory sign as he arrives at a public rally after his victory in Vadodara. (AFP)

Isn't it a complete contrast against the UPA era, whose weak PM was the defining symbol of what ailed our democracy?