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It's time for BJP to give back to the people

The mandate suggests that people really wanted to give Modi a free hand to pull India out of the morass it is in. And this will require not just political skill but financial expertise for a start.

comment Updated: May 17, 2014 14:20 IST

If the BJP’s triumph were to be described in song, it would have to be the slightly altered lyrics from a popular song by the Swedish mega pop group Abba – ‘The winner takes it all/the loser’s standing small/besides the victory/that’s its destiny.’

Truly, the BJP, led by the Narendra Modi juggernaut, has swept aside all in its path to realise its destiny and come up with what is the party’s most impressive victory so far.

At the time of going to press, the NDA has got 339 seats with the BJP getting 284 seats on its own. And the Congress, far from putting up a credible challenge, has been banished to the corner with 44 seats from where it will take a great deal of time and effort to recover.

The BJP is now in a commanding position, it needs no one to prop it up. This means that the Modi government can pick and choose its allies, which it might to get the numbers in the Rajya Sabha, and not be held to ransom by anyone.

But, while the BJP’s victory was a foregone conclusion, there have been some surprises in this mother of all elections fought bitterly over nine phases.

First, the stormy petrel of West Bengal stood her ground with 34 seats but has had to leave the field to the AIADMK and the empress of Poes Garden to emerge as the third-largest party with 37 seats.

Then we saw Mayawati bite the dust despite all her clever caste calculations and Lalu Prasad’s wit and charm falling flat in Bihar. A good track record did nothing for Nitish Kumar in Bihar, where the BJP has run away with the show.

But quietly and determinedly holding his own has been the BJD’s Naveen Patnaik. AAP, which was set to be a spoiler, fell flat with little to show for itself despite putting up a massive number of candidates.

For the BJP, the BJD and the AIADMK victories are good news, for both are inclined towards the party. The quantum of victory means that the NDA will face no real opposition for a very long time.

This means that the responsibility on it is even greater for it will have to act as its own check and balance.

Mr Modi has already articulated some thoughts on Cabinet formation, saying that he prefers those who have come in via the Lok Sabha route. This means that he wants to put together a Cabinet that is really representative of the will of the people and that can only be a good thing. Many felt that the go-it-alone policy of Mr Modi might be disastrous for the BJP.

But it goes to the party’s credit that once having chosen him as the prime ministerial candidate, it gave him a free hand to fashion the campaign as he wanted. He did so splendidly, taking into account that the youth demographic is looking for concrete assurances of employment, of an improvement in the quality of life, of safety and most of all a decisive government.

Mr Modi’s track record in Gujarat stood him in good stead. His detractors repeatedly pointed out the flaws in the Gujarat model, but he was able to withstand the criticism by quoting facts and figures of growth. The people bought into that in vast numbers.

For the Congress, this election has probably been one of the rudest wake-up calls it has got in a very long time. It has to now seriously introspect and reinvent itself. Many of its stalwarts have fallen by the wayside.

It has to get away from the old style of politics, of citing the family’s sacrifices, of dining out on past glories. India has changed, but clearly the Congress has not. This is surprising given that the campaign was led by the young Rahul Gandhi, who ought to have understood better the needs and aspirations of a young nation.

The challenge before Mr Modi now is to live up to the huge expectations of him. The mandate suggests that people really wanted to give him a free hand to pull India out of the morass it is in. And this will require not just political skill but financial expertise for a start.

He will need the finest financial brains available to bring the economy back on track. If he does that, then half the battle will have been won.

The other is to inspire a level of confidence in the minorities. He will have to ensure that the bad eggs in the party do not make overtly triumphal remarks about any community. In other words, he will have to now fashion himself as not just a strong leader but an inclusive one as well.

Those who feared that the RSS may play a disproportionately influential role in government can rest assured that given the nature of the victory, it will be Mr Modi calling the shots.

Of course, the relationship between the RSS and the BJP is very deep and cannot be wished away, but the former will now be the secondary partner. For India, the emergence of a stable government is positive as seen from the surge in the stock market and the general air of hope all around. The winner really has taken it all and now it is time to give back to the people who gave the party this magnificent victory.