Will Modi change?
Will Narendra Modi Change. Never before in post independence India, had elections in India witnessed so much hype and speculation revolving round a single individual belonging to the Opposition party.
Never before in post independence India, had elections in India witnessed so much hype and speculation revolving round a single individual belonging to the Opposition party. For the Election Commission of India, it was a big relief as the longest ever nine phased and five week span of national elections concluded on May 12. On the same evening, a lot of people found themselves glued to their TVs for the outcome of exit polls by various channels. Most of the exit poll managers vied with each other in installing Narendra Modi in 7 Race Course Road residence of New Delhi.
Interestingly, an article, “Status of opinion polls: media gimmick & political communication in India” by Praveen Rai in EPW of 19th April demonstrates how notorious the projections of ‘Exit Polls’ in India can be by citing precedents from 1998 onwards. However, both opinion and exit polls this time around do reflect people’s sense of disgust and frustration with the decade long governance of UPA because of its involvement in massive and unprecedented scams; hegemony of oil companies in hiking prices whenever they liked; sky-rocketing prices; and finally, gory incidents of rapes and increasing crime rate all over the country, the national capital in particular.
The national media has been guided and propelled by all these considerations. Modi was elevated as the Chief of the National Election Campaign Committee in June, 2013, and later in September as the Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP. Consequently, he naturally became the pivotal figure of the 2014 national elections. Since June 2013 Modi never looked back and he had undertaken a whirlwind tour of the nation for ten months as the only star campaigner of BJP. His will power to win the elections, his game plan of electioneering, and his oratorical skills are great advantages to BJP. On the other hand, his rival Rahul Gandhi of Congress has nothing to fall back up on except the dynasty advantage.
The influence of half a dozen prime ministerial candidates - Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati in U.P; Mamata Banerjee of W.B; Jayalalita of T.N; and Nitish Kumar of Bihar- is limited to the confines of their respective states. Each one of them is a Macbeth in his/her way except Naveen Patnaik of Odisha, the only political leader who is never known for his obsessive ambition for the Prime Minister’s slot. Probably he might emerge as the dark horse in the race for power if Modi misses the bus and the non-BJP and non-Congress conglomerates fail to zero in on any other individual aspirant for the job. In case BJP and its alliance fall short of the magic mark of 272, Naveen Patnaik’s BJD and KCR’s TRS can also be roped in. Jagan Reddy may be anxious to extend his party’s unconditional support to Modi for his own reasons. Thus, all the three regional parties in the two new states of Telangana and Seemandhra with a probable tally of about 35 seats may favour BJP clinching the issue in favour of Modi in a big way.
A lot has been said and written about Modi portraying him as the most controversial and polarising personality in Indian politics. But during the last one year, the Indian media did everything possible to drum up support for him through methods fair and foul. However, the Western media shunned him as one dedicated to the Hindutwa ideology and USA looked at him as a political outcaste for a decade because of his alleged involvement in the Godhra riots of 2002. But there is almost a U-turn among the western leaders now in favour of Modi because of the ground realities prevailing in the country now.
Congress led UPA misrule of the country for one full decade coupled with the fragmentation of Opposition parties in different parts of the country are the main source of Modi’s strength. Thus, Modi rides more on a negative wave rather than a positive direction. However, his focused election discourse on good governance and development, and his sharp verbal attacks on Congress party and its mother-son dynasty politics couched in wit and sarcasm cast magic spell on his audiences during his long campaign.
Media whipped up support for Modi is also an important factor in the election. Barring a miracle, Modi seems to be all set to march towards 7 Race Course Road very soon. People of the country have a lot of expectations from the new government, and at the same time they also have a lot of apprehensions about Modi’s track record as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Can one hope to see welcome changes in him shedding his obsession with Hindutwa ideology? How does he overcome the influence of the RSS lobby? What will be his blueprint of developmental agenda? Will it be inclusive or otherwise? Does he have the resilience to reform himself on Vajpayee model as asserted by Ramachandra Murthy in his recent “Thursday Thoughts?” In any case, Modi’s performance will be under a scanner by various sections of people and civil society groups.
Time alone will tell as to what sort of leader Modi will turn out to be in the event of his elevation as the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world. Meanwhile, people of the country await anxiously the outcome of elections for the 16th Lok Sabha enduring the tension-ridden interval between now and May 16.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])
22 Oct 2019 8:58 AM GMT