Blasting his critics and smashing every political formation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demolished the Opposition’s rule in four states. Will Modi now deliver his promise of ’Achche Din’ (Good Times) for India’s poor? Or, will it be limited to political rhetoric?
For the last several weeks now, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amethi MP and Congress Vice-President, Rahul Gandhi have lashed out at each other on several occasions, be it in Parliament or during the election campaign in the run-up to the assembly elections in the five states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur.
However, as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) juggernaut swept through four states, Rahul Gandhi congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling party on their electoral victory.
The significance of Rahul Gandhi reaching out to the Prime Minister through the social media is that whether one likes it or not this victory, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, is significant for India and its political future.
“The victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have re-confirmed that Mr Narendra Modi is the most dominant political leader,” commented former Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, one of the most vocal critics of the Modi-led BJP government.
Billed as a semi-final before the 2019 national elections, it was seen as a referendum for Modi’s ban on high-currency notes last year. Modi was the face of the BJP’s campaign, with the party choosing not to project a chief ministerial candidate and seeking votes for Modi’s policies and development agenda.
BJP’s hegemony established
So, the hegemony of the BJP under Modi’s leadership has been established far and wide at the expense of the Congress party. This is similar to what Congress did during the late 1960s and 1970s under then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.
After the latest round of elections, nearly two-thirds of India’s population now lives in NDA-ruled states, the percentage having gone up from 46.2 pc to 61.1 pc. Currently, the BJP-ruled states include Assam, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. The party is ruling with coalition partners in Jammu & Kashmir, Goa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland and Manipur.
Wider social acceptability
Portrayed for long as a Brahmin-Bania party, the BJP is gaining wider social acceptability among other social groups. This is well attested by the UP Assembly election results, where 41 pc of Scheduled Castes, 42 pc Other Backward Classes and 44 pc general castes voted for the party.
What helped it snatch the constituency of the poor and downtrodden from the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party, was its successful marketing of PM Modi’s social welfare schemes and even moves, such as demonetisation.
At the national executive meeting held in the national capital on January 7, Modi had asked the rank and file to take the demonetisation decision as a crackdown on the rich and the corrupt.
Importantly, the victory has strengthened the position of Modi and his trusted lieutenant and BJP President, Amit Shah within the party.
Reduced to rubble
The other significant takeaway is the rout of the Congress party in four states. For instance, it failed to capture power in Goa, despite the infighting in the ruling BJP, and lost the power it had held in Uttarakhand and Manipur. Remember, this is the second state in the North East where BJP has come to power through democratic means, the first being Assam in 2015. Will the Congress ever put its house, leadership and credibility in order? Will it ever attempt it at all? There is a big ‘if’.
No alternative to Modi
Modi’s second term to power in 2019 is becoming certain with the poor performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Arvind Kejriwal. There is no national alternative for the Indian electorate to look forward to in the next General Elections, beyond Modi. As during the late 1990s, the run up to the 2019 General Elections will see a grand alliance of regional players. The Congress will play the tail ender to oppose Narendra Modi and the BJP.
Return to power in Uttar Pradesh
The victory has paved the way for a BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh after a span of 14 years, when Rajnath Singh was the chief minister from October 2000 to March 2002. In the 2014 General Elections, the BJP had won 71 seats besides its ally Apna Dal that added two more to the kitty.
The result is also likely to impact the political events in the coming months. Now, the BJP, or rather PM Modi, can have candidates of choice as the president and vice-president of India. President Pranab Mukherjee’s term expires on July 24, while Vice-president Hamid Ansari’s term expires in August 2017. The President of India is elected by an Electoral College comprising Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies, unlike law makers who are directly elected by citizens.
With the highest population of 83 million people, the Uttar Pradesh assembly has 403 MLAs — the highest number of people’s representatives in any state legislature in the country. An MLA from Uttar Pradesh has the highest value at 208. The number of votes comprising the Electoral College for presidential polls is 1,098,882 votes. The NDA, after Saturday’s verdict, is now only 24,552 votes short of the majority as compared to the earlier gap of about 79,274 votes. After securing 325 seats in the UP assembly, it can be sure of a smooth sail in the presidential elections.
Green signal to reforms
Political parties have been scared of the electoral implications and of losing power after economic reforms in India. With the demonetisation decision, Modi has successfully communicated the pains associated with reforms. With his demonetisation gamble paying off electorally, it is likely to embolden India to push harder for economic reforms in the labour sector, revisiting the issue of land acquisition, improving governance and social reforms.
With so much popularity having been translated into political and electoral victories in the states and at the centre, everyone awaits the Modi-led government to deliver ‘Achche Din’ for every Indian to realise their dreams beyond just the basic needs.