Modi May Have to Don New Avatar to Take Along Al­lies, New & Old

If elected, Modi will have to be a dif­fer­ent kind of au­to­crat to face down brinks­man­ship, bluff and black­mail in a coali­tion

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - CHAI­TANYA KAL­BAG

One word summed up the five-week elec­tion: cer­ti­tude. From the very be­gin­ning most of us were cer­tain that the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance would win power. It is fairly cer­tain that the Congress party will suf­fer its worst de­feat in 16 gen­eral elec­tions. Over 300,000 kilo­me­tres, 440 ral­lies, 1,350 holo­grams, 4,000 chai pe char­chas, and a ti­dal wave of tweets, blog posts and tele­vi­sion in­ter­views, Naren­dra Modi was cer­tain that he would be In­dia’s next prime min­is­ter. We were cer­tain that Modi was not the un­der­dog. We were cer­tain that he would run his op­po­nents ragged. We were cer­tain that he would eat their break­fasts.

To­mor­row we will know what crumbs Modi has left on the ta­ble. Tele­vi­sion chan­nels, which are en­joy­ing a wel­come boom in ad­ver­tis­ing and viewer num­bers, have gone giddy slic­ing and dic­ing exit polls. This much is clear, and Raj Thack­eray put his fin­ger on it. Peo­ple were vot­ing for Modi, not for the BJP, not for the ka­mal. The BJP needed Modi to lift it be­yond the max­i­mum of 182 Lok Sabha seats it has ever won, in 1998 and 1999.

Back in 1971, Dr Philip Zim­bardo con­ducted the now in­fa­mous Stan­ford Prison Ex­per­i­ment in Palo Alto. Twenty-four stu­dents were re­cruited; half acted as prison guards, and half as pris­on­ers. The most im­por­tant re­sult was this: the stu­dents play­ing the guards be­came so abu­sive, and the stu­dents play­ing the pris­on­ers be­came so sub­mis­sive and suf­fered such emo­tional trauma that the ex­per­i­ment had to be shut down af­ter only six days rather than the planned two weeks. In sim­ple terms, power made good peo­ple do bad things. I was re­minded of this ex­per­i­ment when I watched some of our pu­ta­tive lead­ers on tele­vi­sion this week. One of them, usu­ally a well-spo­ken Bharatiya Janata Party of­fi­cial, shouted that he was sick and tired of the “patho­log­i­cal ha­tred” di­rected at his leader. The an­chor was taken aback by the bel­liger­ence. This was just one ex­am­ple. We have com­pleted a re­mark­able ex­er­cise of democ­racy, and we must now make cer­tain that democ­racy is not equal to ma­jori­tar­i­an­ism. Modi asked rhetor­i­cally dur­ing one in­ter­view: “Has my democ­racy sub­mit­ted it­self to one fam­ily?” and then was at pains to ex­plain why he was op­posed to Bangladeshi in­fil­tra­tors but felt In­dia’s shores should be open to Hin­dus from Africa, Fiji, Java, Su­ma­tra (even Suri­name). He cited a Supreme Court judg­ment of De­cem­ber 1995 that said Hin­duism was a way of life. Gopalkr­ishna Gandhi put it suc­cinctly to me: “We have had both a cul­ture of com­pli­ance out of what can be called fear, which is an ex- treme form of be­ing in awe of some­body. We have also had a cul­ture of ques­tion­ing, dis­sent and very in­de­pen­dent think­ing. Both cul­tures have ex­isted si­mul­ta­ne­ously. At this junc­ture we are see­ing free­dom of ex­pres­sion try­ing very gamely to keep its head aloft.” A Prime Min­is­ter Modi will bring more ex­pe­ri­ence head­ing a state govern­ment than any pre­de­ces­sor in In­dia’s his­tory. He cut his or­gan­i­sa­tional teeth with the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh, and has run Gu­jarat for 13 years. But he has never had to share power. He­boast­ed­tome­someyears ago that Gu­jarat had the small­est cabi­net in the coun­try. True, be­cause Modi him­self held the max­i­mum­num­berof­port­fo­lios, in­clud­ing the key one of Home, as well as Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­forms & Train­ing, In­dus­tries, Cli­mate Change, Ports, I&B,Nar­mada,Kalp­sar,Sci­ence& Tech­nol­ogy and all port­fo­lios not al­lot­ted to other min­is­ters. His 2012 cabi­net had only seven min­is­ters and nine min­is­ters of state. He be­lieves a lot in a strong bureau­cracy, and his com­ing will likely straighten some of the kinks in the steel frame. Man­mo­hanSingh,whobe­moaned coali­tion dharma, had 27 min­is­ters, 11 min­is­ters of state with in­de­pen­dent charge, and 32 ju­nior min­is­ters. Modi­hasvowedthat­eve­nas­in­gleMP­par­ty­will­be­val­ued.Hewil­l­have to be a dif­fer­ent kind of au­to­crat if hehasto­face­down­brinks­man­ship, bluff and black­mail in a coali­tion. Con­sti­tu­tional ex­pert Sub­hash C. Kashyap­toldme,“Some­timesyou have to agree to with­draw crim­i­nal cases, some­times you have to shell out­money, some­times you have to give min­is­ter­ships, some­times you have to al­low min­is­ters to go their own­wayan­de­venig­norethep­rime min­is­ter, some­times small groups have to be given creamy port­fo­lios whereth­ey­can­make­more­money” just to stay in power.

De­pend­ing on Fri­day’s re­sults, Modi­may­have­to­live­with­morethan one of an ar­ray of hard-bit­ten re­gional lead­ers like Mayawati, Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav, Ni­tish Ku­mar, Ma­mataBan­er­jee,Jay­alalithaa, Chan­drababuNaidu,KCRao, Ja­ganMo­hanRed­dyandNaveen Pat­naik. Two years ago I wrote that Man­mo­hanSingh­wasth­elonePM in a na­tion of pres­i­dents. If the BJP does not win enough seats, Modi will have to be a pres­i­dent of pres­i­dents.

Around the time the elec­tions be­gan I was watch­ing House of Cards, a riv­et­ing Amer­i­can se­rial star­ring Kevin Spacey about one man’s ruth­less and sin­gle-minded rise from a House ma­jor­ity whip to the pres­i­dency of the United States. It is pep­pered with one­lin­ers and asides that would make a born-again Chanakya blush. I’ll leave you with one Frank Un­der­wood so­lil­o­quy: “The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and ca­su­al­ties. Never re­gret.”

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