...Series of Records
At his victory rally at Vadodara, one of the two constituencies in which he contested elections, Modi said his victory margin was a record-breaking 570,000 votes and credited his party’s win to the country’s vibrant democracy. He also drove home the point that his will be the first real, single-party, non-Congress government since Independence. There were other smaller records too. Modi, when he takes office next week, will become the first prime minister to have been bor n in Independent India and one with a compelling journey that began as a tea seller who left home as a youth on a journey that saw him metamorphose from an RSS pracharak to a BJP apparatchik to Gujarat’s chief minister before running for the highest office in the land after facing down opposition from within the party led by his former mentor and BJP patriarch LK Advani. As the magnitude of BJP’s performance, which exceeded most forecasts, sank in, analysts were scrambling to make sense of the verdict. BJP’s vote share rose dramatically from 18.8% in 2009 to 31.6% in 2014 while Congress’ share fell nine percentage points to 19.6%. Sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan called it a case of “double history being made”. “The decimation of Congress and the future of BJP being built with tremendous electoral rootedness,” he said.
Political analyst Milan Vaishnav of Carnegie Endowment said the results conclusively proved that the socalled Modi wave was real and not a media creation as had been alleged by his detractors. “The geographic spread of BJP into new areas, not to mention outright sweeps in areas where it has traditionally been a player. That the anti-Congress vote did go to BJP and not regional players is a sign that BJP was riding a wave. Finally, the move among the youth, OBCs and residents in both rural and urban India suggests that Modi was able to connect with new voters through his aspirational agenda,” he said. Modi, 63, had campaigned on a development agenda, showcasing his record in Gujarat and his reputation of being a decisive leader and sought to contrast himself with his opponents in Congress who were por- trayed by him as dynasts out of touch with reality, financially reckless and overseers of a government that was corrupt and had damaged the economy.
He used a presidential style of campaign using new social media tools and engaging opponents in a debate over “Gujarat model of government”. “I forced the discourse to be centered on development even if it meant having people criticise Gujarat and me,” he told another of his victory rallies in Ahmedabad.
For those who fear that a BJP government with a brute majority and a weakened opposition would now turn to a hardline Hindutva agenda, Modi let it be known in his speech that the focus of his administration would remain development.
“Development is the only agenda that can save the nation…There’s only one solution to all our problems — development. There’s only one medicine for all our ills — development. Without development, this country will not survive,” he said.
His promise of development on the stump appeared to successfully transcend state boundaries, enabling BJP, long seen as a north and western India-centered party, to hoist its flag in faraway places. Unlike the postEmergency rout in 1977 when south India stood firmly with Congress, BJP has this time effectively replaced Congress as a national party. From Kutch to Kamarup and Kashmir to Thiruvananthapuram (well, Kerala remains one state where BJP is yet to open its account despite a very close contest for the state capital), BJP has become a bigger national party than Congress.
It decimated the Grand Old Party to a pitiable condition in all bipolar contests scoring a Perfect Ten in Gujarat and Rajasthan and reducing Congress to a cipher in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. For Congress, which has ruled the country for most of its post-Independence history, its poor tally may not even be enough for it to stake claim for the status of the Leader of Opposition. A party requires 10% of the total seats to make it to the position with a cabinet rank.
Celebrating the unprecedented, historic victory, BJP President Rajnath Singh summed it up as “a mandate for change and it is a mandate for Modi. “People from all segments have voted for BJP breaking the barriers of caste, religion, creed and region. BJP was considered an urban party, but it has emerged as a party of slums, villages, poor and all sections of the society,” he said. From his first election in 2002 to the Gujarat assembly to his first Parliament election in 2014, Modi’s achievements have far surpassed those of all his predecessors including what former BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former deputy PM LK Advani achieved in their heydays. Modi, of all leaders assigned by RSS to lead BJP, has been the most successful in energising the Sangh Parivar cadre, mobilising the voters and turning BJP into an entity capable of ruling the centre on its own. Vajpayee in 1998 and 1999 had to depend on at least two-dozen allies, including some from outside and could not increase his party’s reach beyond the traditional Hindi strongholds. Modi during his victory speech underlined the fact that an ideologically non-Congress party has come of age, that too under the leadership of a post-Independence generation.