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20 May, 2014

Will India get Modified?

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today
The question who rules India having been answered conclusively, another crops up: what kind of prime minister will Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi be?

When pollsters forecast a majority for the National Democratic Alliance, led by the BJP, in the new Lok Sabha the Congress thought they would be proved wrong, as on previous occasions. As it happened, the NDA and the BJP did better than the pollsters said they would.

Since the BJP secured a comfortable majority on its own, it does not need the support of even its pre-poll allies to form the government. But Modi has said they would be associated with the administration. He has gone one step further and said he wants to carry everyone with him on the development journey.

The BJP registered its spectacular victory by trouncing the Congress in the states where the two parties are in direct confrontation. In some of them it made a clean sweep of all seats. In the largest state, Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party had earlier pushed it down to the third place, it made a remarkable recovery and picked up 71 of the 80 seats, as against a mere 10 it held in the outgoing house. In the large southern and eastern states, regional parties checkmated it but they could not deny it a small presence.

The BJP’s unprecedented performance dashed the plans of leaders like Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who were hoping to be kingmakers or even claim the crown for themselves.

Development was the main text of Modi’s election campaign. It also had sub-texts such as uniform civil code, ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and building a Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site. The text aimed at consensus building. The sub-texts sought to keep the Hindutva flame alive.

The best part of the election outcome is that Modi is in a position to provide a stable administration. The worst part is that there is no strong opposition. Since the Congress strength is less than one-tenth of the membership of the house, its leader does not qualify for recognition as the Leader of the Opposition. Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee are planning to join forces to claim that post.

Modi still bears the stigma of the anti-Muslim riots that Gujarat witnessed in 2002, although a Supreme Court appointed investigation team said there was no prosecutable evidence against him. Last Friday, while the votes were being counted and he was racing to victory, the Supreme Court acquitted six persons who had been charged by the Gujarat police and convicted by a lower court in connection with a terror attack. It observed that Modi, as Home Minister, had sanctioned their prosecution without application of mind.

Some riot and fake encounter cases are yet to reach the concluding stage. Even if they cause some embarrassment, the prime minister is likely to emerge unscathed.

Two vastly different images of Modi, based on different narratives, are available. Admirers look upon him as a visionary who can lead India to its destiny as a world power. Detractors regard him as an exponent of the Hindutva ideology which divides the society on religious lines. The two give rise to diferent possibilities, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Hero or villain, Modi holds a valid mandate to govern. Early indications of how he uses it hold out hope. In sharp contrast to the harsh attacks on the Congress, especially its President, Sonia Gandhi, and Vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, during the campaign, after the election he has spoken of the need for healing and for revival of the spirit of bipartisanship.

He will soon have before him IOUs from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which played a critical part in the BJP’s choice of him as its prime ministerial nominee, and from the captains of industry who financed his expensive election campaign. How he deals with them will decide the nature of his administration.

Impressive as Modi’s mandate is, it has been won with a minority of 31 per cent votes. If he wishes to carry everyone with him, he has to be mindful of the sentiments of those who did not vote for the BJP or its NDA allies.

The Lok Sabha majority has its limits. The Hindutva agenda cannot be pushed through without amending the Constitution, and the BJP does not have the two-thirds majority required for the purpose. Even to pass an ordinary law the BJP will need the support of other parties as it lacks a simple majority in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 20, 2014.

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