Narendra Modi has swept Uttar Pradesh as no one had since the post-Emergency Janata wave.
Narendra Modi has now risen as India’s most popular mass leader since Indira Gandhi in her heyday and he has earned it all from his own effort rather than build on a legacy. Second, he has acquired control of the ruling party as no Indian leader did, not even Rajiv Gandhi, since Indira Gandhi. It follows that it redefines BJP for the first time as a party with a supremo, a prime vote-catcher and a personality cult of its own. With him, his brilliant, all-conquering electoral field marshal Amit Shah has also risen as the most powerful chief of a national party since K. Kamaraj in the 1960s.
Modi is the first leader from outside the heartland to acquire such national stature, the first, let’s qualify, after independence. At the risk of being misconstrued, let me add that the last non-heartland leader to acquire such pan-Indian stature was only the Mahatma. No comparisons here, except that he too came from Gujarat. Modi has now acquired an aura that dazzles beyond partisan politics. Even those who disagree with him, and vote against him, say they do not suspect his personal integrity and good intention — the reason they’ve been forgiving on demonetisation after suffering severely from it.
Modi’s most loyal supporters also acknowledge that on the economy, reform, social messaging, his record halfway past his first term as prime minister has been patchy. “Wait for his second term,” they say, “learn from his history in Gujarat.” His first term as chief minister was contentious, overly political and divisive. In the second, he focused on the economy and infrastructure and built the springboard for national power later. It was also in his second term that he totally defanged the RSS, filed sedition cases against the troublesome VHP leaders and demolished scores of illegally-built temples in his encroachment clearing drive.
It would be reasonable to believe that this sweeping victory has brought that second term forward as 2019 seems more a certainty now. The defeat of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab and destruction in Goa should also detox his mind of any insecurities in Gujarat later this year. His party and the RSS are totally beholden to him. He has that greatest weapon, a brahmastra if you so prefer, that a mass leader has: the ability to bring votes. Or, to put it more simply, the ability to get lamp-posts elected.
The question now is, how he will use this power. Will he get off the electoral juggernaut now and focus on economic change as he did in Gujarat 2007 onwards? Will he invest his phenomenal persuasive skills along with his credibility to sell more challenging ideas of change: economic and governance reform, reducing the size of the government, makes durable peace with the neighbours and make future secure for our future generations.
With Inputs from Business Standard.