Narendra Damodardas Modi, India’s first Prime Minister to be born in Independent India, on May 23rd also became the first Prime Minister since 1971 to secure a single party majority twice in a row.
The BJP patriarch, L.K. Advani in 2014, after being relegated to the Margdarshak Mandal, while congratulating Modi, turned it into a back-handed compliment by saying, “It is a matter of analysis how much credit should be given to Narendrabhai for this victory!” Well, he got his answer in 2019 — all of it, all credit goes to Modi.
In fact, according to a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), a New Delhi-based think-tank, a third of BJP voters said they would have supported another party if Modi was not the Prime Ministerial candidate.
Back in 2014, Congress also doubted the worth of Modi’s victory when they said Modi used marketing agencies to push his message, as if to say if not for these agencies, BJP would have lost.
Indeed, BJP had used a marketing firm called McCann World Group. Modi’s campaign was designed by a company called Soho Square, that came up with “Abki baar…”, “Janta maaf nahi karegi” and the “Achche din…” slogans. But then, Congress has been using agencies like these since a long time.
In 1984, despite Rajiv Gandhi enjoying a sympathy wave, Congress still hired an ad agency, Rediffusion to make sure Rajiv was effectively introduced as the natural heir to Indira Gandhi’s position. Rajiv Gandhi’s title ‘Mr. Clean’ came from them and not from the people. Yes, BJP used agencies to market Modi, but the product has to be marketable first. And Modi was an easy sell in an aspirational India. What did Congress have to sell?
More importantly, Narendra Modi has turned India’s Lok Sabha elections into a Presidential election where voters cast their votes based on the Prime Ministerial candidate. The last time someone captivated Indians like this was Indira Gandhi.
Indira had the charisma, was tough and held her own among global leaders. So captivated were the people that Congressmen said, “Indira is India and India is Indira.” Modi has similar traits but he brings in something new, which is, he fulfils young India’s craving for Indian Pride. Not just Hindu Pride as many would like us to believe.
What is amazing though is the fact that in spite of the Opposition putting forth the issues of joblessness, reduction in farm income, weak industrial production, ineffectiveness of demonetisation and inefficient deployment of GST, BJP still won!
We are sure the campaign manager of former US President Bill Clinton will be dumb-founded. Because, when Bill Clinton’s run for a second term in office was marred by Monica Lewinsky affair, they introduced a slogan — “It’s the Economy, Stupid” — telling people that economy of the nation was more important than a President’s indiscretions, Clinton won. Likewise, in India during this election we can say “It is the Leadership, Stupid.”
Of course, Indians do want a robust economy, improved job market, etc. But for now, they are just glad that they have a PM who has secured a seat among global heavyweight leaders, has muscle in his foreign policy, can communicate effectively and deploy certain schemes efficiently. Also clarity about his Indian-ness and talk of Imandaari is comforting for most of his non-fanatic voters.
In that sense, Modi is like US President Ronald Reagan, who in the 1980s got a second term in office in spite of a broken economy. His victory was attributed to his communication skills. He was named the “Teflon President.” We have a “Teflon Prime Minister” and a “Kevlar First Lady” Amit Shah. Jokes apart, this Bromance has re-engineered Indian politics forever.
BJP has brought a certain corporate culture and structure into politics and every party has to learn. And Jaganmohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh learnt quickly. That is why he hired Prashant Kishor, the professional campaign manager, who helped the BJP’s 2014 campaign. Look what a victory Jagan has had.
Now, just like how a Private Corporation has Mentors, Board of Directors, CEO, the face of the Corporation, COO, Executives etc., BJP has Margdarshak Mandal that consults, RSS that overlooks, Modi the face, Amit Shah who handles operations and Karyakartas, who have to implement directions and meet targets.
And just like how a Corporation fires non-performers, so does BJP. In Chhattisgarh, in one shot 10 sitting MPs were denied tickets in 2019 for their lack in performance and 10 new faces from second-rung of party workers were given tickets! In fact, BJP changed nearly 115 seats this election! Does any other party have the guts to do this today? No way.
This ability to change faces has forced BJP MPs to work and perform and it also reduces anti-incumbency. That said, yes, Modi too will be replaced and relegated to the Margdarshak Mandal one day, the day they find another CEO, who can lead the Party and impress the voters.
On the other hand, Congress is in a state of impasse. Congress would have done much better if Rahul Gandhi had guts. And as they say, no guts no glory.
Rahul has to get rid of all the grey, pompous, elitist dead wood Daddy’s friends such as Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Sam Pitroda, Veerappa Moily, etc., and promote younger leaders.
He had a chance to promote Shashi Tharoor, Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora directly into the Congress Working Committee but he did not. Again, he had an opportunity to promote Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia, the young leaders who delivered in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh respectively in the Assembly elections, but he did not. Instead, he promoted the old horses and what happened is there for all to see.
Let alone promoting, he even sidelined and insulted efficient leaders such as Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam and Jagan in Andhra.
When Biswa visited Rahul to warn him that Assam needed an overhaul, Rahul, instead of taking him seriously and lending an attentive ear, was playing with his pet dog ‘Pidi’. What happened? Biswa left Congress and like how a Corporation jumps at a talented Executive, BJP grabbed him and look what happened. Biswa delivered Assam to BJP.
Similarly, when Jagan requested he be made Congress President in Andhra after his father’s death, as he was the man working with party workers anyway while his father was the CM, he was shunned. He left and see what happened in Andhra.
Congress must not fear good and aspiring leaders. It should stop seeing them as a threat to the Gandhis. Instead they must be encouraged to grow and migrate to the Centre. It not only brings credibility and increases winnability, but also gives hope for hard-working leaders within the party. As the famous advertising guru once said, “If you want to excel as an organisation, always hire people better than you.”
Also, Secular card is losing currency. Secularism means all religions are equal. How can all Indians be equal when some Indians get special legal privileges? This creates two Indians. And Congress thought this special privilege is good for them and it was… But it has been bad for India’s social fabric and also has hindered the merger of Muslim community into mainstream economic and social fabric of this nation. Of course, BJP is no better as they too play the Hindutva card.
But these two strategies are two sides of the same coin. That is why it is said, “What BJP does in the light of day, Congress has been doing in the dark of night.” And other parties give BJP the ammunition to exploit this Hindu Pride. Like Mamata Banerjee, who by arresting BJP workers who were chanting “Jai Sri Ram” in Bengal. Would she dare arrest if any other Party’s workers had chanted “Allah hu Akbar”? Well, BJP asked this question and yes, polarisation happened. Mamata played to her Muslim voters, BJP played to their Hindu voters. What was lost in this tit-for-tat? West Bengal’s non-communal, liberal and intellectual fabric.
Now, before we declare that BJP will keep ruling India like Congress did for a long time, we must realise that there is a new voter mindset — a ‘double mandate’ mindset: ‘Vote one-way regionally and another way nationally.’
The proof lies in what happened just a few months ago and what happened on May 23. Just five months ago, Congress won Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. A few days ago, BJP lost the Assembly elections in Andhra, Odisha and Sikkim, that too in the middle of Modi frenzy.
It seems, the voter has decided that when it comes to Assembly elections, they will vote along caste lines. Because for the work that affects a voter directly, like road, water, garbage, site conversion, etc., electing a local man or a person from one’s own community as an MLA or a Corporator is helpful.
But when it comes to Lok Sabha, they want a Prime Minister, who puts the nation first and hopefully ushers in effective long-term polices and services. So if anyone thinks that just because Modi has swept the Lok Sabha, the BJP will sweep Vidhan Sabha, they are mistaken.
Congress will survive and it must survive for the sake of a healthy Democracy. They must grow to become a credible Opposition and even win. No party must rule for too long because absolute power corrupts absolutely — it did the Congress. Now, if the Congress has to come back, they need to amputate the out-of-touch elitist old leaders who have become gangrenous.
For now, a young India that was orphaned with no leaders to inspire or be proud of, has finally found one in Modi. The first time it was “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar,” this time it is “Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar” and if Congress does not fix itself, next time it will be “Modi Sarkar Baar Baar…”
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