The one word that could capture the spirit of 2014 is ‘transformation’. That the total change in the political and economic scenario has emerged out of the expectations of a young India and a leader who could understand and respond to it, provides the hope that this transformation will bear fruit. After the latest State Assembly elections, there is a complete reversal of the Congress-BJP power equation. The last summer’s parliamentary elections saw the Congress reduced from 206 Lok Sabha MPs to a mere 44, and the BJP number go past the midline, with the Congress being wiped out in State after State.
The next set of Assembly elections underlined this consolidation of the BJP, with the party coming to power both in Maharashtra and Haryana. This winter, the State Assembly elections threw up what was considered impossible: The BJP becoming a solid force in Jammu and Kashmir and winning Jharkhand with a majority by itself. In 2004, the Congress had 1,129 MLAs and the BJP 909. At the end of 2014, the BJP that has more MLAs than the Congress: 1,058 for BJP and 949 for the Congress. With more States scheduled to go to polls this year and onwards, the trend should continue.
This will be reflected in the composition of the Rajya Sabha, disabling even a combined Opposition from holding up the reforms express that the Modi-led BJP Government has set on the rail. One does not need any expertise in psephology to predict that in the year 2017, midway from its success in 2014, the BJP will have all the political and parliamentary clout needed for implementing its radical reforms. Of course, politics is in a dynamic flux in a vast country like India. Success for any party is predicated on its ability to sustain the swing in the public mood, so effectively expressed in mid-2014 as the general election wind gathered strength to become a storm. The May wind gained the power to rise to a storm by the electoral insight and effective leadership of one man, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The insight was evident in the vision he laid out. When he could align the programme he adumbrated with the aspirations of a young India, and expressed that through specifically the new social media, it became an unstoppable whirlwind. In a country where elections were decided on caste and communal traditions, here was a leader whose appeal was above all congealed social divisions. No doubt, his record as the Chief Minister of a major State over 12 years was the template for his appeal. But any clinical analysis of the last May’s election will readily give full marks to his enormous ability to focus his agenda in terms that the crowd could respond to and his innate ability to select the right focus.
For instance, his taking the challenge of contesting from a different State and then selecting the ancient pilgrim town of Varanasi as a test of his pan Indian appeal. Even in completely literate Kerala, where most segmented political parties are identified by the sectoral support they are based on, the BJP could push forward against the pressure of the two lead fronts that alternated in Government, and make substantial inroads into the constituencies.
In spite of sustained efforts by the ‘secularists’ to demonise Modi, swathes of minorities rejected the anti-minority card in important States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Without that significant shift in minority support, the BJP could not have gained 73 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh and similar dominance in Bihar. In divided Andhra Pradesh, the aligning with the BJP did not constrain the lead party, the Telugu Desam Party, from returning to power, after three installments of five year each in the State Assembly election.
In the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly election result, it must be noted that, while the BJP could not make it big in Kashmir valley, it did gain an identifiable support base from the Muslim-majority area of the valley. The BJP sweep in Jammu area was a complete departure from the past 30 years. When a valley-majority party, the Peoples Democratic Party, comes calling on the BJP for support, it completely negates the communal slogans raised by the Congress and the till-now ruling National Conference to isolate Modi and the BJP.