| 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 Mr Modi and the BJP.
By Balbir Punj , daily Pioneer
The strategy of the Congress is to block the economic reform agenda. This leaves the Modi Government with only one opening: Assert its mandate in the Lok Sabha and overcome the blockage in the Upper House
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 & 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 Mr 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 & 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 Mr Modi and the BJP.
The result should be read in itself, irrespective of whether a much-awaited PDP-BJP Government comes to power or not. The so far dominant parties in Jammu & Kashmir like the National Conference and the Congress are humbled even as the BJP’s transformational wind blows across the State. What could be described as a nationalist approach to a sectorally divided electoral scenario has taken the States, where the BJP has won on the Modi appeal, the selection of Chief Ministers whether in Haryana or Jharkhand, has served to push this nationalist agenda. The new State leaders, do not carry the dominant caste or ethnic group’s visiting card. Their agenda conforms to the national agenda laid down by Mr Modi.
There is also the last-ditch stand by the Congress and others as they apprehend the electoral ground slipping under them in the aftermath of the Modi agenda and approach. The strategy of a defeated and demoralised Congress, as was exposed in the Winter Session of Parliament is to block as far as possible the economic reform agenda of the Modi Government and then accuse it of non-fulfillment of promises made from the electoral platforms across India.
The Opposition tactic leaves only one opening for the Government. Assert its mandate in the Lok Sabha and overcome the blockage in the Upper House taking the ordinance route. The Government conveys to the people, its desire to go ahead with the fulfillment of its promised agenda and let the people judge the Opposition that blocks legislative progress. The Government is enabling India to be increasingly noticed by foreign Governments and business leaders. Within six months, inflation has gone down to zero for the first time in five years. The entire population will be having bank accounts within another four months, with overdraft and accident insurance facilities. The power and infrastructure constraints are now on the way to solution, with changes in Government policies that would break the gridlock in these areas.
Perhaps it is not just a new order in India that a Modi-led Government is ushering in; the last six months have seen the Prime Minister actively pursue leadership in this new order. So 2015 is all full of excitement. Compare that with the pessimism that prevailed at the beginning of the year that we are leaving behind. That contrast is what makes the New Year a new and hopeful beginning.