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Politics is like a racehorse. A good jockey must know how to fall with the least possible damage.
– Edward HerriotPerhaps the age-old adage goes well with none other than Mr.Modi sans company, the sole architect of BJP’s landslide victory in Gujarat’s assembly election. The victory seems to have raised more questions than it got settled. The ‘merchant of death’ has ironically delivered deadly blows to the political fortunes of many at least for a period of five years. Political parties across the spectrum are meticulously engaged in improvising a fitting interpretation of results so as to protect or promote their pre-electoral braggadocio. A clear cut answer to what has led to Modi’s victory against the formidable odds still remains elusive and perhaps it lies somewhere in the middle of the two extreme propositions viz.politics of communalism and the issue of development, accompanied off course by a host of other catalysts. Once again the already lacking legitimacy of the opinion polls and exit polls has come under scrutiny for its failure to map the mood of electorates. Anyway, our analysis of the results must begin with the understanding of the overall political environment that set the stage for the entire political drama to be performed.
Unlike the highly surcharged political winds of 2002 (thanks to Godhra and post-Godhra pogrom), the electoral battle this time began comparatively on a low key note before the exchange of fire took place between the Chief Minister and the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi warranting the inevitable intervention of the Election Commission. Unlike the UPA, Modi & Company despite resorting, in no less measure, to muck racking confronted the challenge under a very meticulously crafted political strategy aimed at striking a fine balance among various components encompassing a little bit of development, dream, and deception. In other words, it outsmarted its adversaries in almost all the departments of electoral management, be it the manufacture of popular appeal and propaganda or the application of political acumen.
It is to be noted, much to the credit of the incumbent Chief Minister, that he displayed exemplary political finesse to defuse a multi-pronged attack orchestrated by Congress and allies, recalcitrant dissidents from his own party and a third front comprising a collusion among the members cutting across party lines- all working towards the same objectives but without the spirit of unison. Although it has always been a Herculean task to understand and predict the mood and fancy of electorates (they come, they see, they smile, they enjoy and then they destroy) yet some pattern of behavior can always be traced, more so in the light of the outcome.
It would be a great analytical immaturity on our part to relate the success of Mr. Modi directly to his successful playing of Hindutva card and his ability to steer anti-Muslim passion to the benefit of ballot box though it could be one of the reasons. If the past instances are any indication, anti-incumbency factors (more particularly in state elections) have always dominated all the other factors while guiding the course of electoral battle. To be more precise, hindutva may have played its role but only a limited role in the accompaniment of other favorable factors including door to door campaign by highly motivated party workers, clear cut electoral programmes and guidelines,overall development-centric manifesto,Modi’s dynamic leadership and most of all a death-defying determination in the camp to make it happen at any cost. Further, the consistent adherence to the undiluted version of hindutva ideology unlike his own party ideologues and the UPA which kept on shuttling between secularism and soft hindutva also placed him on a higher moral pedestral. Good or bad he never talked circumlocutory. No doubt Mr. Modi caught the imagination of a common voter who saw in him a strong, honest and fiercely decisive leadership capable of standing its ground against all adversaries whichever side they came from.
If politics thrives more on perception than anything, the Gujarat chief minister had an edge over his rivals right from the beginning. It is secret to none that the state of Gujarat is not only rated as one of the most developed and prosperous states (as shown by a number of surveys conducted by a number of national and international agencies) but it also outsmarts by a fair margin the Union Government in terms of important growth indices. It seems that the Modi’s Government over the years has succeeded in eclipsing (if not consigned to complete oblivion) politically troubling issues by streamlining the precedence of development politics over political politics and in the process converting the state into a favorite hot spot for foreign investors. As for instance, contraposed to other states (more particularly the West Bengal) Gujarat has moved ahead with its SEZ’s without any noise and chaos and that too with a remarkable pace. That is why the consistent screaming of blue murder by the UPA-Left combo fell only on deaf ears.
With an electorate which is increasingly becoming politically conscious and aware of ground realities, it becomes quite difficult to anticipate which weapon of offense would become the weapon of defense in the hands of opponents. Be it the reference to Sohrabuddin’s fake encounter or the conferment of ‘not- so- charming’ title of Merchant of death, Modi succeeded in turning the tables on the opponents by shaking and striking the jingoistic susceptibilities of the common mass.
A common man’s hero is the one who is visible with an impacting screen presence; who is capable of not only taking tough decisions but also executing them with an iron hand; who is tall enough to stand firmly in front of all adversities ; whose every second sentence touches regional sentiments ; who is not obsessed too much with ‘rule of law’ and other constitutional subtleties when it comes to persecute the enemies of Hindus or the enemies of the state ; who is not bad and comparatively far better than other state governments in terms of growth and developments ; who does not have a single charge of corruption against his person in an era when politico-administrative corruption has become an integral part of our way of living; who appeals to his people not from the ivory tower but by keeping himself firmly grounded as a proverbial ‘son of soil ‘and last but not the least, who has been stabbed in back by his own family members let alone the adversaries and he displays an unflinching confidence in his people that he would be resuscitated by them.
Do we really need to add something more to this ‘all enthralling ‘political package which in my view, seems more than appealing to any political scriptwriter?
Nevertheless, in every stability lies the seeds of instability and vice versa. Wisdom lies more in worshiping responsibilities than in gloating over the acquired power and authority. We hope that Modi’s government will redeem the investment of trust and confidence by the people by returning rich dividends in the form of Good Governance.
Sajjan Pratap Singh Director, IIIASA