The BJP registered an unexpected landslide victory in the general elections. The party was expected to do better than the weak opposition outfits, win 250-260 seats and form government with some outside support. But the tally of 303 for the BJP and 353 for the NDA was a windfall.
This is credited to the demagogy of Modi and organisation skills of Amit Shah. The election was not fought on the performance in the first term. Actually, there was no mention of any of the programmes of Modi 1.0. In fact, there was a complete blackout on that front.
The election agenda was national security, surgical strikes, undoing all the wrongdoings of the earlier Congress governments, etc. Added to this was the majoritarian agenda of the BJP. One wonders if it can be called a new development paradigm!
The UPA was splintered and was hobnobbing with some other unlikely parties to stitch a coalition. Rahul Gandhi not taking up responsible positions in the UPA I & II did not enhance his leadership graph. The third front with uncertain linkages of self-centred parties did not inspire much confidence either. So the whole opposition was in disarray.
It is not known which appealed to the people the most — Modi denouncing decades of Congress rule, majority nationalism, promise of muscular national security, publicity of the BJP with its alleged spending of Rs 27,000 crore, or the combination of all of them in varying degrees.
Perhaps, the NDA alliance looked more durable, if not very competent. The BJP could knit and galvanise the majority to vote for them despite its lackadaisical performance in the first term. Whatever be the reasons, they won the elections and won big at that. So it is the mandate of the people.
But some questions do arise — what is the best this decisive victory of the BJP can give India and what is their administrative agenda. The main agenda of Modi 1.0 was eradication of black money and corruption, Made and Make in India and massive employment. Some of them got aborted in the initial steps, some were half-baked and some others were a total disaster.
However, during the elections, national security and majority nationalism were the main agenda. What and how they are going to use it for the development of the country in this term is of curiosity. Making Shah the Home Minister, talking of single elections, reconstitution of constituencies and the talks of removal of Articles 370, 35 A in Kashmir are gaining stridency.
It is good if the Kashmir problem is solved and it is brought on a par with any other State in India. It may satisfy the BJP’s agenda of correcting the wrongs of the Congress. But it cannot be done just with majority nationalism. At least a section of the people in the Valley need to be brought on to the same page before attempting it. Any serious attempt at correcting the situation in Kashmir without the cooperation of the Kashmiris will be of no use. It can attract the attention of Pakistan and its client anti-India terror outfits. Making the controversial Shah the Home Minister and asking him to do the job may have repercussions. A suave, diplomatic personality who can gain some confidence to the other side could be a better proposition for the job. And it needs to be done with patience, perseverance and diplomacy. Ham-handed approach can have unpalatable results.
As far as national security is concerned, what difference Modi 2.0 is going to bring in is not clear. Barring the China debacle in 1962, the Indian defence forces have always been muscular enough in national security. Terrorism incidents have continued more or less like earlier. It can increase its vigil and try to keep terror outfits at bay. But can it go all-out to reoccupy the occupied Kashmir, decimate all the terror camps there and secure the border for good?
The agenda should be spelt out. Without an agenda and an action plan, mere majority nationalism cannot make national security more muscular. Sneaky surgical strikes and serious engagement of armed forces between two nuclear countries are different.
There is a lot of hope on Modi government’s multifarious reforms. We already know some of them from Modi 1.0. If it intends to take up those from where it left or if it plans to take up new reforms altogether, is not known. If we go by the past record, its perception of reforms and implementation leaves much to be desired. In the last five years, the BJP has proved to be good in publicity and brainwashing the minds of the people. Besides the demonetisation debacle, its other trials to curb black money and corruption too did not succeed much.
The government tried to clean the periphery while the fountainhead of corruption remained intact. In fact, it have made it bigger. Amendments to The Finance Act 2016 & 2017, removal of 7.5% cap on corporate donations to political parties, use of electoral bonds and foreign contributions which are exempt from disclosure, etc, diluted the campaign against black money and corruption. It is just like another of its pet programme — Namami Gange, where hundreds of crores are spent in cleaning up the river in the downside, while industrial effluents are let loose on the upper side.
Intending to do all good things is one thing but conceptualising those good things and taking them to the logical end is another. It needs a team with varied skills, experiences, commitment to implement schemes successfully.
A one man or two men show can achieve a few things like indoctrination, but bringing the change and delivering the goods as preached is a different ball game altogether. So let’s hope for the best and await the outcome of Modi 2.0.
(The author is a freelance journalist)