Even diehard optimists did not accept the electoral verdict of 11th March. BJP won an incredible 406 of the 690 seats on offer (or 59% of the total). Its footprint now extends from Manipur to Gujarat and from J&K to Andhra.It is now the pole around which Indian political economy will evolve in the foreseeable future. Even Modi’s most trenchant critics must now recognize that he has charted a new course in Indian politics.He has the credibility, legitimacy and people’s trust as no other leader has had in recent times.
The question to ask therefore is whether he, like Mrs. Gandhi, will allow this unparalleled leadership status to be squandered away or even worse use it to weaken and destroy our democratic institutions. Or will he use this historical mandate to take India on the path of sustained, inclusive and rapid growth until 2046, the centenary of India having overthrown its our colonial yoke.By 2046, India shouldhave successfully generated sufficient number of jobs for its young population and established a pluralistic society and a truly federal polity. A breathtaking prospect of a successful triple transition that could well be seen as a model by the rest of the world.
The portents are good that Modi will not let this historical opportunity go waste. For me this was best reflected in his clarion call to BJP leaders and workers, assembled at 11 Ashoka Road, the BJP now swanky headquarters, to ‘bend down’ with humility in the wake of this tremendous victory and shun arrogance and hubris. I sincerely hope this message will be grasped by the BJP/RSS leadership. This may, however, not be easy. Specially now that they see, for the first time in independent India, the clear prospect of remaining in office for ten years and if the performance of party spokespersons and my limited interaction with BJP leadership is any indication.However, it is a necessary condition for preventing alienation and disenchantment from setting in. This does not take long at all and President Amit Shah will have to firmly and persistently pass on the prime minister’s message to his party colleagues.
Modi also reached out to the ordinary folk by asking them to take a pledge for India’s transformation by 2022 and make development a people’s movement. This is a huge shift from the past feudal attitudes of our political leaders. Their victory speeches have smacked of patronage to be doled out by a ‘mai baap sarkar’ to the hapless people who would passively wait for the next five years before again exercising their democratic rights and give vent to their frustrations. Modi’s exhortation to both his party men/women and the common Indians for an unrelenting effort for India’s rapid transformation is reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi’s call for not stopping with independence and continuing the struggle until the tear was wiped out from every eye. This is also the essence of Deendayal Upadhaya’s Antyodaya, BJP’s guiding principle.
In Modi we have a leader who has a bold vision for the country, backs it with his indefatigable effort and demands the same from the bureaucracy. This can be the basis for putting in place a development state in Delhi and state capitals, which is critical for ensuring an efficient and leak-proof delivery of public goods and services. This alone will guarantee Antyodaya or lifting those at the bottom of the pyramid. Will the bureaucracy,now that it knows that Modi is likely to be in power until 2024, respond more positively to his agenda for an efficient, transparent and more accountable governance. It might. It did so in Gujarat once the continuity of his tenure was assured. Nevertheless, reportedly governance in Gujarat has deteriorated after Modi’s departure. Therefore, Modi may consider necessary administrative reforms to alter the incentive structure for senior bureaucracy and link it more tightly with performance and merit. Only then will the development state persist beyond his tenure. Having effectively secured the mandate for two terms, Modi will do well to start the process now so that results can accrue in the next term. This may be a necessary condition for achieving Vision 2022 that he outlined in his victory speech.
Finally, UP voters have plumbed for Modi for UP to catch up with the rest of the country. One important different between UP and other states is simply its humungous size. Its geographical spread, extreme regional diversity and population size makes for dysfunctional goverannce. Therefore, the next BJP chief minister of UPshould be the last chief minister of unified UP. BJP has, in the past, shown its preference for smaller states. With his majority in Lok Sabha and now in Lucknow, Modi is best placed to make this much needed change. Four smaller states will be far more conducive to good governance. As Modi said himself, only when UP moves, will India’s progress be assured. Dividing UP into four (West UP or Harit Pradesh, Central UP or Oudh, Eastern UP or Poorvanchal and Bundelkhand) is perhaps a necessary condition for this critical forward movement.
Rajiv Kumar, Founder Director, Pahle India Foundation.