May 16 could turn out to be a day remembered in history as the day India liberated itself from thraldom of its deracinated elite, and the false gods foisted upon the masses by the self-serving Delhi Durbar
As the Sun sets on Saturday, campaigning for the last phase of the 2014 Lok Sabha election draws to a close. On Monday, May 12, the last of the constituencies — 41 of them, in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar — will go to the polls and with that we would have put behind us India’s longest election stretched over more than a month. Technically, the curtains will come down on May 16, when the votes will be counted and the winner of this summer’s battle for the masnad of Delhi declared. But, for all practical purposes, the much awaited election — the gripping excitement and tidal wave of anticipation of change are reminiscent of what I can recall of the popular mood in 1977 when Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime was booted out of office — would come to an end with the last vote being cast on Monday.
While it is tempting to predict the outcome of this election, it would be wise to refrain from doing so. Not because there’s any doubt that the Nehru household owned Congress will suffer a crushing defeat but because wisdom lies in not putting a limit to the BJP's performance. The tsunami of support for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi that has washed India from shore to shore could make any prediction, no matter how scientifically derived, appear ill-informed. Modi began the campaign aiming for 272 seats; he has ended the campaign asking for a final push to make that 300 seats. Cynics would scoff at those numbers and Cassandras would foresee doom, but those who have been out in the dust and heat of the campaign know that this election could post an extraordinary verdict.
Who could have foreseen, barring the few who had long ago vested their faith in Modi and were silently, tirelessly working behind the scenes to prepare the ground for his eventual bid for the Prime Minister’s office, that an interaction with students of Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi University would turn out to be a historic event, the opening gambit in a game that destiny seems to have willed Modi shall win? Indeed, till the last minute announcement by BJP president Rajnath Singh on the concluding day of the party’s National Executive meeting in Goa on June 9, 2013, that Modi would head the Election Campaign Committee, which formally made him the first among equals, there were some within and many outside the party who were hoping history would take a different course. That a BJP led by Modi would be a formidable force was a reality even then; it turned into an indisputable fact when he was named the party’s prime ministerial candidate on September 13. Since then Force NaMo has dominated the electoral landscape, dwarfing pretenders to the throne and decimating foes, metaphorically if not literally.
Irrespective of the results and the final margin of the BJP’s victory this summer’s election will be remembered for several reasons. For me, three stand out for their political significance. First, Modi has turned conventional wisdom on its head by strategising and executing an innovative campaign that had three hallmarks: Communicate directly to the masses and connect with them; set an agenda and stick to it no matter how grave the provocation to shift focus; reach out to every section of society across every corner of the country and not remain restricted to urban constituencies where Modimania took shape and form in its early days. Modi decided that he would contest this election on the strength of his development record in Gujarat. And he stuck to that agenda, straying now and then, but never too far. He invariably returned to showcasing his proven ability to deliver good governance. The Congress tried to convert the election into a referendum on ‘secularism’ versus ‘communalism’ and, as is obvious even to its core supporters by now, has ended up with egg on its face. India is tired of clichés and tattered lines no longer excite the popular imagination. Modi sensed this better than anybody else and turned himself into asapno ka saudagar, merchant of dreams, reviving hope among the hopeless, resuscitating faith in India’s ability to compete and succeed, to prosper and grow, reenergising a listless Young India into the engine that has virtually driven his campaign.
Second, he has used volunteers, mostly young, some barely out of their teens, many who either gave up their well-paying jobs or took time off, as a force multiplier. ‘India 272+’, the rubric under which volunteers from India and abroad gathered to work for Modi’s campaign, is the first such attempt, at once innovative and audacious, that not only supplemented the BJP’s organisational strength, it also served to make people feel they were part of the ‘change’ that Modi’s advent on the centrestage of national affairs would herald. This sense of involvement played a key role in helping Modi to connect with the masses, as did his amazing oratorical skills. He spoke from the heart, he spoke unrehearsed, he spoke with conviction and he spoke with passion. The message was always simple: Trust me, and I won’t betray your trust. We also saw the amazing use of technology to carry Modi’s message to the voters — whether in the form of vigorous and relentless canvassing of support on social media platforms, which have come of age in this election, or 3D hologram rallies that enabled Modi to be virtually ‘present’ at a hundred places at the same time. Technology by itself is not necessarily a big contributor to an election campaign; others, most notably the Congress, have tried to use it too this year. It’s the creative use of technology by those who dare to think out of the box, as Team Modi did, that has made Modi’s campaign a winner.
Third, though it wasn’t Modi but his adversaries who brought it to the fore, his identity as someone who has risen from extremely humble origins through sheer dint of hard work and merit has made him one among the masses, someone who represents the vast majority of India, a leader who loathes the Delhi establishment and whom the Delhi establishment fears in equal measure. The masses identified with the ‘chaiwallah’ from Ahmedabad, in him they saw reflected their own dreams, their own aspirations, their own disdain for the elite which is blamed for the mess in which the country finds itself today. Modi as Prime Minister would not only mark the end of Delhi Durbar’s rule over India, it would also start the process of seizing power from a few and bestowing it to the many. The road to revolution, my generation was told, lay through Peking and Calcutta. It has turned out to be from Gandhinagar to New Delhi. The fall of the Delhi Durbar is something generations of Indians have desired. Hopefully we will get to witness it soon, along with the fall and eventual decline of the Nehru Dynasty.
In a sense, May 16 could turn out to be a day remembered in history as the day India liberated itself from thraldom of its deracinated elite, and the false gods foisted upon the masses by that self-serving Delhi Durbar. Modi is both the leader and liberator India has awaited all these decades of decay.