Modi 2.0 Benign Ambition

Modi Shah

So, the laddoos will remain to be savoured in the spanking new BJP headquarters. But formal celebrations are delayed. The results cannot be announced till 5 vote-verified-paper-audit-trail (VVPAT) per assembly segment are matched with the vote count of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM)– a concession the Supreme Court gave to the wailing opposition parties who “feared” that digital voting could be rigged – though no credible evidence was ever available.

Despite glitches Modi won fair and square

There were instances of polling disorder – EVMs not used or defective EVMs being handled casually rather than transported and managed in a secure manner just like the EVMs, on which the voting took place, are secured and stored. Put this down to poor training or poor supervision.  But this was not a deliberate attempt to subvert the peoples will.

BJP plays Holi with saffron across India

bjp flag

Of course it helps that the people have voted overwhelmingly the way the BJP would have wanted them to. By the evening of May 23rd the BJP leads had already crossed its 2014 achievement of 282 seats,  by a margin of 18 seats. A loss of around 20 seats in Uttar Pradesh was more than made up by sweeping Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and ingressing into Odisha, West Bengal, Telengana and Kerala and increasing seats in Karnataka.

The NDA should clock up around 340 seats – the Shiv Sena with 18, Nitesh Kumar’s Janata Dal United with 15 and Lok Janshakti with 6.

Congress whipped

The Congress – the underdog in this race- also did better with 51 seats against the 44 it had in 2014. Sadly,not enough to make it automatically eligible for the hashtag of the leader of the opposition. Sonia Gandhi befitting her stature as a senior Congress leader has won virtually unopposed from Rae Bareilly. But the feisty Smriti Irani of the BJP has bearded Rahul in his own den in nearby Amethi. Like his grandmother – Indira Gandhi, who fled to the safety of a by-election in distant Chikmagalur, Karnataka to get elected after she lost in the 1977 general elections, held post-emergency, Rahul contested and won from Wayanad, Kerala. So he shall be in the Lok Sabha with Shashi Tharoor, who won on his own steam, for the third time, from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

Smriti Irani

Blind ambition, poor strategy punishes the MahaGatBandan

By its failure to align with like-minded parties and share power, the Congress has reduced its vote share and cut into the vote share of parties opposed to the BJP, like AAP in Delhi and the MahaGatBandan in UP – a self-defeating strategy. Its strike rate – seats won versus seats contested – is lower that than of like-minded parties like Stalin’s DMK, which won 23 seats out of 39 in Tamil Nadu.

Parties not aligned with either group will be the second largest group after the NDA with around 105 seats between them. Amongst these will be Jagan Reddy of the YSRC of Andhra Pradesh who swept the AP assembly elections and will have 25 MPs – the second largest after the Congress; Mamata Banerjee with 22 MPs; Naveen Patnaik, who won an unprecedented fifth term leading the BJD in the Odisha Assembly elections with 14 MPs; Bhen Mayawati of the BSP from Uttar Pradesh with 12 MPs – she had none in the previous Lok Sabha – Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party with 6 and the much diminished TRS with 8.

The Lutyens preoccupation – who will get what in the new government?

None of this matters immediately. The next actionable step is for the BIP – the single largest party with 55 per cent of the seats- to decide its cabinet line-up. The big questions will be whether Amit Shah – the brains and the grunt behind the BJPs victory – will join the cabinet or would Modi prefer he manages the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections this year and Haryana and Delhi to follow in 2020?

Also could Yogi be shifted from Uttar Pradesh to the Union cabinet and who then would manage UP? Or will Shivraj Chauhan, the previous Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh migrate to Lutyens Delhi from Bhopal and is the MP government likely to meet an early end?

North Block

Preparations for the Union budget need to start straight away. Will Arun Jaitley remain the Finance Minister or will the onerous fiscal baton be passed on to Piyush Goel, who presented the Interim Budget in Jaitley’s absence and has sequentially managed coal, power and renewable energy and then the railway ministries. He is a trusted insider with long familial links with the parivar and is one of the bright stars of the BJP.

……And what of the Muslims?

Muslim women

Should Muslims be worried, now that the Modi Raj looms large and long, possibly even beyond 2024? Or should they rest assured that the massive mandate of the BJP is their best safeguard since it serves to dilute the “siege mentality” of the RSS. Weaker the potential threat from the minorities of strategic, en bloc voting to defeat the BJP, the less they have to fear from a Modi government.

Modi seeks to bind all into a India First strategy

Modi no longer seeks domestic dominance. He has that already. He is now looking at global domination. It is the RSS which has to adapt to the times and not the other way around. It is conceivable that Modi might offer to broadband the definition of “Hindu” in the explanation to Article 25 of the Constitution, relating to the freedom of religion. Presently, it includes only Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. This can be extended to include Christians and Muslims also if the two communities so wish.

This simple change will make them eligible, like all others, for the affirmative action programs of the government. Consider that this has already been done via the 10 per cent reservation for the poor implemented this year, which is not restricted to any caste or religion.

Untangling the knots of elite privilege will be the toughest challenge


Modi’s social agenda for the next five years is to distinguish between the “haves” and the “have-nots” with the intention of lifting the latter to competitive levels of income and well-being, without reference to caste or religion.

Untangling the devious social constructs of the past seven decades, which have embedded entitlements for silo based elites, is a stupendous task. It does not need to be done tomorrow. In any event, neither Modi nor Amit Shah is prone to plan or to act, just for the present.

Adapted from the authors opinion piece in Asian Age May 24, 2019

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