The new India born from Modi’s mandate

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Modi’s admirers claim this is a truly indigenous vision of India. Nehru’s, they say, was elite and western. Perhaps, though I’m not sure I agree. What is undeniable, however, is that Modi’s India is more aspirational and less dependent and it is turning its back on feudal or upper class entitlement.

Who won on Thursday? The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or, more accurately, Narendra Modi? And how should we describe the new India that Modi believes was born from this mandate? The first question is easy to answer. The second, perhaps because it’s interpretative, is more controversial.

I have no doubt the result is a huge endorsement of Narendra Modi himself. Look at the new political map of India and you’ll understand why. First, five months ago the Congress won Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. On Thursday, Modi reclaimed those states. He took every seat in Rajasthan, all but one in Madhya Pradesh and was two short of a full house in Chhattisgarh. December was clearly a vote against the BJP. Thursday was the triumph of Narendra Modi.

The same picture emerges from Bihar and Gujarat. In 2014, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 31 in Bihar. Now they have won 39. Nitish Kumar was the loser in 2014 but Modi was on the winning side both times. Eighteen months ago, the Congress thought it had dented the BJP in Gujarat. This time, when the country was voting for Modi, he won all 26 of the state’s seats. Once again, the result in both these states is a vote of faith in one man, Modi.

A year ago, the Congress cobbled together a coalition in Karnataka and thought it would win most of the Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Instead, Modi won 25 out of 28 with a vote share of 55%. And now can we doubt this heralds his party’s entry into south India? It has won 4 seats in Telangana and appreciably boosted its vote share to nearly 20%. Could this be its second home in the south?

No doubt the BJP’s formidable organisation played a significant role in winning 18 seats in West Bengal and 8 in Orissa. But can anyone deny that Modi was the man the voters had in mind when they pressed the EVM button?

Modi, consequently, has elevated himself to a pantheon of prime ministers comprising Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. He’s risen above prime ministers such as Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Rajiv Gandhi. Which brings me to the new India he believes this mandate has unveiled. What is its identity?

First, the Nehruvian concept of a land of multiple religions, castes, ethnicities, languages and cultures — a nation of rich diversity — held together by a unifying, secular, federal state is slipping into history. Its believers have been pushed to the political peripheries of the country. At the centre, there’s a new definition of India. This one is essentially Hindu, with a unitary civilisation, not one composed of different cultures, where minorities merge with the mainstream and the country seeks strength and international recognition through its Hindu character.

Modi’s admirers claim this is a truly indigenous vision of India. Nehru’s, they say, was elite and western. Perhaps, though I’m not sure I agree. What is undeniable, however, is that Modi’s India is more aspirational and less dependent and it is turning its back on feudal or upper class entitlement.

Finally, three questions that cry out for answers. If today Muslims and, perhaps, Dalits are nervous or even fearful, will the new India reassure them? Will difference and dissent, by which we once defined ourselves, be despised and silenced? Will Sangh Parivar voices — including BJP Members of Parliament and its governors — say hateful things which the government tolerates?

It all depends on Narendra Modi. In this new India, he’s the only person who counts. At least, for now.