Journalism is said to be the first draft of history, but when journalists are actually called upon to write that first draft, we often get it wrong. So it was with this election. Most Indian journalists either did not see what was happening or chose not to, so even as we gathered in Delhi’s TV studios on the morning of May 16 to wait for the results, most of us continued to believe that the Bharatiya Janata Party would not get a clear majority. Dedicated liberals and Lefties among us predicted cheerfully that the NDA would get no more than 220 seats. This was what Gandhi family sycophants told their masters as well, deluding them into nurturing the false hope that they might remain in power by lending outside support to a ragtag government.
At the risk of blowing my own horn I have to say that it was more than a year ago that I saw the first signs of a Modi wave. I was travelling through rural Rajasthan and kept meeting people who told me they admired Narendra Modi and would like to see him as the prime minister.
They made it very clear why they wanted this to happen. They pointed to the absence of clean water and electricity in their villages, to the broken roads, the hopeless schools and health centres and said they wanted things to change and believed Modi could bring that change.
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Parivartan and vikas were the two Hindi words I heard most on my travels across India.
After the election campaign began, I travelled in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra and made pit stops in Bhubaneswar and Kochi, and except in Kerala I saw signs of a Modi wave everywhere I went. But, when I returned to Delhi and reported this to colleagues, I found myself dismissed as a ‘Modi groupie’. With the exception of Rajat Sharma, there was not a single journalist who predicted what has now come to be, and for his pains he got labelled a ‘Modi groupie’. The rules of ‘secularism’ dictate that in India you can profess your loyalty to the dynasty, to thuggish caste leaders and even Stalinists, but try saying that you think Modi could bring real change to our shamefully backward country, and you become ‘communal’.
Well, India as we know it may now have changed forever. May the gods ensure this because in the name of caste and creed our political leaders have kept most Indians mired in the most wretched poverty. Dr Manmohan Singh’s economic reforms brought a measure of affluence and created a middle class, but in the past three years Sonia Gandhi and her NGO do-gooders reversed the reforms and talked instead of ‘inclusive’ growth. Her ministers and high officials got the message and brought back the licence raj through the Environment Ministry and drove away investors with a new tax regime that technically allows the Finance Minister to charge the East India Company with cheating on their taxes. The economy stopped growing, the job market dried up and gloom descended. This is what caused the Modi wave.
Dynasty sycophants can rant on about darkness descending and the end of India, but their words make no sense to angry young Indians who cannot understand why their country cannot provide them their most basic needs. The truth is they make no sense to your humble columnist either because the political dream that Modi has sold Indians is that all Indian citizens will be treated as equal and will have equal rights. ‘Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’.
It is the opposite of the horribly divided India built in the name of secularism. This is why leaders whose only political appeal was caste have bitten the dust in this election. In the coming days I have no doubt that devotees of the dynasty will continue to write long, passionate pieces about the end of India and the death of Nehruvian socialism, but for the vast majority of Indians, who do not understand English, their words are meaningless.
This election has been about renewal, change and hope in the deepest sense of those words. This is because Modi succeeded in persuading voters that their real fight must be against poverty and not each other. He succeeded in persuading young Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, that they could look forward in the future to a prosperous, secure India. This is why he managed to give a party, that was no more than a bad facsimile of the Congress Party, a new image. Without Modi it would have been hard for the Bharatiya Janata Party to get a hundred seats. This is the truth of what has happened and those who paint doomsday scenarios and make foolish comparisons with Europe in the Thirties could find themselves on the wrong side of history.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh