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Monday, October 26, 2020

Out of my mind: Creation of a political myth

The victory of the incumbent will be hard for opponents to explain.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Updated: March 31, 2019 3:53:53 am
lok sabha elections, lok sabha elections 2019, narendra modi, prime minister narendra modi, pm modi, lok sabha elections, bjp, congress, rahul gandhi, nyay, nyay scheme, grand coalition, stalin, mahagathbandhan, ashok gehlot, balakot air strike, pulwama attack, indian express news It was argued before the election was announced that a grand coalition of all opposition parties could and would defeat Narendra Modi. (Source: File)

IT is most likely that the incumbent BJP/NDA a.k.a. Modi government will be returned to power. We can debate the number of seats that one or the other party gets. It was argued before the election was announced that a grand coalition of all opposition parties could and would defeat Narendra Modi. Of course, no party entering an election will claim anything less. The various state chief ministers — the satraps — had begun jostling for prime ministership in the forthcoming government they were hoping to form. Then Stalin’s endorsement of Rahul Gandhi’s choice as prime minister began to roll back the juggernaut of the grand coalition. Others joined Stalin and it became clear that the Congress had its own plan.

It was not going to be first among equals. It would be the top dog and the rest can follow or not.

The victory of the incumbent will be hard for opponents to explain. They have been complaining about the lack of jobs, demonetisation, the GST, farmers’ distress and many other alleged failures. They complain of other ‘non-material’ matters such as intolerance or arrogance or overconcentration of power in Modi’s hands etc. Ashok Gehlot even warned the voters that if Modi won, this would be the last election ever, which even for a veteran Congressman long used to being the winner rather than on the losing side was over the top.

Even Indira Gandhi called an election in the Emergency. Democracy is safe in India even if the Congress is not in power at the Centre.

How will the defeat be explained away? There will be a mythical history created. It will be said that until the Pulwama tragedy happened, the grand coalition (not formed as of then or even now) was sure to win, but the tragedy and the retaliation in Balakot, Pakistan, changed the scene. Modi won on back of the Balakot attack. All the failures were forgotten by the gullible voters and the wrong party won.

I say this because exactly this myth was built up about Mrs Thatcher defeating the Labour Party in 1983, her first bid for re-election, much as 2019 will be Modi’s first bid for re-election. The Falklands war launched by the Argentinian military junta was met by a counterattack by the UK. So we in the Labour Party said our deserved victory was stolen.

Of course, we were wrong, though we saw that everything Thatcher was doing was a departure from what the country’s politicians had done. She had broken the norms, preached a free market philosophy which we thought was extreme. There was high unemployment, race riots and inflation had not come down as promised.

But the voters voted for her. Indeed, if we had looked at what the voters were thinking closely, we would have seen that the Conservative Party was leading in opinion polls even before the Falklands battle.

The public was fed up with the old way of doing things. Thatcher was changing things in a way no one had done before. She won the next election as well. She changed the ideology in politics and the Labour Party had to move to the Centre.

Modi was ahead in the polls before Pulwama. He has shaken up the country and changed politics. Modi will win because he is different.

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