It has been a surprising, transformative result. On May 23, 2019, Nehru-Gandhi Yuga ended and Modi Yug began. The precise timing will have to be adjusted ex post. The changeover is not in doubt. This is the first time since Indira Gandhi’s win in 1971 that an incumbent has renewed a single-party majority. The BJP vote share exceeded 50% in a dozen states.
The Congress party, reduced to 44 seats in 2014, stayed in denial for five years and has paid the price. It will stay a long time in a low-level state. Even so, it should analyse why it lost so thoroughly a second time. Let me help. The BJP won not because of Balakot, nor by riding on the fear of terrorism. The vigilante attacks, ghar wapsi, the murder of Akhlaq were problems, but the people did not punish the BJP for those. Perhaps the Congress should ask why the impact of these events, or of the much discussed farmers’ distress or joblessness, GST, demonetisation or Rafale made no dent on the electoral chances of Modi and the BJP.
The voters are not stupid. They know what their needs are and where the shoe pinches. Rural India has experienced electrification, newly built toilets, freedom from outdoor defecation. They have bank accounts, Ayushman coverage if they are below poverty line. Poor farmers have Rs 6,000, seemingly trivial in eyes of Rahul Gandhi, but not the recipients.
The voters are also not naive. The conversion of Rahul Gandhi to a Hindu not to say Brahmin, visiting temples at every photo opportunity, did not fool them. The Congress may have thought that by donning the Brahmin garb, they would win votes. This has been proved wrong. Abandoning Muslims did not help.
What is the Congress to do? It needs to examine what if anything it believes in. It has abandoned secularism and played with soft Hindutva. If it still believes in socialism, it needs to specify what it means by the term. It needs to build a cadre of workers and rebuild the organisation which once spread across the length and breadth of India. Even if the Presidency is reserved for the Family, it needs to introduce democracy for other offices in the party. It may help other family-based parties to follow its example.
India is changing. This election has shown that caste matters much less now than in the coalition years of 1989 to 2014. This is why the gathbandhan in UP proved to be less successful than its partner parties had hoped. Entitlement is not enough. Rahul Gandhi lost Amethi and Jyotiraditya Scindia lost his family seat. Enrolling Priyanka Gandhi Vadra did not help. Smriti Irani showed that it is hard work in your constituency which pays dividends.
Another profound change is the death of the Left. The undivided CPI was the lead opposition party in 1952. The larger Left was part of the ruling coalition in 1996-1998. Jyoti Basu was offered prime ministership but his party, the CPI(M), forbade him from accepting. The Left ruled in Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura at various times during the last 70 years. Now it has been reduced to five seats. Its intellectual influence exceeds its political presence.
It took the Jana Sangh/BJP nearly 50 years till it came to power in 1998. Now it intends to stay in power with voters’ support.
This article first appeared in the print edition on May 26, 2019 under the title ‘Out of my mind: Beginning of Modi Yug’.