In a grand culmination of the world’s largest democratic exercise, the Bharatiya Janata Party – led by its firebrand leader Narendra Modi – will form the next government of India, having decimated the ruling Congress party with a decisive and triumphant electoral sweep.
Undoubtedly, the BJP’s landslide victory in the polls is a stunner.
Though most exit polls had anticipated a pro-Modi swing pan-India, its true power was reflected in the final mandate: Of the 543 contested seats in the Indian parliament, the BJP secured a landmark 280 seats, comfortably crossing the 272 figure required to clinch an absolute majority in the election.
With allies, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance bagged more than 330 seats, ensuring a humiliating defeat for its political opponents. In contrast, the ruling Congress conceded defeat a couple of hours into the counting of votes, and managed to clinch a paltry 47 seats.
“The people of India have voted for a change. This is the time to rewrite the Indian story,” said BJP President Rajnath Singh while congratulating Modi.
Indeed, the Indian mandate 2014 reflects public disillusionment and apathy with the existing state of affairs on one hand, and hope for a better future on the other.
And this is what the party tapped into: over the past year, the BJP campaign, spearheaded by Modi, revolved around both these fronts and used every technology and media available in its efforts to capitalise on the prevailing wave of public anger. From Facebook and Twitter to three-dimensional rallies, Modi captured public imagination to the hilt.
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Besides mobilising public support, this also helped encourage more Indians to come out and vote – the elections witnessed a mammoth 814-million strong electorate casting their ballots, and the counting was conducted by the Election Commission on 550 million votes. In addition, Modi's campaign slogans –“Ab ki baar, Modi Sarkar” (This time, chose the Modi government) and “Nai soch, nai ummeed" (New thinking, new hope) – echoed a sense of optimism and positivity the Indian voter was desperate to hear in an atmosphere of socio-economic gloom.
The resulting tide of public support – witnessed at the grassroots in tea-shop conversations, university discussions, workplaces and TV debates – gave birth to phenomena never seen before in India.
The much-touted “Modi wave” turned into a Tsunami for political rivals, engulfing the nation in one epic performance. Buoyed by Modi’s larger-than-life personal and a general sentiment of frustration with the incumbent government, the BJP successfully shattered traditional Indian vote banks, while also garnering support from young, first-time voters. Perceived government apathy, inflation, graft and unemployment fuelled the evident shift in voter inclinations.
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A remarkable aspect of the BJP victory – and indeed, the Modi phenomena – is that Indian voters have defied traditional barriers of caste, religion and region to unitedly vote for an alternative that promises growth and development. This should be a welcome trend –history shows that owing to votebanks, parties have often engaged in political grandstanding over key issues that require tough decisions. This has resulted in policy paralysis and lack of movement on important aspects.
Consequently, India has witnessed a slowdown akin to that seen in the 1980s. Joblessness – among skilled youth as well – is peaking. The incoming government needs to set the ball rolling with key reforms, and address the volatile mix of corruption and low economic productivity.
One of BJP’s most effective pitches during the elections was “Achhe din aane wale hain” (Good days are about to come). The time is here to make this happen.
With Modi’s thumping victory, the BJP government would face the daunting challenge of living up to mass expectations and delivering on poll promises.The responsibility now lies with the BJP and its allies in ensuring it does not let the voters down.