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If Modi Wants A Full Term...

Last updated on: June 17, 2024 16:15 IST
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It will be in Modi's interest to reinvent his party, read the writing on the wall that voters wrote, and move ahead.

He has little choice now. The country is watching, asserts Ramesh Menon, author of Modi Demystified: The Making Of A Prime Minister.

IMAGE: Narendra D Modi felicitated by Bharatiya Janata Party national President Jagat Prakash Nadda during the National Democratic Alliance meeting in New Delhi, June 5, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The humble voter in India has spoken.

There is a new hope in the air.

Hope of saying goodbye to divisive politics of hatred.

Hope for the much-needed restoration of democratic values that have strengthened our country for decades.

Hope that politics will have some dignity, respect opponents, and keep people's needs higher than catapulting emotive issues like religion.

With a wiser, united Opposition, we may see all these values again dominate our political culture.

Modi will no longer be able to make decisions without a consensus like he did with demonetisation.

Only 14 per cent of bills were referred to a standing committee in the last Lok Sabha. Now, the Speaker will have to listen and be fair. Now, parliamentary traditions and conventions will have to be respected.

Parliament will again be vibrant with debates and discussions and not a farce where Opposition members are suspended, and laws hurriedly pushed through without debate, as we witnessed in the 17th Lok Sabha.

There was the element of fear everywhere. Fear of being followed, fear of being tapped while speaking on the phone, fear of a raid by the Income Tax or the Enforcement Directorate.

It is fear that made all the pillars of democracy crumble.

Hopefully, the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary, and the media will now regain their confidence and energy to say the right thing and safeguard democracy in the way they are expected to.

The scepticism that most voters had when elections were announced has been diluted.

They still have apprehensions, given that they saw a decade of an authoritarian regime that rode roughshod over democratic norms and institutions responsible for guarding democracy.

If Modi wants a full term, he would not risk doing it.

India figured out that without a strong opposition, democracy was dying.

There were also other strong messages. One was that religious polarisation which was widening communities and whipping up unnecessary hatred and conflict would not be rewarded. Areas which witnessed the most toxic communal speeches aimed to whip up conflict and hatred spoke silently when voters pushed a button on the EVM.

Suresh Gopi, the Malayalam actor turned politician, created history by being the first BJP MP elected from Kerala.

Not once did he attack the minorities. All his election speeches were dignified. He reached out to the Christians to assure them. It was one of the cleanest campaigns that any BJP leader had. There is a lesson for Modi here.

Those who thought that the Ram Temple could be used to win votes were in for a shock. How many seats did the Bharatiya Janata Party win in Ayodhya? None. Another lesson here.

IMAGE: Modi with J P Nadda, Janata Dal-United President Nitish Kumar, Telugu Desam Party President N Chandrababu Naidu, BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Amit A Shah, and Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde at the NDA meeting in New Delhi. Photograph: ANI Photo

Assam Chief Minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma made some of the most toxic election speeches asking voters to help the BJP win 400 seats so that they can now deal with the mosques in Varanasi and Mathura.

Is this what India wants today after seeing the damage that the demolition of one mosque did to the fabric of the country?

The Election Commission buried its head in the sand when Sarma and other BJP leaders spewed venom in their speeches.

In a media interview with News18, Modi said, 'The day I do Hindu-Muslim, I will be unfit for public life.' But he referred to Muslims at least 280 times.

The Election Commission will have a lot to do to change the poor perception it has created, as it is as important as the four pillars of democracy. In the next elections, it will have to.

Muslims were reportedly terrorised by the police at Sambal, a Samajwadi Party stronghold in Uttar Pradesh, forcing women and many others to stay away from polling booths. While the mainstream media ignored it, the digital press noted it.

In 2019, the SP candidate, Shafiqur Rahman Barq, won the seat by over 1.75 lakh votes. This time, he won against his BJP contestant by over 1.74 lakh votes. Another lesson here.

The Haryana Police Sangathan, an association of serving and former police personnel in Haryana, alleged that thousands of ballots of its members were stolen as they were asked by their police headquarters to submit unstamped ballot papers. They use this system as they are on duty during election day. The association has a strength of 50,000 retired and serving police officials.

Why did the Election Commission not act on this and other complaints and order fresh elections?

IMAGE: National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval and Principal Secretary to the prime minister P K Mishra, whose tenures were extended on Thursday, June 13, 2024, watch Modi address PMO officials, June 10, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

People want change.

They do not want to see salary cuts, job losses, prices constantly skyrocketing, and conflicts on the street.

Research organisation CSDS-Lokniti found that unemployment was the most critical issue for voters in this election. It found that 29% of those surveyed said this factor would decide their vote. As many as 23 per cent felt that price rise was the most significant factor.

This finding is common sense, but the BJP campaign did not deal with it and instead chose to travel on a shrill, communal path, spinning hatred and divisive views. Also, ridiculous theories of what the Opposition would do if they got into power were spun. Like taking away people's mangalsutra and buffaloes!

Youngsters want a better quality of life so they do not have to wing away to a foreign land where they would be second-class citizens. They want better educational institutions that charge average fees. Temples are not their top priority. Jobs are.

The voter is no fool.

They proved that again and again in hundreds of constituencies.

They want stability and their vote to be respected.

They want to avoid seeing their representative wooed away by the ruling party just because it is not in power, and the only way is horse-trading and splitting regional parties.

We saw that in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and other places with assembly elections.

The first thing that Modi said after the results was that his government would fight corruption.

It sounded hollow as many politicians with corruption charges against them were admitted into the BJP, and their cases hurriedly closed down!

Modi will have to walk the talk if he has to redeem himself.

What he needs to worry about is the next election. If he does not deliver and work towards peace, stability and economic progress, the BJP will sit on the Opposition benches in 2029.

He took the voter for granted.

He ridiculed the opposition at every rally instead of discussing burning issues that worry the masses.

There is nothing called the Modi brand anymore.

Modi thought he was invincible. He thought he was more significant than the party.

He told voters that if they voted for the BJP, they would be voting for him.

Putting your picture everywhere does not get you votes.

Modi dented his own brand and image.

IMAGE: Modi waves to supporters during a roadshow in Puri, Odisha. Photograph: Reuters

Instead of emerging as an economic reformer keen on transforming India and lifting up people with low incomes as he wanted to build a new India to meet rising aspirations, he metamorphosed into a street fighter, making ridiculous statements targeting the opposition and minorities.

Then, there were so many lies, hate speeches, and below-the-belt utterances about the Opposition that he made in speech after speech. He even said that the INDIA conglomeration would dance the mujra after the results were out.

He referred to the INDIA bloc over 500 times in his speeches. The nervousness was evident despite his swaggering body language.

Instead of laying out his vision for the next five years and spreading a message that India will not be a fractured democracy, he kept attacking the Congress and the Opposition.

He mentioned the Congress nearly 2,950 times in his speeches. Obviously, he was seeing some threat there. Gone was the overconfident Modi, who said the NDA would cross the 400-seat mark.

An ailing Dr Manmohan Singh, who has retired from the Rajya Sabha and politics, was forced to remark that no prime minister in the past had uttered such hateful, unparliamentary, and coarse terms meant to target either a specific section of the society or the opposition.

Humility goes a long way in politics, but considering how he has operated for the last 23 years, it is difficult for him to change overnight.

He has little choice now.

The country is watching.

IMAGE: Modi with Nitish Kumar, Chandrababu Naidu and other NDA leaders. Photograph: ANI Photo

The BJP under Modi does not have a record of ever treating an ally with respect or consideration of their demands or interests.

Dig into the Web and see what Modi and his right-hand lieutenant, Amit Shah, have said about Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu. Or, for that matter, even Ajit Pawar.

The allies who are there with the BJP today are there despite ideological contradictions. They are there only because they want to cling to power.

They have been the target of abuse and threats when they were not supporting the BJP.

He gave the short shrift to Naveen Patnaik; He did that with every other supporter, as the focus was on weakening the ally, not strengthening them to stand as a formidable force.

Modi has to drastically change his mindset to carry along the numerous allies he now has. They will all want their due now, as it is their only chance to be heard.

Modi disregarded all the Opposition-run states and even denied them the finances that were their right.

Mamata Banerjee, Siddharamiah, Stalin, Vijayan, Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav, Ashok Gehlot and others have voiced it eloquently.

Now, he will not be able to do it. He has no choice but to respect federalism.

Poorer states are going to now make demands to help them leap ahead, while rich states will insist that they cannot be punished for doing well as good governance has to be rewarded.

In the last ten years, these things did not bother Modi, as he had a majority government.

Demands for a Census that is overdue will now rise, and no excuse is going to work.

It will be in Modi's interest to reinvent his party, read the writing on the wall that voters wrote, and move ahead.

Otherwise, getting so many seats in the next general elections will be an uphill task.

Emotive issues like communalism and religion do not fill bellies.

Hopefully, the traditional media, which was crawling with fear, will now raise its head again to taste the meaning of courage and commitment to tell the truth.

Ramesh Menon, award-winning journalist, educator, documentary film-maker and corporate trainer, is the author of Modi Demystified: The Making Of A Prime Minister.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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