Sunday, October 26, 2014

Modi Wave Hits Haryana

If there was any doubt as to the existence of a Modi Wave, the recently concluded Legislative Assembly Elections in Haryana should put an end to it. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi took personal leadership in steering the election campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party in both Haryana and Maharashtra, addressing dozens of election rallies even in opposition heartlands and leading his party to a resounding victory in the former. If not for the differences between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, Maharashtra would have been easy pickings for the two nationalist parties.

BJP’s victory could not have been more obvious than in Haryana. It showed the extension of a process which became evident in the Lok Sabha Election in April-May 2014. The Modi-wave inundated the BJP heartlands and swept into the periphery, submerging a considerable area. For example, The BJP, which was a distant third in the 2012 Legislative Assembly Elections in Uttar Pradesh, swept the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha Election, taking more than 70 of the 80 seats. The BJP carried all 7 Lok Sabha seats in Delhi which had given the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party a surprise victory in state elections just a few months back.

People at a rally in Maharashtra which also went to polls with Haryana. Pic from Twitter @narendramodi
Haryana, home to 25 million people, was carved out of the state of Punjab in 1966. It is predominantly Hindu and is known for its caste and clan based politics. One fifth of the population belongs to Scheduled Castes. Its politics were dominated in the recent years by two political parties, the Indian National Congress and the state party, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). Despite the Haryana population being almost 90 percent Hindu, the BJP was in the fringe, winning just 4 of the 90 seats in the state Legislative Assembly in 2009. Therefore, winning 47 seats and thereby wining a simple majority single-handedly was a resounding success for the BJP.

Several factors including the anti-incumbency and desire for change, internal dissent in the Congress Party and corruption charges against both the Congress and the INDL helped the BJP. But apparently, these were just helping factors. Grievances have always been there in the state. What was not there was a different viable alternative to the traditional parties and leadership. Modi’s success was based on the simple fact that he has offered an alternative which promised real change instead of rhetoric.

Modi promised development, positive and pro-active governance, anti-corruption and more opportunities for the youth. He is implementing a different approach which is different from blind pro-Western path of the Congress Party and the staunch introvert policies championed by certain BJP old-guards. Modi is pro-business and therefore is looking at both the west and the east for increasing opportunities.

Modi has helped the return of national pride within Indians which could have been damaged somewhat during the increasingly pro-Western policies of the Congress Party led governments during 2004-2014. However, Modi has also managed to mollify the fears of the west by engaging with them.

Meanwhile, he has used different ideals for his use in politics. He was an active proponent of “Buddhist diplomacy” even when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, championing the Buddhist heritage of India. Furthermore he has adapted some of the Gandhian ideals, for example in launching a “clean India” campaign.

His message in Haryana was that of change and that transcended caste and family boundaries. All major political parties in the state, with the only possible exception of the BJP were dominated by certain political families. Modi decided to rip through this tradition and has for the time being has managed to do so. The Congress Party which had ruled the state for a decade fared extremely badly, ending up in third place in the state.

The BJP had comparatively less success in Maharashtra, the traditional stronghold of the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). However, the saffron party can be content with the fact that it has become the largest party in the 288 member Legislative Assembly for the first time ever, taking 122 seats. It is an increase of 76 seats from the last Legislative Assembly Election in 2009. It was only the differences between the BJP and Shiv Sena which helped the NCP and Indian National Congress to come out with a face saving performance. In some rural areas, despite all problems faced by the farmers in the state, the Congress has done better. Modi wave has still not found its way into these distance areas.

At a time, the name Nehru or Gandhi could galvanize the Indian populace. However, today, the Gandhis are facing the real threat of being eclipsed in the Modi-wave. The Prime Minister has largely managed to fend off the allegations directed at him of the 2002 Gujarat Riots. He has been accepted by leaders around the world as he tries to engage with them on a pro-business model. His ultimate goal is to transform India, and this appeal draws the populace to him. If he succeeds in realizing his goals, the Gandhis and the Congress Party will have a serious problem at hand.

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