After three decades of uncertainty, the people of India voted for a government that will not be held to ransom by mercurial allies and regional agendas. The Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Gujarat chief minister and prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is likely to end the day with a final tally of over 280 seats. The Modi wave swept through most states north of the Vindhyas, toting up 73 seats in Uttar Pradesh, all 26 in Gujarat, 23 in Maharashtra and 27 in Madhya Pradesh.
The last time the people gave such a mandate was in 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi was swept to power in the wake of his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination that led to elections.
There is little doubt that Narendra Modi owned these elections completely. While the BJP victory is the result of meticulous planning, a carefully calibrated strategy and diligent work at the grassroots level, it was Modi’s fiery speeches and personal charisma that charmed voters. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s troops ensured that the overall voting percentage went up to a record 66 per cent. BJP cornered a third of the vote cast. The previous record for polling was in 1984 when 63 per cent voters turned out to cast their vote. The Congress Party won 404 seats that year with a vote share of 49 per cent.
If Rajiv Gandhi won 1984 riding a sympathy wave, Modi has won 2014 on a promise of good governance, economic development and a masculine foreign policy.
That will not be easy though.
Modi will have to work hard at rebuilding malnourished institutions and correcting structural faults left behind by previous governments. Throughout the election campaign whenever he was asked the question on foreign policy and relations with Pakistan, Modi had taken a hawkish stance. Asked by an interviewer whether he would engage with Pakistan even if infiltration continues from across the border, he replied that talks cannot be heard amid the din of bombs and bullets, clearly indicating that conversation is ruled out until cross-border terrorism ceases.
Already Pakistan has taken a hawkish stand by refusing to renew the visas of two Indian journalists. Once American troop withdrawal is complete, the country is also expected to move its troops deployed on the border with Afghanistan to the east which may escalate tensions further. The new government will have to handle the situation with sensitivity.
The way voters have voted in these elections, it is clear that they were tired of uncertainty. Even in states where regional parties are strong, the mandate to them is almost absolute. That means J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Naveen Patnaik in Odisha and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal have significant presence in the Lok Sabha. While that may not amount to much as long as the BJP has absolute majority, their support in the Rajya Sabha will be required to pass bills. Currently, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has only 62 members in the 245-member house. That means a spirit of cooperation would be needed.