NEW DELHI (24 May 2019) – The Narendra Modi led-BJP’s winning of a second term comes with a mandate so large that it could end the political argument. It must start a new conversation. One that begins with the acknowledgement of what PM Modi and his party have achieved. First and foremost: A second unprecedented majority, the second larger than the first. Verdict 2019 deals a fell blow not just to the political common sense that India’s parliamentary election had become the sum of 29 contests, but also, that anti-incumbency had settled down as the country’s political reflex. The numbers will be parsed carefully in days to come. But it is already clear that this was a national election, fought across the country around the political persona of the man who had led the NDA government for five years, and the electorate has overwhelmingly affirmed his rule.
In the process, Modi has taken the BJP to newer places and groups. The party that was seen as a Brahmin-Bania outfit, primarily of the Hindi heartland, and most attractive to the upper classes, has now carved significant spaces for itself in the east, most spectacularly, in West Bengal, and also in the south, in Telangana and Karnataka. It has also vaulted over the faultlines of caste and class. A victory of this magnitude speaks of an appeal that has breached the caste vote banks of its political opponents and also drawn into its fold the aspirational and the poor.
Under Modi, the BJP shows an appetite for power not diminished by being in power. And an ability to constantly remake its message, add layers to the party’s appeal. In the beginning, was the call for Hindu consolidation, by a party that pledges to protect and propagate Hindu interests, through the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Bill, or even more strikingly, and troublingly, by the candidature of Sadhvi PragyaThakur, accused in a terror case, out on bail. But that was not all.
After the terror attack in Pulwama, and India’s response to it in Balakot, the BJP, and the Modi campaign, turned “national security” into a prime talking point. Hindutva was mixed with a muscular nationalism that used the strikes in Pakistan to spell out a new security doctrine: If hit, India would retaliate, and would say so too. To this mix, was added the message that the Modi regime was burnishing India’s stature abroad. And delivering a vast array of schemes to the poor at home, in their homes.
Indian Express Editorial