The economy determines the way people vote. This simple and self-evident truth has often been cast aside because conventional wisdom touted the line that economic reforms and development are vote-losers. Narendra Modiís electoral triumph in Gujarat has confirmed the axiom that if a leader keeps his promises on development, or even if he is perceived to be pro-development, he can fetch votes and in large numbers. Not even Mr Modiís best friends will make the assertion that he has had a good press or that his image outside his own state has been particularly favourable. But his achievements as chief minister for the economic development of Gujarat has outshone all else that he did or did not do as the leader of the state. His critics and enemies will have to reckon with the fact that he has won three consecutive elections in Gujarat. The critical factor in Mr Modiís victory has not only been the agenda of economic development that he has so consistently followed, but also his ability to transform an agenda into policy and then to implement it on the ground. There is another and wider dimension pertaining to the society of Gujarat that might get neglected in the justified propensity to focus on Mr Modi. There exists in Gujarat an enthusiastic consensus on the issue of economic development. Mr Modi has successfully touched upon this public need.
The triumph brings to Mr Modi an enormous responsibility. He is seen as the leader of the Hindus in Gujarat, and his demonization has showed him up as being virulently anti-Muslim. Such perceptions have not stood in the way of Mr Modiís electoral win. But now Mr Modi owes it to himself and to the people of his state to abandon this image and to don a new one. The new Mr Modi should work to make himself the leader of all sections of Gujarati society. This will make the taste of the win even sweeter for him since it will ensure that even those who are his enemies today will be forced to reconsider their position to-morrow. A wider base of appeal will form the ground for future achievements and electoral triumphs. For a very long time Mr Modi has been paraded as the bad boy of Indian politics. He needs to be recognized as a chief minister who works for the development of the state over which he rules. Mr Modi has won a mandate. He can use it to refashion Gujarat and himself.