Narenda Modi’s Hunkar Rally in Patna was an unbelievably large gathering of people that seemed to send out an unspoken message: we are tired of shoddy governance and the apparent political and administrative confusion. Looking for change seems to be the driving urge across the states of India. The intelligentsia continues to suggest that what is happening at Modi rallies everywhere is an aberration. Their argument is that people are curious and are congregating to hear him speak, but the ‘numbers’ and prevalent caste equations nullify the possibility of a decisive win for Modi. However, the people of India are listening and hearing. The counter rallies, where old, tired ‘leaders’ join hands to condemn the politics and ideology of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, are not an attractive alternative because the leaders continue to repeat what they have been saying and promising for decades.
Apart from the chatteratti and the burgeoning middle class that seem to be rooting for Modi to become the next prime minister, the rural youth that aspires to become ‘middle-class’ and urban is also drawn towards him and may well tilt the balance in his favour. Whether we like it or not, Modi has orchestrated how the forthcoming general elections will be fought. He has structured it much like a presidential contest within a parliamentary frame. India, as always, is quite flexible and may well vote differently for the throne in New Delhi. Chances are that state elections will be issue-based and on the parameters of caste and community, but for the general elections, votes will be in favour of a ‘national leader’.
If that be the case, and as things seem to stand on the ground today, there is no single leader or ‘face’ that can counter Modi. The Congress and other regional satraps keep insisting that the Indian democracy works within the parliamentary format and is not a presidential system, and therefore, Modi will not be able to swing the votes in his favour, but this is helping Modi cross the threshold and keep up a momentum that may well take him past the post.
Modi’s opposition is the United Progressive Alliance, the reputation of which has been sullied many times over, both politically and at the administrative level. The constituents of a ‘new’ India are eager to get on with their lives and live in a dignified social environment. The country seems to be determined to bring in ‘change’, in spite of the absence of good choices and viable alternatives.
Why are there no good alternatives for the people of India? Why are all the other leaders looking helpless and dazed by the rollercoaster ride that Modi is orchestrating? India is looking for new faces, new promises and a new vision. It is tired of the stale and repetitive rhetoric it has been subjected to for so many decades.
To take Modi lightly will be the biggest mistake the Congress can make because, if it loses the election and is able to get no more than 100-odd seats, the party will fall apart. Equally, if ‘Moditva’ fails, the BJP will be forced to transform its image into something else. India is at a critical juncture in its political history and many surprises are bound to be sprung. However, one feels that Modi, not the BJP, has a huge lead at this moment. If a surprise kicks in — and politics is never static — the lead could alter.
Many cannot fathom why the Congress is not accepting the challenge to fight for the gaddi in Delhi. Why is the Congress ignoring the large middle class base that it created? Why is it pushing that large chunk of voters into the arms of Modi and the BJP? What is the Congress strategy for the polls? These and many other questions remain unanswered.