Results for the 17th Lok Sabha elections in India have shown a very clear verdict emerging in favour of the current dispensation led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Right from the time counting of votes began early yesterday, the BJP and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies were clearly racing ahead of the Opposition. Market sentiments were also up in India in response to the results, as the business community in general conveyed positive vibes.
For Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi, this verdict is bound to come as a huge disappointment.
BJP’s success has thrown even the slightest hint of anti-incumbency out of the window. What is even more fascinating is the way the party has beaten all equations of caste-based politics in the battleground states of northern and western India and made steady inroads into hitherto uncharted territories in the east and Northeast. In India’s largest state of Uttar Pradesh, that sends 80 lawmakers to the Lower House of parliament, Modi’s appeal as a national leader beat what looked like a formidable electoral alliance between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In West Bengal, a state where the rightist BJP has been traditionally a political outsider, the party could win around 17 seats and a vote share of about 43 per cent — something unthinkable until the other day.
Barring Punjab and the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the BJP has swept India as voters reposed their faith on one more term for Modi.
While it is only natural for such a definitive mandate to spark celebratory spasms through the BJP rank and file, there is a bigger message in this for the ruling party and its leaders in the world’s largest democracy.
The BJP has often been found wanting in adopting an inclusive approach towards India’s many-splendoured socio-political and cultural fabric. The vituperative campaign that many BJP leaders resorted to had all the forebodings of the country’s pluralistic ethos and its age-old commitment to a tolerant society being seriously challenged. And those are areas where Modi and his party will have their task cut out in the days ahead.
This mandate is a show of an average Indian’s trust in Modi the prime minister. Let the premier of the second-most populous nation in the world factor that in while charting out a new course for his second term.