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Ab Ki Baar, Modi Sarkaar: The Aftermath

That the BJP led NDA won this general election came as no surprise. However, the fact that the BJP itself got enough votes to (in theory) form the government single handedly did catch me off guard. Turns out that the only exit poll that got it right was Today's Chanakya, a poll I regret having scoffed at.

I was giddy with excitement having read the numbers and trends that appeared within hours since the counting process began. I'm not that politically inclined, and rarely voice my opinion on a platform which invites people who are wrong. Nevertheless, I cannot resist commenting on the biggest democratic event in the history of the world.

There are, however, a number of trends that can be observed in this election. Chief amongst them is an anti-incumbency sentiment, and a pro-Modi wave.

What's the reason for the pro-Modi wave? Why is it that I, even though I've never visited Gujarat, rooted for him as PM for the past five years? Looking back, I honestly have no answer.

Yes, I had heard good things about Gujarat from friends, but that was in college, long after I started rooting for him. It wasn't just his charisma, or the way he brought Tata to Gujarat with a single word text message days after the Singur project ground to a halt thanks to the shenanigans of the TMC in West Bengal.

Now, my memory is extremely fuzzy when it comes to political discourse five or ten years ago. However, if I were to put a finger on what really brought Modi to my attention, well, it was the way he was hounded for his role in the Gujarat violence (well, some call it a pogrom). Investigations after investigations against this one person, the media blaming him for the violence years after it happened, and not a single shred of concrete evidence found years after the violence. At the same time, I read stories of development, better roads being built, and irrigation projects that promised to end the arid spell. And the people of Gujarat voted him back election after election, despite every accusation that was hurled at him. Perhaps it was this level of BS being hurled at him that made me root for the unpopular underdog.

Be as it may, my reasons for supporting Modi for this general elections were clear. He was the only candidate who had a plan, who spoke the mature talk (well, most of the time). He spoke of development, and not doles. He is the only person who ran a campaign without a mention of religion. And of course, I don't think anyone in their right state of mind could choose any of the other candidates.

The Congress party or the UPA alliance after 10 years of utter paralysis in governance, and a weak PMO who became a national joke? I don't think so. A yob who grew out of an anti-corruption movement, who promised to just provide transparent government, without a clue as to how to run a state, much less a nation? Or a person who was re-elected four times in his home state, who has provided good governance and opportunities for growth; while reducing government responsibilities, cutting corruption; one who was praised by almost everyone in his state?

And that's where I can put my finger on the problem. The wave that swept the country, the one that led to this historic and epic win, the news that made almost everyone who cares giggle like a hysterical schoolgirl, was probably born out of just not having any other likely candidate. And this shows in the results. Have a look at the map. Almost the entire country is marked in yellow (for the NDA), with just a few pockets in blue (for the incumbent UPA). In many ways, this is unique in Indian history. The Congress party had been the de-facto choice for most of Indian democracy. Now, they're reduced to half the number they got in their worst performance before this election. This is the first time when there's no de-facto leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha (a party needs at least 10% of the seats to claim the leader of opposition status). A single party which wasn't the Congress won an absolute majority. And all this just because there was only one likely candidate for the PMO. A lot of expectations are riding on Mr. Modi at this time.

Which is why he cannot provide good governance. Indian people have high expectations. "Freedom at Midnight" talks about the hopes and aspirations of the people just after independence. They did not want to pay the bus fare, because "we were free". They thought that they would have enough to eat because "the British had left". The same kind of expectations are resting on Mr. Modi after the ouster of the ruling UPA2. Mr Modi needs to provide exceptional governance if the people are to be satisfied. He has the job of cleaning up the mess that was left by 10 years of poor governance. He has to contend with the policies of the previous administration in his quest to provide continuity and the appearance of political stability in the country in order to attract foreign investment. He has to deal with the last-minute screw-ups that the present administration is doing as we speak, like appointing the army chief, and seeking a review of the Supreme Court judgement on black money.

His task doesn't stop there. He also needs to clean up the system of the systemic corruption that has built up over the years. It's not just big ticket scams that he will have to control, but the measly everyday kind of corruption, where a traffic police will stop you for "running a red light" and then ask for Rs. 300 to make it go away, or an officer at the RTO making you run from pillar to post for a document that he can print right away. That is an incredibly difficult task.

The PMO can easily stop big ticket corruption. I expect Mr. Modi to do so with ease using the same tactics that worked in Gujarat. Make a policy, and stick to it. No exceptions, no special circumstances, no room for "interpretation". His other policy of MG-squared (yeah, he loves acronyms) will help as well. Offloading government work to private contractors takes away a lot of power from the Babus in the bureaucracy. On the other hand, stopping the small ticket corruption is much harder. To begin with, the PMO is extremely removed from everyday life. There are levels upon levels of bureaucracy and establishment between the common man and the PMO, and any one level has to fail in order to destroy all that the PMO seeks to achieve.

The other major difficulty for the administration will be the opposition. Not only is the INC the majority in the Rajya Sabha, its ministers, along with its allies are already promising to oppose everything that the new government plans to do. This despite the fact that the new government hasn't yet been formed, and hasn't declared any policy apart from its fairly generic manifesto. I do hope that sensible and moderate voices like those of Shashi Tharoor prevail in this political mayhem, and I do hope that Mr. Modi will be able to get all political entities on board when it comes to his agenda of development. Not just that, the new administration needs the approval and participation of all the states in order for even a modicum of hope for its policies to succeed.

He also needs to keep the Sangh pariwar in check. Mr. Vajpayee had the excuse of poor numbers and coalition dharma. Mr. Modi has no such excuse. He needs to take a hard stand, and refuse to give his thumb as gurudakshina. He has turned down the Sangh in Gujarat, and I hope he continues to do so in the PMO.

Mr. Modi, I congratulate you on your victory. You have hit all the right notes so far. I cannot wait to see you run this great country, and I will closely watch every step you take in the coming days. Here's wishing you the best from an ardent admirer.

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