The resounding victory of the BJP-led NDA in the Lok Sabha elections has thrown up many lessons for the vanquished. The inability of the Opposition to come up with a credible alternative to Prime Minister Modi and the BJP appeared stark indeed. The loosely-knit Opposition conglomerate was no match for the cohesive and cadre-based BJP.
With the Congress uncompromising on having Rahul Gandhi as the leader and the regional parties pulling in a different direction opposition unity was a mirage. For the electorate that has seen decades of democracy at work, it was a clear choice between stability and chaos.
The short stints of Deve Gowda, I K Gujral, V P Singh, and Chandra Shekhar at the helm had convinced people that stability cannot but be a factor and ‘khichdi’ government are a big no-no. The successive mauling that the Congress received at the hands of the electorate is a signal that the party needs strong leadership to bounce back into contention. A sad feature of the Rahul Gandhi dispensation was that it offered no solutions for the country’s ills.
It only criticised the government with no holds barred. Negativity ruled the roost and that irritated the people no end. There was never a good word from the opposition on genuinely good policies of the government and the traditional meeting of minds on external policy was absent. The manner in which some parties made common cause with enemy Pakistan did not go down well with the masses.
There was a strong decisive leadership in Punjab with Amarinder Singh in command and the results were no surprise. Amarinder showed that he was not a blind follower of the party high command. That in Punjab the voter treated the Congress party on a different footing than in other states was a reflection of Amarinder’s sensible approach.
The only other state where the Congress continues on the ascent is Kerala where there is a strong tradition of incumbent governments losing out in five years. In Tamil Nadu, the Congress party has lost all clout but it rode to victory on the shoulders of the DMK.
These were times when little went wrong for the BJP but the manner in which the party carved out a niche for itself in West Bengal through dogged persistence and tenacity should be a lesson for others. The more roadblocks Mamata Banerjee put in BJP’s path the more it turned a section of its voters away.
While the Trinamool Congress revelled in polarising its Muslim vote bank, the BJP concentrated on polarising the Hindus to its advantage. Political parties in West Bengal have been known to harbour ‘toughs’ and to use strong-arm tactics and Trinamool found that the BJP matched it brick by brick, stone by stone.
The Left parties when they were in power in Bengal for three decades had used muscle power to rig elections but there was no BJP to counter them. Yes, Mamata gave them a fight but Mamata had not reckoned that she would meet a match so soon. With Sitaram Yechury at the helm, the left has made a mockery of politics and decimated itself in the process. Indeed, Rahul and Yechury are in the same boat, making the same mistakes.
There is much for the BJP to celebrate but it must steer clear of mistakes that it made in the last five years. Its economic policies need to be carefully managed and its promises to the people to act on corruption without fear or favour must be redeemed and honoured. No more must there be an ill-thought-out and poorly baked policy like demonetisation which is taken advantage of by vested interests.
If the Modi government in its second term is in a position to pilot constitutional amendments it must devote considerable thought to formulating policies. There is scope to induct right-thinking people into the Cabinet with the right skills and integrity. Arrogance must be eschewed at all levels.
The war on corruption must continue with renewed vigour and the high and mighty must not be spared. Institutions must be strengthened and long-pending electoral reforms must be duly implemented. To the extent that the negative legacy of the last five years has been increased joblessness, steps must be taken to tackle unemployment.