By all accounts, there is now a distinct possibility of a Modi prime ministry. The BJP-led NDA seems to be in contention for a clear majority. The Congress Party seems to have lost so much ground that it might end up recording its worst-ever showing for any parliamentary poll since the founding of the Republic. The reasons for its impending debacle are there for all to see. But why the BJP, under Narendra Modi, has found popular acceptability needs re-telling. To begin with, it is safe to assume that as the main opposition party, it would be only natural for it to reap the benefit from the ten-year-long anti-incumbency against the Congress-led UPA. Anyone leading the BJP in place of Modi would have gained from the strong current running against the ruling combine. However, it is Modi who has brought considerable extra energy and punch to the BJP campaign, attracting droves of new and old voters on the back of his record as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. It is inconceivable that the projection of L K Advani or, for that matter, Sushma Swaraj, or even Arun Jaitley, as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, would have created the same buzz as Modi’s projection has done. It has not only galvanised the party rank and file, but, further afield, it has enthused ordinary voters, who were otherwise angry with the Congress, but were unsure about the pan-national appeal of the BJP and its leaders. Modi’s fronting of the BJP campaign, however, helped change that perception. Overnight, the party seemed to be in a position to win a majority on its own. Thanks to his appeal cutting across the usual fault lines of caste, creed, region, etc., Modi has attracted a number of new allies for the BJP. Remarkably, he has steered clear of divisive issues, hammering the development theme on the stump throughout the length and breadth of the country. This was a positive campaign which seemed to go down well with the ordinary people. However, his opponents still obsessed with the hackneyed themes of secular versus communal, pro-poor versus anti-poor. However, when this particular line of calumny failed to click with the voters, the Congress leaders have shown their desperation by suggesting that Modi has only taken care of the interests of a select few businessmen, while neglecting the welfare of ordinary people. Of course, it is untrue. Besides, without attracting big infrastructure projects and industries, it would be unrealistic to expect higher growth, more jobs and opportunities for the people. The so-called toffee model of development that Rahul Gandhi accuses Modi of practising in Gujarat reflects the Congress leader’s own lack of understanding of how competing state governments attract investments for the betterment of their people. For instance, once Mamta Banerjee squandered the chance to locate the iconic Nano project in West Bengal, it was a feather in Modi’s cap that he lost no time in persuading Ratan Tata to set up the small car project in Gujarat. If that required providing certain incentives to the Nano project, so be it. After all, the net gainers would be the people of Gujarat who would profit from additional jobs, ancillary units, transportation and marketing of cars, etc. But if your mental age still correlates to the period of toffee-eating, these questions of spillover development would remain beyond your comprehension. It maybe that the real intention behind the belated charge to project Modi as businessmen-friendly, rather than business-friendly, is to question his integrity through innuendo and malign association. The real motive of Rahul Gandhi behind this crude strategy might be to pull down Modi to the level of Congress leaders, who are widely perceived to be corrupt and criminal due to their various acts of omission and commission these past ten years. Fortunately, the Congress stock is so low in the electoral bazaar that it has lost all credibility. Besides, the incorruptibility of Modi is an integral part of his USP.
Meanwhile, as the day of reckoning appears near for the UPA, the small group of so-called liberals and secularists seem to get apoplectic, fanning paranoia about the end of the world, as it were, should Modi become prime minister. These are the same do-gooders who had sung hallelujahs when Indira Gandhi had talked of a committed press, a committed judiciary, a committed bureaucracy, and her wayward son Sanjay Gandhi had snatched the civic rights of the Indian people. For six years no harm came to them when Vajpayee was prime minister, though the assorted freebies on which they had claimed a proprietorial right in the so-called secularist regime were hard to come by. It is, therefore, not so much the fear of Modi as the fear of personal loss of various entitlements that is behind their visceral claim of calumny against Modi. They should stop making utter fools of themselves, they cannot claim to be wiser than the people, and have no right to speak on their behalf. And that should apply to the odd-bod collection of Bollywood denizens, whose alleged concern for secularism barely conceals their vested interest in the entrenched corrupt order. They should learn to respect the popular will, just as every Friday perforce they bow down to box office.