As the country awaits the opening of the ballot boxes early on Friday morning, the most likely main winners and losers are engaged in diametrically opposite activities. The Narendra Modi-led BJP is already busy in parleys centring around government formation. There is much to-ing and fro-ing in the senior echelons of the saffron family. As opposed to the celebratory mood in the BJP, the Congress is in the throes of a depression. Its second-rung leadership is unwilling to pinpoint the most obvious cause of its coming loss for fear of its entrenched leadership. Holding the Gandhis responsible for the loss can prove injurious to the political careers of Congressmen. So they must find any other excuse for the devastating defeat. But it is the BJP which should engage our attention, for the simple reason that it is set to emerge the winner in Election 2014. The way senior leaders, led by the party president Rajnath Singh, have hotfooted to Gandhinagar following the release of the results of the exit polls underlines the shift in power in the party. It is Modi, whose writ will run in the party henceforth. Which is just as well. For, without his messianic leadership, energetic campaigning, backroom strategising, aggressive orating, the BJP could nowhere be in a position to win the number of seats it is set to win in the 16th Lok Sabha. Imagine, for a moment, the fate of the BJP had it gone to the people under L K Advani. Having been roundly rejected in 2009, the BJP stalwart, now in his early 80s, was still not ready to abandon prime ministerial ambitions. He tried to stall the transition of Modi from Gandhinagar to Delhi on flimsy grounds, which barely hid his own prime ministerial ambitions.
Indeed, he and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar seemed to have acted in concert when the latter objected against the BJP’s anointment of Modi as prime ministerial candidate. Both Advani and Kumar now stand isolated, the former sulking in his tent, still looking for a big role in the Modi dispensation, and the latter staring at the near-decimation of the JD(U) in the only state where it has some following, that is, Bihar. Should Kumar find his government reduced to a minority soon after Modi becomes prime minister, he should know whom to blame. It was his arrogance, his hypocrisy which was his undoing. He can still pretend to be a martyr for his so-called principled opposition to Modi, but even in his own party there would be few takers for such a self-serving argument. The truth is that Kumar began to nurse ambitions far bigger than realistically warranted by the minuscule support of his party. JD(U) President Sharad Yadav was hustled into taking the anti-Modi line, though there are signs that the latter now regrets allowing Kumar to hijack the party. Another notable dissident who opposed the rise of Modi was Sushma Swaraj. She nurses her own prime ministerial ambitions, further convinced that being the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, it automatically made her the shadow prime minister. But, unlike Advani, once she saw that the vast majority of the Sangh Parivar was for Modi to lead the campaign, she reluctantly fell in line. She is still not reconciled to the Modi prime ministership, but is pragmatic enough to bargain for a key portfolio. Another BJP stalwart who is angling for a major role is Murli Manohar Joshi. It is hoped Modi packs him off to any of the several Raj Bhawans that are likely to be vacated by the Gandhi family doormats in the coming weeks. For, Joshi belongs to an earlier era untouched by modernity and liberalism. The country has no patience for his obscurantist thinking. He must not be found a place in the Modi ministry, certainly not in charge of the HRD portfolio.
A liberal, plural, right-of-the centre government under Modi is what the voter has ordered in Verdict 2014. Anything less will recoil on the BJP sooner than the party realises. If the Advanis and the Joshis choose to sulk in their tents, let them. The ordinary voter would be quite happy to see them retire, or retired. But retire they must. Meanwhile, if the Congress rank and file cannot muster the courage to state the obvious and apportion blame where it is due for the party’s spectacular defeat, it must prepare for a series of further setbacks. For Modi is a formidable foe. And is unlikely to offer them back the Delhi ‘gaddi’ on a platter, the way they have. Remember when Modi calls for a `Congress-Mukt Bharat,’ he is certain to work in that direction as prime minister. And the best way to help Modi achieve that singular objective is not to honestly analyse and postmortem the humiliation of the 16th Lok Sabha poll. The danger of wallowing in sycophancy is a further marginalisation of the Congress Party.