When Narendera Modi was sworn in as India’s 14th prime minister on Monday evening, the world’s largest democracy was marking the ushering in of a new era. Over 2,500 privileged guests witnessed not only the culmination of a perfect storm generated by the Modi-led BJP but also the burial of the Nehruvian legacy which the Congress dispensation used as a leitmotif for over three generations.
It marked the day when Modi-led India was keeping another tryst with the destiny. But, unlike the impoverished, battered and bleeding country Jawaharlal Nehru addressed on August 15, 1947, Narendera Modi is poised to pilot a much more confident, self-assured and youthful India to a position among the global equals.
It is a sheer coincidence that Modi’s first day in office also marks the 50th death anniversary of India’s first prime minister.
The events which have unfolded in India earlier this month have changed the political landscape for all time to come.
Any which way you look at the results of the 16th Lok Sabha elections, you cannot help noticing the tectonic paradigm shift in a number of ways. The pole position occupied by the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty has changed to this effect that the iconic Congress Party is struggling to stay alive.
The Modi tsunami has enabled the Bhartiya Janata Party establish total dominance in the Hindi heartland and make inroads in uncharted territories.
The impregnable Congress citadels have been demolished by that son of a chaiwala from a small Gujarati town. It’s a massive compliment to the Indian democracy that a person with such humble origins has been elected to lead the second most populous country in the world.
Most of the political pundits commenting on the Indian politics concur that Modi would have to hit the ground running. The charismatic Gujarati leader has done even better as he covered massive distances in the air even before hitting the ground.
Modi has his work cut out for him. He faces enormous challenges to kick-start the slowing growth trajectory and to implement his inclusive growth model. Modi would also have to walk on a tight rope to keep the aspirations of the ultra-right BJP and Sangh Parivar adherents in check.
Modi is the Indian Pied Piper who carries the burden of hopes and aspirations of his billion plus compatriots. The usually-ignored people of Assam are also among such hopefuls. Such a massive swing in favour of the BJP in Assam reflects the hopes of a section of its population which would like firm steps to be taken to stop the perceived infiltration of Bangladeshis into the state. The changing demographics of Assam is a major issue for a majority of the indigenous population who often complain of being swamped by the alleged migrants from the neighbouring country.
Modi would have to ensure that the fencing of the international border with Bangladesh is undertaken on a war-footing. Another immediate step the Assamese voters of the BJP would like is to expedite the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Modi’s ascension to the highest executive post in India is being seen as a positive development Down Under. The Indian Prime Minister’s determination to align diplomacy with trade and investment priorities has given hope to the Australian mandarins that new opportunities would open for this South Pacific country and, as Australia India Institute chief Amitabh Matoo has mentioned in a recent write-up, it is an opportunity Canberra must seize.
Whether the first post-independence born Indian prime minister can live up to the expectations or not, the 2014 elections have definitely ushered in an era where developmental politics and not vote bank politics would dictate the way Indian politics is run.
(Rekha Bhattacharjee is a Sydney-based veteran journalist. The views expressed are personal. She can be contacted at email@example.com)