Sunday, May 18, 2014

End of the Coalition Era

Call it what you may: a game-changer, historic or path-breaking, Elections 2014 broke every stereotype and every rule in Indian politics and delivered a mandate that nobody had ever imagined to be even possible any more. Perhaps the most important headline is this:

BJP becomes the first non-Congress party in the history of Independent India to win a majority of its own. 

The last majority government in India was the 1984 government of Rajiv Gandhi, which won an unprecedented 404 seats in the wake of Indira Gandhi's assassination. Since then, the country has grown accustomed to coalition politics, where small regional players in a position to hold the national government to hostage. The most pathetic moment of this was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh using coalition compulsions as an excuse for overlooking massive corruption in his Cabinet. Coalitions undermined the authority of the Prime Minister, they undermined Parliament and they undermined India's nationhood.

Who then would have thought that the coalition era, which seemed to have become the new normal, would end in 2014 and it would be the BJP and its PM-elect Narendra Modi to do it? So strong is this mandate that the Congress has effectively been reduced to a regional party from Kerala (the only major state where it had reason to celebrate) and will not be able to automatically stake claim to a Leader of Opposition. And the BJP's Narendra Modi has been completely freed from all coalition pressures and can make decisive decisions of the kind he had promised during the campaign.

The BJP's campaign itself was a marvel - hundreds of real-life rallies across India, thousands of hologram-enabled rallies made possible by a coalition of graduates from IITs and IIMs, called Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG), a well-scripted social media campaign and effective use of the hitherto hostile mainstream media. Indeed, if the Congress' strategy, at least initially, was to shun the media as being unrepresentative of the masses, its subsequent engagement was a disaster, as amply demonstrated by Rahul Gandhi's joke of an interview to Arnab Goswami. The BJP's campaign would not have been possible without Modi's energy and Amit Shah's strategies in UP. Indeed, it will be a case study for students in the future to peruse.

In the end however, the Modi wave was really a message of a changed India, a young India aspiring to earn prosperity and not live off government doles. An India that absolutely abhors a divine right to govern by blood. Caste politics has also been trounced by an electorate that chose governance over feudal livelihoods. Modi's message of jobs, growth and good administration truly won it the election, aptly helped by the self-defeating messages from the Opposition.

We will continue to analyze this election in a new series: Lessons from Elections 2014. However, remember that Assembly elections in some key states are not too far off and this series will continue. Till then, one last time:


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