Polarised Elections For LS Assemblyby OPINIONEXPRESS.IN May 21, 2019 0 comments
Be it Modi at Centre or Mamata and Patnaik in States, exit polls favour leaders who are byproducts of immediate contexts
While some scepticism remains about the range of margins and the swing factors of exit polls, that is a debate of psephological granularity and arithmetical precision. But in totality, the numbers seem to point towards a decisive uniformity about renewing faith in a muscular leadership that didn’t quite have an equally fiery challenger. And this kind of hierarchical hold across cross-sections of society defies existing logic that prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi has gained just by setting bipolar contexts, identity politics or the religious card. For while these could be contributors, the tidal support for a leadership that holds despite the hostile conditions created by his under-performance on key economic issues, shows that the electorate is willing to give him one more chance. And from the young voter to the old, he is being seen as the best embodiment of an aspirational high in the absence of a robust alternative that is needed to steer the country out of its present morass. In that sense, perhaps this election embodies the classic TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor in parliamentary democracy. Somehow, Modi has been able to justify himself among the thousands of farmers and the jobless, a dissatisfied lot that was expected to rebel, that five years were too short a time but he could lead them to a proverbial El Dorado if they threw in their collective lot with him for five more years of transactional benefits. After all, he has given them something back in the form of the Awas Yojana, the toilet revolution and last mile connectivity to civilisation through roads and rural electrification. Or is it that the issues that have been in ferment for the last couple of years been subsumed to the presidential-style and hypnotic construct of bigger issues? Like hyper-nationalism, which breeds on humouring the non-privileged majority as stakeholders in a narrative which has so far been seen as exclusively endearing to minorities and outliers and dictated by the out-of-touch elite. Maybe he has reconciled this middle ground to a different idea of India and has harvested it through a smart demagoguery. And in a post-globalised world marred by protectionism and ultra-radical leaders, Modi is seen as an option to establish competitive relevance than risk oblivion, bargain on strengths than fritter them away.
This capability has no doubt been built up with a subtle cooption of institutional mechanisms and even the media. French President Emmanuel Macron had once hinted at US President Donald Trump with his remark, “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.” Sadly, that’s the new oeuvre of global geopolitics and India is not immune to it. Particularly economic nationalism, one that is defined by prioritising domestic industry, manufacturing, jobs and economy over global corporations. Modi’s zeal for “Make in India” has much congruence with the “Build America first” theme and perhaps, this modus operandi washes with the younger electorate. Also, we must remember that the emergent electorate is disconnected from historicity and reacts to contemporary contexts that apply to its immediate reality, like Balakot. This mindset has reduced the liberalists and rationalists into the realm of lost tribalism. This trend also explains why fiercely regional leaders, who articulate similar aspirations and are equally muscular about local contexts, are holding ground. Be it KC Rao of Telangana, Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh, Stalin in Tamil Nadu, Mamata Banerjee in Bengal or Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, they are holding their States albeit they may be dented in a “nationalist” surge of the Lok Sabha. It is also true that they will be expected to negotiate in case of a dominant single party at the Centre but if they hold on to their core appeal and knit their grassroots understanding the same way the BJP has in the heartland, they are not blowing in the wind too soon. As for Modi’s expected second stint in leadership, the question is whether he will be magnanimous about seeking a legacy run or merely get territorial, seeking to build a pan-India narrative with the turncoat politics of power play? For somebody who is sagacious enough and seems to have crafted his strategy well — first harping on benign development, then upping aggressive posturing of identity politics and now widening the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) fringe appeal to an easily harvestable core base — he has a fertile ground for his play. With the cushion of numbers, he could make the difference between being a statesman or dictator.
Courtesy: The Pioneer