Extraordinary news from India this morning, and it affects me in that I have been finishing off a book about Indian democracy, and a number of my assumptions and conclusions will have to be revised. Ho hum.
Of course, the commentators are all concentrating on the top line scores, which are extraordinary enough – the lowest Congress total ever, the highest BJP ever, the first majority government since 1989, more BJP MPs in UP than Congress MPs in the rest of India etc etc. But I am also very interested in the implications of the provincial results, particularly the utter wipe-out of Mayawati and the BSP at national level. Here was a woman often talked of as a potential PM, who seemed to have a rock solid caste following. Now both are gone. What does that mean?
Modi’s emphasis on strength in leadership showed well against Rahul Gandhi’s apparent weakness, and his concentration on development and good governance, rather than welfare divvy ups, seems to have attracted the poorest in India to a national party for the first time since they were voting for Congress in the 1980s. The anti-corruption, anti-dynasty vote similarly seems to have gone to the BJP rather than the AAP. Here’s hoping they do better this time.
All this implies that Modi won so decisively because he is the first person to have assembled a credible national agenda since the early Indira Gandhi years. It so happens that he heads a right-leaning party rather than a left-leaning one. Is he set to be an Indian Thatcher – the pro-prosperity candidate to take on the established consensus? He has won a personal victory so maybe he can stand up to the temple builders and Muslism bashers. After all, he can point to the fact that the old saffron issues played very little part in the campaign, compared to the developmental agenda.
And it may just be that Indians have finally slain the Nehru-Gandhi beast, after three generations of accidental politicians. Who, after all, will stay in the INC now?
We shall see.