How Narendra Modi has changed India's political geography

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The Lok Sabha election of 2014 is significant from many aspects. But the emphatic mandate in favour of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the near-elimination of the Samajwadi Party and Congress and elimination of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh and the annihilation of the JD(U) in Bihar and the subsequent resigning of state chief minister Nitish Kumar perhaps point at the biggest significance of them all:

Indian politics, much like the contemporary world order, has become uni-multipolar in nature after this general election.

Fall of Congress gave rise to parties which benefitted from social division

After the fall of Rajiv Gandhi's government in the late 1980s, the Indian politics entered the era of coalition where none were in a position to call the shots. Governance and administration became second-best to blackmailing tactics by regional parties who could neither emerge as national alternatives nor could remain regional in their aspirations. They, particularly those in key states like UP and Bihar, began cashing in on the ruins of the Congress system to make their electoral gains.

They found the socio-economic diversity of states suitable to create their respective vote-banks which served as their weapons during elections. They made a strategic utilisation of the Congress's massive failure to maintain its umbrella character and turned the natural anomalies of the Indian society into their pillars of support.

This went on for years. The Congress, much weaker than what it was in the past, found it convenient to back these regional players, one or the other, to keep an indirect hold over the political resources that it had lost over the years, thanks to the declining authority at the grassroots level.

Rise of right-wing BJP consolidated the populist 'secular' camp

The rise of the right-wing BJP, also facilitated by the Congress's politics of appeasement, encouraged the regional satraps to exploit the religious diversity of the Indian society while the Congress found a nice opportunity to project itself as the custodian of the minority in a more aggressive manner. Thus, the contest in Indian politics revolved around two camps, namely, the Congress and its like-minded allies (they also replicated the Congress's style of politics) which formed a so-called secular front and the right-wing BJP.

Modi's advent has eclipsed the post-Congress era politicians in India

Since the early 2010s, this equation began to undergo a change and the ultimate consequence rocked India's political geography. In the past few years, a number of governments which were led by the 'secular' forces, namely, the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh and the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar began to witness a drastic fall in the quality of governance, causing a big depression in the public space. High price rise, law and order issues, poor treatment of women, riots and terror threats and the like began to raise doubts in the minds of the common man: Do we vote for the politicians or for our own well-being?

BJP's fresh leadership & tactics turned things

It was around this time that the BJP and the right-wing forces intensified their campaign to project Narendra Modi as an alternative before the nation. The saffron party, which was looking for a fresh leadership to stop its own decline after suffering two consecutive Lok Sabha election defeats, rallied behind the Gujarat chief minister and cashed in on his reputation as an administrator.

The party never hesitated to back him to the hilt, irrespective of internal and external resistance by the likes of LK Advani and Nitish Kumar and the move paid off. The decision of the JD(U) to pull out of the NDA and Advani's sulking in the public worked in favour of Modi. The decisive victories in the assembly elections of December 2013 further vindicated his appointment as the prime ministerial candidate.

Winning 93 seats in UP & Bihar was a result of smart strategising

The BJP craftily went on projecting Modi's clean image as a leader, even in states like Uttar Pradesh where regional parties like the Samajwadi Party focussed on the same-old issues of religious polarisation. The BJP executed a multi-pronged strategy at this crucial juncture. Modi's offensive, which was a combination of development-nationalism-democracy-governance, perplexed his opponents who kept on targetting his alleged roles in the Godhra riots to score a point. The difference in the standard of strategising was proved on May 16 when the BJP bagged 93 out of 120 seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar! This was something even the most loyal supporter of the BJP wouldn't have imagined.

But this election made the impossible look possible and it happened because the politics of the ‘secular' camp has passed its expiry dates. Take the four regional parties of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who have played significant roles in the politics of alliance in the coalition era.

These parties have flourished all these years because there was no viable alternative to their model of social empowerment but little economic development.

They mobilized socially backward groups, snatched each others' vote-banks, further dividing the already divided and this vicious cycles went on for decades with little substantial benefit for any of the groups.

BJP produced an electoral homogenisation and that speaks volumes about its credibility

Narendra Modi's arrival on the scene was a fresh change. Like the fresh leadership, the BJP also presented through him a new approach speaking for universal development. This was something for which his opponents were never ready. They kept on polarising voters thinking the BJP was the same product of the 1980s and as they went on polarizing, the BJP kept on reaping the benefits for it was always stressing the positives. In an India where 24X7 media channels are always on the prowl, the loose speeches made by leaders of the ‘secular' camp against Modi played in his favour. The recipe for the whitewash was prepared without much trouble. The BJP, instead of going for cultural homogenisation, produced an electoral homogenisation in diverse states like UP and Bihar and made serious inroads in states where it has been a peripheral force.

A strong Centre, a couple of strong regional satraps and almost no Congress: A new reality

After May 16, Indian politics no more presents a multipolar but a uni-multipolar model. Even a few months ago, the assertive regional satraps and their imagined fronts raised fears that there would be another vulnerable government at the Centre. But with the BJP getting 282 seats of its own, that fear stands quashed.

The Centre will be a stable one and little time will be wasted in managing ill-willed allies. The Mamatas and Jayalalitaas will have their own plans of action but a 330-plus NDA government at the Centre can't be toyed with at will. The insignificant presence of the Congress also adds a new dimension to the Indian politics post-May 16.

We are set to witness a new model of politics unfolding in the coming months. Let's adjust to the changing realities fast.

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