Elections 2019: Back to the Right, since there is no Left

(by L Subramanyan)

Narendra Modi’s resounding victory has clearly outlined a few portents – one, the second term for Modi will be a more virulent extension of the first one, so expect more cow vigilantes in your backyard, more anti-other religions rhetoric, more strident and vocal demands for the Ram temple, irrespective of what the courts decide, and more and more saffronisation of the national institutions (remember Gajendra Chauhan and Pahlaj Nihalani?).

The second reality is that there is no more room left for debate. It is either his way or highway. The complete decimation of the Left and a struggling-for-life Congress essentially means that either you are pro-Modi or ‘anti-national’. Social discourse will become even more toxic and virulent. Expect pro-Modi WhatsApp groups to explode and spread ‘fake news’. Expect ‘Hindu’ uprisings against imaginary threats to our ‘culture’. Expect a few more ‘Sabarimala’ kind of agitations, where the President of the BJP went public on his opposition to the Hon. Supreme Court verdict.

The third reality is that just as the Congress Party is said to be bereft of any major leader, the BJP is facing exactly the same Zeitgeist. As this election has demonstrated clearly, BJP’s win is due to only Narendra Modi- not Shah, not any other leader, either from his own party or from any of his allies.

Fourthly, regional parties, with the honorable exception of DMK in Tamil Nadu, are becoming increasingly irrelevant in the national context. They may have relevance in the assembly elections but as Odisha has shown, the collective national narrative runs the Lok Sabha campaigns. As a result, expect the regional parties to hitch their wagon to the BJP star– BJD has already started making conciliatory statements to the BJP and one shouldn’t be surprised if MK Stalin also aligns himself with the BJP, in the medium run.

At least for the next five years, developmental economics will be shunted to the backburner and rhetorical chest-thumping will be the order of the day. While I don’t expect any other Tughlaq-esque move like ‘Demonetisation’, don’t rule out other such decisions, like the revival of the debate on ‘transaction tax’.

Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi, right, talks to his sister and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during a function to pay homage to their father and former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on his death anniversary in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Gandhi was assassinated during national elections by a suicide bomber in 1991. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Another interesting debate is over Rahul Gandhi’s ability to lead his party in any capacity whatsoever. If he loses Amethi, (the reports are that he may), then the shrill notes saying NO may even become belligerent, and this may herald the full-blown entry of Priyanka Gandhi into the electoral fray. What that does to the ego of Rahul is quite another matter and something that mother Sonia will have to deftly manage. What is clear is that the idea of Rahul Gandhi as the architect of the revival of the Congress party is all but dead and buried.

In fact, the dilemma for Congress is even existential, as it has not crossed the 60-seat mark in the election. The question that could be asked is whether the Congress party is even relevant and whether the party needs a complete overhaul, ideologically as well as at the leadership level.