Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Winner takes it all..and...'Ekla Chalo Re'

So, Modi is all set to be "crowned" tomorrow - after what may be called a watershed - election. It turned out to be a real "The Winner Takes It All" victory - stunning the whole nation.

In a first of sorts, Heads of Government from all SAARC countries, Maldives and Mauritius will attend the ceremony along with over 2500 Indian dignitaries. Conspicuous by her absence will be the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee.  Earlier it was reported, she had advised all newly elected MPs of her party to stay away from the function. But, on second thoughts - perhaps, she is deputing two trusted emissaries - Amit Mitra, Finance Minister of West Bengal, and Mukul Roy, General Secretary of Trinamool Congress, to represent her at the event.

Most people argue, Mamata Banerjee could have shown more grace on an occasion - which is as much about Modi as it is a celebration of Indian Democracy. But, then - those who know Mamata intimately would say - she's not given to hypocrisy. After the out-pour of bad-blood and vitriol during the election campaign it might have appeared duplicitous to her core-constituents - if she were to give an impression of "all is fair in love and war".

If Modi and BJP's victory at the centre was cataclysmic - Trinamool's performance in West Bengal was no less phenomenal. Insiders reveal, the party's own estimates were nowhere close to 34 seats. In the best case scenario, they hoped to get 26-28 seats. That the Left would be decimated to such an extent was even beyond their expectation. A young Rajya Sabha MP of Trinamool told me, even if allegations of rigging and intimidation are true - it could have given them an additional 4 or 5 seats at best but not such a sweeping mandate. While just like Modi nationally - in West Bengal people voted for Mamata, much of the credit behind the voter mobilisation goes to the organisation man - Mukul Roy whom, some are calling the Amit Shah of Bengal, he shared as an aside. (That begs the question, couldn't the same 'victory' have been achieved without violence and bloodshed that sullied the name of the state - a hark back to the dark days of 'cadre-raj')

The Left in India has lost in relevance - but in West Bengal they've also lost the will to win. The ground has shifted from beneath their feet - TMC has pulled the rug as it were. It was sad to see giants like Basudeb Acharya - with tremendous people connect reduced to dust by a once glamourous diva, now well past her "use by" date (if I'm permitted a sexist dig).  The proverbial grass-root organisation of the CPIM has simply evaporated into thin air and they are left making the same accusations against the ruling party as one used to hear about them till a decade ago.

But, the real story of these elections - even in West Bengal - is the BJP. Many have been intrigued by the disproportionate amount of time Modi devoted to West Bengal during the campaign. Modi held some 7 - 8 rallies in the state. Since, a Gujarati views everything in terms of ROI (Return on Investment) -  the dividend was certainly poor if measured in terms of seats alone. However, if one delves a little deeper another sub-plot emerges. The BJP's vote-share in these elections increased from 6.15 % to 16.8 % precariously close to the Left's 22.7 % and far ahead of the Congress' 9.6 %. In 30 of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies BJP emerged as the No 2 party. In 20 assembly constituencies, including some very high-profile ones, BJP were ahead (Read article).

What does this mean ? If the Modi Government at the centre stays on course and keeps alive the promise of development BJP may well consolidate its strength and emerge as the main Opposition party in the next Assembly Elections (Read earlier post). In his speeches, Modi's main target was the young audience of 18-28. There is no reason to believe - Bengali youth will think very differently from the rest of the country and not opt for development and promise of a brighter future.

It is here that one regrets the "hostility" trap Bengal falls into with successive government over the last 50 years, for which the state (and, more importantly, the younger generation) had to pay dearly. This was one chance for us to get back to the mainstream of national politics - but we once again seem to have missed the boat. There were subtle overtures made by Modi in the beginning which were rudely rebuffed due to local political compulsions (Read Vote Bank Politics is here to stay) .

But, it may not be too late yet to work out a tacit 'understanding' - without adopting a posture of aggressive opposition. Modi is a pragmatic politician, who looks at the longer term. Except for some unforeseen catastrophe, he is here to stay and he knows - that if not today - he might need the Trinamool's support in future and, therefore, be willing to play along. While we may have the example of the much vaunted "Gujarat Model where growth and development was allegedly achieved without support from the centre , we have also seen, in these elections, the case of Bihar, where Nitish spent 10 years fighting in vain for Bihar's "special status". Finally, when he failed to deliver on the promise of development - the voters shifted en-masse away from his party. 

Therefore, "Ekla Chalo Re" may not be the best anthem for all times.....