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Cult of Modi, birth of Kejriwal, fall of Congress — 10 milestones of the decade in politics

While 2019 will be remembered as the most significant year of the decade politically, the landscape saw a sea change over the last 10 years.

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New Delhi: The year 2019 was quite an eventful one for Indian politics. Events such as the scrapping of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, the final resolution of the centuries-old Ram Temple-Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya and Narendra Modi’s dominance of national politics by winning 303 Lok Sabha seats make it the most important year of the entire decade in Indian politics.

But these weren’t the only events that changed India’s political landscape in the last decade. The Left parties lost their relevance, some of the most dominant political personalities like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, M. Karunanidhi, J. Jayalalithaa and Balasaheb Thackeray died, and several new regional satraps emerged.

ThePrint takes a look back at the decade gone by in Indian politics.

Modi — CM to cult figure

The 2010s saw Narendra Modi come to the national stage from Gujarat, and transform from a politician into a cult figure. Only once before has India witnessed one personality tower above all parties — Indira Gandhi in the 1970s — so much so that people cast their votes either to ensure that one person’s victory or defeat.

Modi has become the BJP’s symbol — some even argue that he himself is the party. In a way, he has brought the cult figure concept of Dravidian politics to the central level.

There is a whole list of merchandise powered by Brand Modi — from NaMo TV that made an appearance on India’s television screens before the Lok Sabha polls, to NaMo T-shirts and jackets etc. — doing brisk business.

The pull of Modi, powered by schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana and Ujjwala, was demonstrated in 2017, when the electorate overwhelmingly voted for the BJP in his name in the UP elections, just four months after a disruptive move like demonetisation.

Also read: Win some, lose some: 2019 for BJP was Modi-made but CAA protests turned up a surprise

Coalition era gives way to BJP expansion

The 2014 general elections delivered a crushing defeat to the UPA government and gave the BJP a simple majority with 282 seats in the 543-member Lower House, ending the 30-year coalition era at the Centre.

Even after a full term of Modi, anti-incumbency did not impact the BJP, as it surpassed 300 seats in 2019, with its NDA allies’ numbers taking the tally beyond 350.

The decade also saw the BJP’s footprint expand to almost all parts of the country — from having its government in seven states in 2014, the BJP went on to rule 21 states with its allies by mid-2018 before ceding ground.

In this phase, the BJP managed to form governments in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura in the Northeast, as well as in Jammu & Kashmir.

Nationalism replaced Hindutva as the BJP’s main plank, and Modi and Amit Shah managed to make BJP the world’s largest political party by enrolling as many as 19 crore members.

End of Congress supremacy

From 2004 to 2014, the Congress ruled the country as the leader of the UPA, but then its numbers in the Lok Sabha hit a historic low of 44. It was the party’s worst electoral performance in any general election — it couldn’t even get the required 10 per cent of seats to claim the post of Leader of the Opposition. Another five years failed to revive the party’s fortunes, as it only netted eight more seats in the 2019 elections.

A party that ruled the country for 54 years is now limited to just about 50 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Also read: Why Modi gets away with Maybach specs, Rs 10 lakh suit but Rahul with Burberry jacket can’t

The Left goes obsolete

The Left’s complete removal from national politics and its marginalisation in West Bengal and Tripura, which it ruled for 34 and 25 years respectively, is also one of the biggest political events of this decade.

The bloc that helped make H.D. Deve Gowda prime minister in 1996 and propped up the UPA government in its first term now has just five representatives in the Lok Sabha — three from the CPI(M) and two from the CPI.

The Left, which was once indomitable in Bengal, won zero seats in the 2019 general elections in the state, and was reduced to just 6 per cent of the vote.

Kejriwal rises to power

The first few years of the decade saw the UPA government embroiled in several corruption scandals. Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare had started his nationwide movement for the creation of an institution called the Jan Lokpal, an ombudsman to act on public complaints against ministers and officials.

The mainstay of Hazare’s ‘India Against Corruption’ movement was ex-IRS officer and Magsaysay awardee Arvind Kejriwal.

By the start of 2013, the movement had reached its crescendo and Delhi’s assembly elections were round the corner. At that precise moment, Kejriwal opted to join politics, and the Aam Aadmi Party was formed. Kejriwal became chief minister twice — once with the Congress’ support for 49 days in 2013, and then with an unprecedented majority of 67 out of 70 seats in 2015, remaining one of the few leaders who could not be stopped by the Modi wave.

Also read: Rajeev Dhavan to Malala to JNU V-C: The 15 biggest intellectual disappointments of 2019

Tamil Nadu politics loses its icons

The personality cult era in Tamil Nadu politics came to an end this decade, as first J. Jayalalithaa (in 2016) and then M. Karunanidhi (in 2018) passed away.

Karunanidhi was the focal point of Dravidian politics for nearly 70 years, winning 13 elections, becoming chief minister five times, and being dismissed from the post three times. By making and breaking alliances with national parties on his own terms, he not only got his DMK a share of power, but also managed to limit their influence in the state.

Jayalalithaa, affectionately called ‘Amma’ (mother) by her followers, was no less an icon. Having taken over the political mantel from her mentor M.G. Ramachandran, she ruled Tamil Nadu for 14 years, and was the longest-serving woman CM in India’s history.

New regional leaders emerge

While the 2010s spelt the end for the social justice politics of Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav in Bihar and UP respectively, the decade also saw new regional leaders emerge. K. Chandrashekar Rao’s movement for a separate state of Telangana came to fruition in 2014, and since then, he has been the unquestioned ruler of the state.

In Andhra Pradesh, the death of the popular Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in an air crash in 2009 led to a churn in his Congress party. His son Jagan Mohan Reddy was the first choice of a majority of MLAs, but the party’s high command in Delhi denied him the CM’s post. Ten years later, Jagan and his YSR Congress party vanquished the powerful Chandrababu Naidu and his TDP in the assembly and Lok Sabha polls, marking the birth of a new regional leader.

The Congress, meanwhile, has almost managed to get wiped out of both states.

Also read: Loving freely, right to privacy, NOTA, Ram Mandir — 10 historic SC judgments of the decade

Article 370 is scrapped

The formation of a PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir in 2016 was the first big landmark in the state this decade. It was the first time the BJP had tasted power in J&K. But in two years, the alliance fell through, and in August this year the Modi government scrapped the special powers given to J&K under Article 370 of the Constitution, and bifurcated the state into two union territories, separating Ladakh.

The decision to scrap Article 370 was the fulfilment of a decades-old promise of the BJP and its predecessors to end the culture of ‘do pradhan, do nishan’ (two prime ministers, two flags) in J&K.

Hundreds of political leaders and workers were arrested and detained, and remain so nearly five months later.

Ayodhya settlement

The settlement of the Ayodhya case by the Supreme Court has brought to an end a religious and political dispute that lasted over 150 years.

The lack of any violent reactions to the court order awarding the land to Hindus and offering the Muslims a separate plot to rebuild the Babri Masjid offers a ray of hope for peace after the tragedy of the demolition of 6 December 1992.

A new generation arrives

Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s age-related illness had taken him out of politics in the last decade, but the arrival of Modi and Amit Shah on the national scene pushed other BJP stalwarts like L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to the sidelines.

Prominent leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Manohar Parrikar and Ananth Kumar also passed away, almost obliterating the second generation of the BJP, leaving younger leaders like Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to assist Modi and Shah.

Meanwhile, in the states, political heirs like Akhilesh Yadav, Hemant Soren, Uddhav Thackeray, Sachin Pilot and Tejashwi Yadav have risen to the top, signalling the arrival of a new generation of politicians.

Also read: Article 370 to CAA: Domestic affairs from 2019 will guide Modi govt’s foreign policy in 2020


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