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Pratap Bhanu Mehta says this election result boils down to two words “Narendra Modi”

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Staggering dominance

Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Vice-chancellor of Ashoka University
The Indian Express

Mehta analyses the 2019 elections for what it says about politics in India and what it foresees in the future.

He says the only “authentic analysis” of the verdict boils down to one word: “Narendra Modi”. Modi, he argues, has “grasped” three defining things that helped in his victory: first, he is the “purest distillation” of the idea of politics, one which produces total identification with his persona; second, he understood that “evil that has a whiff of a larger cause” can succeed with voters — think extreme Hindutva, here; and third, he has “crafted a way of being everywhere” and making himself the object of all political discourse. All this comes in the face of the Opposition’s failure to unite due to its “myopia” and “pettiness”.

For the future, Modi’s re-election is a “moment” of “dread” for Indian democracy with the “greatest concentration of power in modern Indian history” where everything will revolve around one man.

Modi owns the win and the aftermath

Milan Vaishnav | Senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Hindustan Times

Vaishnav writes these elections confirm how the BJP under Modi has created a “political hegemony”, which is “impressively resilient”. The 2019 polls are a “sign of a climate that has been altered for good” – in at least three ways. First, voters yearn for a “strong and centralising leader”; two, BJP voters chose BJP in spite of its crude and disturbing majoritarianism because they believe the alternative is “shorn credibility”; and three, Indian voters seem willing to “endure short-term economic pains for long-term gains”.

Vaishnav says Modi “owns this triumph” and has remade the BJP in his own image, while centralising all authorities. Now, he also “owns the aftermath” and whatever happens in the next five years.

The 2019 vote: an intoxicating verdict

Harish Khare | Senior journalist and former editor-in-chief of The Tribune
The Hindu

Khare argues the 2019 verdict is both “unambiguous” and “frightening”. For four reasons: first, although constitutional democracy dictates, power must be shared and exercised, voters have “willfully and joyfully” embraced an “authoritarian prophet. Second, there are frightening takeaways, including ultra-nationalist hype and “unalloyed Hindutva”. A third factor is the message to the Muslims — they must “reconcile” to BJP’s “majoritarianism polity”. The rest, under ‘danda sarkar’ must “yield” to the state’s demands on subjects like national security and further distortions in civilian control of the armed forces. Fourth, what is “most frightening” about the 2019 elections is the collapse of Congress as a “pan-India party”. The consequent depletion of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha is an “unhappy augury”.

Modi vs Modi: Time for unchallenged leader to decide his legacy

Ruchir Sharma | Global investor and author of ‘Democracy on the Road’
The Times of India

Sharma contends that Modi’s victory has reversed some rules of Indian politics — one is that a party can lose key state Assembly elections and yet perform well in those states in the general elections.

He feels the second term for Modi looks like “Modi versus Modi”. Sharma points out that across democracies only 19 leaders since 1980 have secured a second term but they have eventually grown “complacent” – American presidents, for example. In this context, Sharma argues that Modi’s legacy hinges on whether he fulfills his “original promise” of more jobs and development. His wishlist: Modi needs to bring in new voices across spectrum of the Indian society, focus on fewer schemes, but deliver on them, revive his 2014 promise of “minimum government” and “recalibrate priorities”.

The job is done, now to get serious on creating jobs

Arvind Panagariya | Director, Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies, Columbia University
The Economic Times

As Modi wins a resounding majority, he must focus his attention on dealing with the challenges that confront the economy, says Panagariya. Creation of well-paid jobs is needed to transform India. The government, businesses and public must recognise that job creation is not the job of the government. The government must introduce employment-friendly policies while private entrepreneurs need to create the vast majority of well-paid jobs. Besides private investment, the government must remove bottlenecks that are holding back labour-intensive sectors such as apparels and footwear.

Panagariya also says that India must change its attitude towards the role of international trade in creating jobs. India must now open up its economy and implement wide-ranging reforms. Job creation will follow.

The ‘pro-incumbency’ factor

Aakar Patel | Executive director, Amnesty India
Business Standard

The clear mandate given to Modi will allow him to pursue the idea of transforming India, even as a section may debate whether or not his ideas – be it in economics or national security — have worked, writes Patel. He says Modi’s ideas have been endorsed by the people and the overwhelming majority would help the BJP to implement things faster. The Opposition will come under attack for incompetence though it is difficult to say what it could have been done differently or better, Patel notes.

Besides its own constituencies, the BJP and Modi have added another constituency – that of people who support Hindutva with anti-minority and anti-Muslim sentiments. “Such numbers as this election has thrown up the need to be understood at a deep level,” he concludes.

The great electoral mandate and the wisdom of crowds

Tulsi Jayakumar | Professor of economics, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research

Jayakumar presents a contrarian argument to the reasons advanced mostly for Modi’s victory. Her team’s effort to predict the election outcome threw up interesting facts. Twenty nine per cent — the highest proportion — felt economic growth was the most important factor followed by “There is No Alternative” (TINA) factor with 17 per cent.

Unemployment came third at 15 per cent. For only 7 per cent, caste and communal divides mattered and only 3 per cent believed in caste/religion — “…the collective judgment of our sample reveals that it was not Pulwama, social security or TINA, but economic issues that would still have reigned supreme in the mind of the typical voter…” This, she says, is a lesson for the Opposition.

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  1. One hopes the government will give due weight to Dr Arvind Panagariya’s advice on the imperative need for job creation.

  2. The enormity of the verdict is so staggering that it has baffled many Pandits. Here are excerpts from this report itself : (1)“Evil that has a whiff of a larger cause”- Pratap Bhanu Mehta (2) Crude and disturbing majoritarianism – Milan Vaishnav (3) “Authoritarian Prophet “, “Frightening Verdict”- Harish Khare. As compared to this, the comments of Arvind Panagariya, Ruchir Sharma, Aakar Patel and Tulsi Jaykumar are balanced. The crucial issue is whether Modi is such villainous figure, as it has been perceived and portrayed by the three senior journalists/ analysts? And if the answer is yes, why the Indian voters did not see it that way? We have had five years of Modi-Raj. Was it so frighteningly bad that has made these three analysts and many others to shout from the top of building? I own humble assessment is that besides a few lacunae- a failed gamble of demonetisation, delayed and somewhat feeble response to lynching xenophobia, Modi has been a cautious incrementalist at least in the field of economic reforms. All the analysts have failed to mention the biggest achievement of the Modi regime- moderate inflation. Add to that absence of any major corruption scam- the Rafale was an hoax- and you get to the root of this stupendous victory.

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