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MANDATE OF THE MASSES- MODI!

By Sonal Kulshrestha

People's mandate spelled Modi. His party, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), won by a landslide victory, winning 283 seats in the Lok Sabha, defeating other contesting parties by a huge margin. Indian National Congress (INC) managed 44 and Aam Admi Party (AAP) got a mere 4 seats. The democratic process has so determined that let there be no hope of a Congress rule (in any shape or form) and let there be no need of a coalition government (enough of that). The process was straight-forward. The world's largest democracy, constituting of over 1.2 billion people went to polls. Over 500 million people showed up to exercise their right, creating history with the largest ever voter turn out (66%) in any General Elections in India. The most expensive and the longest elections in the country's history results in Narender Modi at the nation's helm. When the act of electing is that simple, that democratic and that clear, of course, the world has to sit up straight to take notice. India, the largest country in the subcontinent, has shown to it's neighbors that this is how it is done. The jubilation and the sheer unabated joy and anticipation felt by the people of India and those of Indian origin is resonating across the world as united they share their joy- on the streets, on the net, in their homes and at the parties. Those of us who are interested and intrigued have, no doubt, read countless articles dissecting and analyzing the election results. Those who are probably not that interested or perhaps not that involved, here is a short reflection on what comes to mind on the mandate.

The 1950 born Narendra Modi hails from the state of Gujarat in India. He is a self made man, coming from a family of grocers, he ran a tea stall near a bus stand in Ahmedabad. He completed his studies against all odds and adversities, earning a masters degree in Political Science and is now all set to lead a country of chaos and corruption and yet one that continues to thrive and progress despite it.

Internationally, Narendra Modi is being pitched as a pro-business leader who will likely ease the way for global businesses to establish in India. However, he does have a stigma to erase. International media has been referring to him as the 'Hindu Nationalist' leader, perhaps a subtle (or should I say a not so subtle?) reminder of the fact that Narendra Modi was the head of the state of Gujarat when the anti-Muslim violence that occurred in 2002 killed over 1000 Muslims . In light of the Gujarat massacre, many European nations and the US had barred Modi. In 2005, the United States denied Modi a visa because of his alleged role in the violence. However, a Supreme Court-ordered investigation in India could not prove his involvement, thereby absolving him. Does the west still care or in the excitement that they're witnessing, they are prepared to overlook it? 

(Photo credit: Source)

Nationally, Modi's pro-business image is said to be well earned and not without credit, even if we overlook the fact that Gujarat has always been a more progressive state compared to some of the other larger states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Modi's role in creating a environment propitious to businesses in Gujarat, where he was the Chief Minister for the past 10 years, has been perceived as a success model ready to be implemented in the rest of the nation. Tata's decision to relocate the Nano factory to Gujarat is often cited as a testimony to Modi's rule. Many start-ups have felt nurtured in the state where the laws are said to be business friendly and corruption is not (that much of?) an hindrance, causing Gujarat to emerge as an investment capital. In Gujarat, he is also said to have done the impossible. When other states of India have been facing a perpetual power shortage, Gujarat reports energy surplus. To top all that, Gujarat has also seen good infrastructure development under his regime, giving birth to the slogan 'Vibrant Gujarat'. So the expectation from Modi is clear- to extrapolate the Gujarat model to the rest of the country. While 'Abb ki baar' it is Modi 'sarkar' (this time it is Modi government), until he can bring about the changes seen in Gujarat to the rest of the nation, until the following dreams become a reality- good infrastructure development, education to all, accessibility to toilets everywhere, end of violence against women, conducive business environment and widespread corruption control- all he's really selling are dreams. And we all know from previous experiences, that when dreams fail, in the end, the 'default stable' government is adjudged to be that formed by the Congress.

Plus, there's more. While it is good to be discerned as a strong leader, as a national leader will he also care to sport the cloak of a 'secular' leader? Does he care to shed the 'Hindu Nationalist' leader tag? Or, as a friend points out, with him at the helm, will those who resort to violence on religious grounds be encouraged to misconstrue his victory as 'their time'? More importantly, will he stand up and clear the air? Only time will tell the tale of the country on the brink of a much anticipated change. Meanwhile, can't help but feel the excitement and the anticipation that India, united as a nation, is feeling.

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