On the eve of the 16th Lok Sabha election results, a group of friends—many of whom had quit jobs or taken time off from businesses to volunteer for the BJP—decided to meet at a resto-bar in Delhi’s Connaught Place to ‘chill out’ after several months of hard-work in the summer heat. But, every discussion would lead to the same question: “what will happen tomorrow?” The fear of the unknown was lurking and highly palpable.
When the first set of leads flashed on the TV screen on May 16, the fear of the unknown began to recede; it would vanish totally as the BJP’s seat tally crossed the magical 272 mark and sent the supporters into a tizzy. They started dancing to the party’s victory song Ache Din Aanewale Hain.
As mentioned in the first part of this series, titled “Rajiv and Narendra: A Tale of Two Mandates”, the hope generated amongst Indians by Narendra Modi was similar to the one generated by Rajiv Gandhi about 30 years ago. While, Rajiv’s fate is known to everyone, Modi’s will be known only in 2019. Although I had mentioned about the need for Modi to learn from Rajiv’s tenure to not repeat that history in 2019.
Modi’s Message: Development and Good Governance
The thrust of Modi’s whirlwind 8-month long campaign—one of the largest mass outreaches in the electoral history of any democracy —was about communicating the message of development and good governance to voters in every corner of the country. And, the subtle message, that the Congress Party was responsible for wasting 56 years, was also not lost on anyone either.
modiThe scale of Modi’s victory proved that the verdict was both a vote of confidence in the positive appeal of the decisive Narendra Modi and a vote against the misrule of the Congress Party-led UPA Government. The Congress party was punished for the mega scams and mismanagement of economy and voters saw in Modi a decisive leader who was capable of undoing all that.
The 2014 verdict has also to be seen as continuation of the trend where voters give decisive mandates to the winner party so that the government will not be constrained by the pulls and pressures of coalition politics. Inherent in these decisive mandates is an implicit warning that voters will not entertain excuses for their non-performance.
Narendra Modi: An Outsider and Ministry Formation
Unlike Rajiv Gandhi, Modi, an outsider, entered Delhi carrying on his shoulders huge expectations of his voters. Modis’ hard-sell of ‘achche din’ had delivered the historic win and it was now his turn to deliver the promise. Verily, the clock for 2019 began to tick on May 16, 2014.
To fulfill that mandate, Modi began working on the formation of his cabinet. Many names were mentioned as probable ministers. There were lots of discussions amongst supporters about the need for the outsider Modi to have a ‘Lutyenised insider’ to learn the tricks to operate in Delhi and run the government.
And who would fit that slot better than Arun Jaitley, who emerged as his backroom operator for this task. Despite losing his own election even in the Modi wave, his stature would only grow in the days and months to come.
On the eve of the cabinet formation, a statement was released from the Gujarat Bhawan that said-
…focus is on convergence in the activities of various ministries where one Cabinet minister will be heading a cluster of ministries working in complementary sectors”. The statement further stated that, in keeping with Modi’s belief in ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’, the Prime Minister Designate is “eventually aiming at Smart Governance where the top layers of government will be downsized and there would be expansion at the grass-root level….
The historic moment arrived when on 26 May 2014 Narendra Modi took oath of office and secrecy as the 15th Prime Minister of India, thus culminating a process that had begun on 15th September 2013 at Rewari. From the composition of cabinet, it was clear that the Gujarat Bhawan’s statement was largely not followed in the distribution of portfolios; no organic ministries were formed, notwithstanding the possible exceptions of Piyush Goel and Nitin Gadkari.