ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Anger, Aspiration, Apprehension

Narendra Modi has won a massive victory but his ascendance does not portend positive change.

In the months leading up to Elections 2014, the media, in its anxiety to project Narendra Modi as the next prime minister, frequently described the 16th Lok Sabha elections as the most important ever. Prone to its usual exaggeration the media forgot that in terms of outcomes there have been bigger landmarks in the past – 1967 when the two-decade-old Congress monopoly was first weakened, 1977 when Indira Gandhi was voted out after the Emergency and 1998 when the first ever Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition came to power. Elections 2014 have indeed turned out to be a landmark, but not because Narendra Modi has led the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to a huge win that has led to a single party enjoying majority in Parliament for the first time in 30 years.

This was an election that the ultimate victor had set out planning for years ago. It was an election for which, beginning in 2012, international public relation agencies were hired to build a persona for Narendra Modi, with a positive spin (“development”, “the Gujarat model”, “governance”, “decisive”, etc) covering up the negatives (centralisation of power, authoritarian tendencies, and being the chief minister of a state when some of the country’s worst communal riots took place). It was an election, which, because of the spin and the promise of a business-friendly government, most of the corporates in the country ended up endorsing one candidate. It was an election that consequently saw an unprecedented amount of funds flow to one party, which, according to one independent estimate, ended up spending more than Rs 5,000 crore on just advertising, only a little less than the $986 million that United States President Barack Obama spent on his 2012 presidential campaign in a country where the per capita income is more than 30 times that in India. It was an election where the media months ago bought into the message of the well-funded party and had no compunction about either refusing to interrogate the claims of past achievements and future promises of its prime minister aspirant, or about promoting a collective amnesia about Gujarat 2002. It was an election where the vast resources that were collected were used to mobilise, motivate and monitor the victor’s campaign down to the last detail, with no small help from the organiser par excellence – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It was an election that can, with some justifiable exaggeration, be called the biggest corporate heist in history. When Indian capital embraced its natural ally, a right-wing party that promised to be pro-business.

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