The laddoos will be savoured in the spanking new BJP headquarters. But formal celebrations will be delayed. The results can’t be announced till five vote-verified-paper-audit-trail (VVPAT) per Assembly segment are matched with the vote count of EVMs — a concession the Supreme Court gave to the wailing Opposition parties who “feared” digital voting may be rigged — though no credible evidence was ever available.
There were instances of polling disorder — EVMs not used or defective EVMs handled casually rather than transported and managed in a secure manner, just like EVMs on which voting took place, are secured and stored. Put this down to poor training or poor supervision. But this was not a deliberate attempt to subvert the people’s will.
Of course it helps that the people voted overwhelmingly the way the BJP would have wanted. By May 23 evening, the BJP’s leads had already crossed its 2014 achievement of 282 seats, by a margin of 18 seats. A loss of around 20 seats in Uttar Pradesh was more than made up by sweeping Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and ingressing into Odisha, West Bengal, Telangana, Kerala, and gaining seats in Karnataka. The NDA should clock up around 344 seats — Shiv Sena with 18, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) with 16 and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP with six.
The Congress, the underdog in this race, also did better with 50-plus seats against 44 it had in 2014. Sonia Gandhi, befitting her stature as a senior Congress leader, has won virtually unopposed from Rae Bareli/ But the BJP’s feisty Smriti Irani has bearded Rahul Gandhi in his own den in nearby Amethi. Like his grandmother Indira Gandhi, who fled to the safety of a byelection in distant Chikmagalur, Karnataka, to get elected after she lost in the 1977 post-Emergency election, Rahul is also fighting from Wayanad in Kerala, where he is leading. So he shall be in the Lok Sabha with Shashi Tharoor, who is set to win on his own steam, for the third time, from Thiruvananthapuram.
By its failure to align with like-minded parties and share power, the Congress reduced its voteshare and cut into the voteshare of parties opposed to the BJP, like AAP in Delhi and the Mahagathbandhan in UP — a self-defeating strategy. Its strike rate — seats won versus seats contested — is lower than of like-minded parties like J. Stalin’s DMK, which may win 23 out of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu.
Those not aligned with either group will be the second largest group after the NDA, with around 105 seats. Among them will be Jagan Mohan Reddy of YSRC of Andhra Pradesh, who swept the Andhra Assembly polls and will have 25 MPs — second largest after the Congress; Mamata Banerjee with 22 MPs; Naveen Patnaik, who won an unprecedented fifth term leading the BJD in the Odisha Assembly polls with 14 MPs; Mayawati of BSP from UP with 12 MPs — she had none in the previous Lok Sabha — and SP’s Akhilesh Yadav with six.
None of this matters immediately. The next actionable step is for the BIP, the single largest party with 55 per cent seats, to decide its Cabinet lineup. The big question will be if Amit Shah, the brains and grunt behind the BJP’s victory, will join the Cabinet or would Mr Modi prefer he manages the Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly elections this year and Bihar and Delhi to follow in 2020?
Also, if Yogi Adityanath is shifted from UP to the Union Cabinet, who would then would manage UP? Or will Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the previous Madhya Pradesh CM, migrate to Lutyen’s Delhi from Bhopal, and is the MP government likely to meet an early end? Preparations for the Union Budget must start immediately. Will Arun Jaitley remain finance minister or will the fiscal baton be passed on to Piyush Goyal, who presented the Interim Budget in Mr Jaitley’s absence and has sequentially managed coal, power and renewable energy and then the railway ministries. He is a trusted insider with long familial links with the Sangh Parivar and is one of the bright stars of the BJP.
Should Muslims be worried, now that the Modi Raj looms large and long, possibly even beyond 2024? Or should they rest assured that the BJP’s massive mandate is their best safeguard as it serves to dilute the “siege mentality” of the RSS. The weaker the potential threat from the minorities of strategic, en bloc voting to defeat the BJP, the less they have to fear from a Modi government.
Mr Modi no longer seeks domestic dominance. He has that already. He is now looking at global domination. It is the RSS which must adapt to the times and not the other way around. It is conceivable Mr Modi might offer to broadband the definition of “Hindu” in the explanation to Article 25 of the Constitution, relating to the freedom of religion. Now it includes Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. This can be extended to include Christians and Muslims too if they so wish.
This simple change will make them eligible, like all others, for the affirmative action programs of the government. Consider that this has already been done via the 10 per cent reservation for the poor implemented this year, which is not restricted to any caste or religion. Mr Modi’s social agenda for the next five years is to distinguish between the “haves” and “have-nots”, with the intention of lifting the latter to competitive levels of income and well-being, without reference to caste or religion.
Untangling the devious social constructs of the past seven decades, which have embedded entitlements for silo-based elites, is a stupendous task. It doesn’t need to be done tomorrow. In any case, neither Mr Modi nor Amit Shah is prone to plan or to act, just for the present.
The writer is adviser, Observer Research Foundation...