A lot has been written and said about Narendra Modi and every aspect of his leadership in national and international media in recent months. Riding on the back of three successful stints as chief minister of a state with an extremely enterprising populace and the anti-incumbency factor, Modi is widely seen as the man forming and leading the next government at the center. With a few weeks left before 814 million people vote in one of the biggest electoral exercises in the world that will last for over a month, the BJP has gone on an overdrive to highlight Modi’s meteoric rise with most of the advertising for the elections centered on the man and his pro-development and pro-business image. The markets, driven more by sentiment than by fundamentals at this point in time, have touched new highs and are already factoring-in a Modi-win. Small and medium enterprises, which were hit hard during the global economic meltdown and are still reeling under the after-effects of its collapse, are riding out the last few months of a government plagued by policy paralysis in the hope that business will receive a stimulus once a new regime takes over.
Behind these expectations and pre-mature euphoria however, lurks a reality that the nation is probably not prepared to admit exists. Not only is Modi an authoritarian and autocratic leader, but he also belongs to an ideology that is regressive and has no place in a new-age India that is looking to find its place in the world once again. The induction of Muthalik by the Karnataka unit of the BJP, in the hope that his claim to fame as a self-proclaimed “keeper” of the Hindu culture would be condoned, is a sign of things to come. Rajnath Singh, the president of the BJP, and his comment that the English language has caused a “great loss” to Indian culture; the RSS and its very public stance of building a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, and by extension, a Hindu rashtra; the anti-gay stand that a lot of leaders from the saffron front have collectively adopted in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment on amending Section 377; Yashwant Sinha, former finance minister from the Vajpayee government, and his suggestion that the government use the section to arrest same-sex partners of all US diplomats in India in the wake of the Devyani Khobragade scandal are all indicators of a party that lacks the intellectual ability and the will to carry India into the next age.
Swayed and enamored by the persona of Modi, what a lot of young Indians forget is this: that there are 545 members who will be elected to the Lok Sabha; that Modi might be the face of the campaign at this point in time, but he will only be as effective as the council of ministers he picks; that masking a regressive ideology behind tall promises of redeeming the economy is not the panacea to our problems; that the inability of the Congress and its allies to deliver on the economic front was as much a product of the global meltdown as it was of the policy paralysis that gripped the government in the wake of the many corruption scandals its ministers were embroiled in; that many aspects of the economy are fundamentally structural and have nothing to do with politics; that supporting Modi does not amount to supporting all aspects of the ideology he comes from; and that stubborn intolerance for other political ideologies on the basis of support and misplaced admiration for one man sets a dangerous precedent for India.
All said and done, it is very likely that Modi will win and it will essentially be a combination of the fact that the people are tired of the arrogance and disdain with which the incumbents in the corridors of power have governed the nation, and that there exists no suitable alternative to Modi at this point in time. And this is a possibility that very much exists within the realm of reality.