A political story

Rajdeep quite eloquently convinces the reader that owing to peaceful regular elections political democracy in India has triumphed in spite of countless hurdles.
A political story
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Rajdeep Sardesai is India's widely acclaimed television Journalist. Through his book "2014 The Election That Changed India" he communicates the message to the world that successful conduction of regular elections in India, around sixteen general elections in a span of 62 years (first election was held in 1952) is not an ordinary achievement for India, but constant reminder of the genius and incredible strength of its democracy. Rajdeep quite eloquently convinces the reader that owing to peaceful regular elections political democracy in India has triumphed in spite of countless hurdles. He appropriately quotes Nawaz Sharif, the current prime minister of Pakistan in this context. Nawaz Sharif is quoted saying "Indian democracy is truly special because change of regime takes place without any vendetta or bloodletting which is not the case in Pakistan." Another genuine observation that author finds about Indian elections is that, they have brought substantial political empowerment upon the "Have Nots" (people belonging to the lower socio-economic strata) as they participate more than the rich and powerful during elections. The journalist author is of the opinion that each of the sixteen general elections has its own enduring attraction though some can be said to have greater significance than others. Having had the privileged ringside view of Indian elections as a Journalist since 1989, he personally believes that 16th general election marks a "tectonic shift" in Indian politics. He uses the analogy of Tsunami to drive home his view and refers it as "political Tsunami" (or Tsu Namo) in his book. Though it did not take human lives like the Tsunami but it certainly drove a death knell on the "long-held orthodoxies about voting patterns, the conventional rural-urban divide, traditional caste loyalties, family ties, paternalistic governance and the Nehruvian consensus that dominated Indian politics for decades."

In this Landmark election (2014 general elections) BJP achieved unimaginable success becoming the first ever non-Congress party to win clear cut majority on its own, getting overwhelming votes from most of the states (even U.P and Bihar), regions (rural and urban), sections (rich and poor), castes and communities (barring Muslims). The 129 year old Congress Party with its roots in freedom movement was completely decimated. BJP's "politics of aspiration" replaced the age-old norm of Indian elections "Identity politics". According to author, BJP's spectacular victory reflected the triumph of its one and only leader Narendra Modi that is why this election is also termed as "tsu Namo". 

The key focus is about the phenomenal rise of Narendra Modi, who in-spite of being immersed in controversy took over as the country's chief executive aftermath 16th general elections. Author attributes several factors for the rise of Modi and incredible success for BJP. Modi's exceptional political brilliance (both lion and fox like qualities, especially his determination, aggressiveness, oratorial flourish, managerial abilities, a clear cut goal etc.) that was far ahead from his competitors and especially in sharp contrast to Rahul Gandhi,  has been considered as the foremost factor by the journalist.  Author says that Modi's strength lay in his understanding of the "changing demographics" of India—a younger, aspirational and upwardly mobile society. He was determined to woo them and the new India that was discontented with the Congress regime saw in him a savior. He ran an energetic, well planned, goal oriented, extensive, context oriented (strategically planned as per the needs of a region)  campaign managed by experts, political strategists and Swayam Sevaks. Modi was amply helped by unquestioning media and corporates in the view of author. With money and technology (multimedia, digital technology) dominating the relentless US presidential style campaign, team Modi unleashed a blitzkrieg of sorts successfully building a massive personality cult overshadowing the contentious past of Narendra Modi. The  leadership vacuum in Delhi, invisibility of the incumbent Prime Minister, loss of credibility of UPA Government, Rahul's extraordinary immaturity, visionless ness and complete failure of Congress and other parties to counter Modi etc. also enhanced the effect of the campaign favoring Modi cult and the BJP. The book mentions that the possibility of any impact of other vital players (like Kejriwal, Jayalalitha, Mamta , Maya, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Pawar etc.) apart from Modi and Rahul who had veiled ambitions to conquer Delhi or could have played an important role in the politics at the center, was diminished by the Modi wave. Winning in two most politicized states of U.P and Bihar are considered team Modi's miraculous achievements by the author. However the noted journalist also concede to the remarkable rise of Aam Admi Party (AAP) during the period as something rare in Indian Politics and another revelation of election 2014. 

Author is a maverick writer. He is not only fluent about Modi's political skills but also equally articulate while illustrating his darker side. He is a man who does not forgive or forget easily. His role in 2002 Gujarat riots was questionable to large extent. His government was not only inefficient but also morally responsible because it failed to stop the riots but at the end he gained handsomely by consolidation of Hindu votes. The author also shows signs of open-mindedness when he exposes the dark side of his own trade and admits his own mistakes.

At the end of the day, Rajdeep Sardesai is a journalist, some of whose explanations during the period suffer from lack of intensity and over-exaggeration. He seems to be exaggerating when he opines that 2014 general elections has the potential to change the course of Indian politics forever. His predictions may turn out to be true but nobody can ignore the dynamic character of Indian politics. India's complex social-economic-cultural reality offers several opportunities for shaping politics, so one single general election may not claim to alter its course forever.

(Kalpita Das is a Ph.D scholar from the Centre for Law and Governance, JNU  New Delhi)
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