We are romantics at heart. We love a revolution. We cheer for the underdog. We want to overthrow something. We like going against the grain. But often, that just remains a thought. Seldom do we get an opportunity to live out that dream and play a small part in ushering in great change.
BJP winning 2014 was supposed to be that change for us. Congress, which ruled the nation for most of our independent past was just finishing two terms of government and for the first time in our generation’s history, the opposition had gotten its act together. There was an idealist (at least as far as speeches go) as its leader and the whole nation rallied behind him. Every town that Modi visited would greet him with incredible affection, and his speeches were absolute blockbusters. For a film-crazy nation, it was almost like a do-gooder hero from a movie asking us to rally against the evil establishment. We all listened to him and gave him a mandate that hasn’t happened in decades. Let’s not take that lightly. If we consider 30 years to be a generation, an entire generation could not manage an absolute majority in all the elections they participated in. 1984 was the last time a sweeping mandate was given by the people of this country, when Rajiv Gandhi rode a wave of support on Indira Gandhi’s assassination and won 404 seats. Since then, it has always been a stitched-up-coalition that has ruled our country, and it is safe to say that much of the lost opportunity we crib about was an outcome of multiple parties exerting pressure on the center to fulfill their own interests.
So, after 30 years, we had a government that we wanted to elect. The highest ever voter turnout in our history happened in 2014–66.38%. The NDA coalition achieved an incredible 336 seats — an absolute majority. It was a people’s victory. Like we did when India won the Cricket world cup, we actually danced on the streets. Stock markets rose dizzyingly on the hope of something special coming along. To paraphrase Sagarika Ghose, the whole nation seemed like one big family. Strangers actually smiled at each other on their morning walks.
In today’s world, perception is almost everything. BJP created the perception among people that it would be a manna to all evils plaguing our country. In areas where Modi wasn’t known also, the rallies ran full because everyone wanted to hear those promises first hand. They wanted to partake in the hope being doled out. It wasn’t just us common people who wanted to believe this. Thought leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Ramdev Baba, Subramaniam Swamy and others, who have tremendous reach into our society spread the word that this indeed was the coming of something beautiful.
It is refreshing to know that the rupee will get stronger at Rs.40/- per dollar if Modi comes to power http://t.co/OacZDXesGy— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSri) March 20, 2014
@bhagwat_148 :In 2017 $1=Re 1— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) April 22, 2012
मोदी सरकार में सौ दिन में वापस आएगा काला धन: रामदेवhttp://t.co/W5YNnYgaFV— Swami Ramdev (@yogrishiramdev) April 12, 2014
I can go on all day with screenshots and videos from before the 2014 election. About 15 lakhs coming into accounts, about petrol coming below 50, about train charges being reduced, about special status for Andhra Pradesh (!), about less interference from the government, about reduced taxes, about farmer loan waivers, about clean Ganga…..
The problem with creating humungous expectations is that it turns people quickly away when they’re not met. The experts on Twitter — especially those supporting the ruling party — take it in their stride that meeting all those promises is rather impossible. But who will tell the common man that? The man whose whole life hinges on the hope that a better tomorrow is coming along? Sitting in Delhi and Mumbai, with an annual income running into crores, it is easy to say that ‘these are poll promises and are meant to be taken with a pinch of salt’. The guy in a small job, whose kids are growing up faster than his income is rising and there are no savings in the bank, won’t take it with a pinch of salt. We did not ask you to make those promises. You made them because you probably thought you could deliver on them!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Congress supporter. I’m a part of the 38.5% votebank who voted NDA in 2014, and I’ve not written it off for 2019 yet. I am glad that visible corruption seems to have come down, that infrastructure is being built at a greater pace, that LPG connections have been delivered to crores of homes, that prices of some critical medical equipment have come down, that defence projects are picking up speed…
Our world of politics has become a glass house and every one of us knows in detail about what’s happening. We’ve grown wise to the ways of our leadership and can use our intelligence to read between the lines and to see what is being kept hidden. It is rather obvious that BJP has lost the plot and most of its energy is going into fighting battles which don’t much matter. The opposition is a master illusionist and has been creating all sorts of smoke and mirrors, which our chosen party has been running headlong into. Every time an issue dies out, another takes birth elsewhere. It is a multi-headed hydra, and everyone following either mainstream or social media has accepted that the election of 2019 will be dirtier than anything we’ve ever seen. What hurts moderate supporters like me is that our ‘party with a difference’ has seen fit to fight these battles at the opposition’s level. To fight their misinformation with our own, to counter their lies with our own, to malign them more than they do us, and to insult the voters’ intelligence more than they do. If we wanted the same level of a fight, we would have elected Congress again! Atleast they’re experts at it.
There’s a battle happening with the states. We’re rather proud that BJP managed to win UP. But its foolish to imagine that they will steamroll over the opposition in every other state too! Every state has a distinct identity and it is sad that our party hasn’t even put in the amount of thought an FMCG company would put in while launching pan-India. BJP contesting against TMC in West Bengal on its own is understandable. Why would they want to spoil their relationships with partners who’re capable administrators, have a solid cadre at booth levels, and have the same ideology as BJP? Shiv Sena, TDP, BJD, AIADMK are all worthy partners. Instead of working with them for another term, right from the first term, BJP decided to stew up dissent and force the partners to pull out. And then they went all out and made opponents out of them. Calling it by a misnomer of Chanakya Neeti, they even eulogised their leadership. Now, this is the first time this BJP has formed a government. Most of the earlier version of NDA is gone. Either through age or relegated to its Margdarshak Mandal by the current crop. When it comes to statesmanship, Vajpayee was way ahead of what Modi is today. Still their government collapsed. Ram Madhav sneering at the camera and saying ‘don’t worry, we have Amit Shah’ on results day of Karnakata elections last month is not something to be proud of. It is indicative of how close we’ve gotten to becoming what we hated in the opposition. Supporting the same line of thought may cause a few regional parties to lose 2019, but BJP is certainly not going to add to its tally by doing so. The split vote will cause crores of Indians to suffer coalition state governments — like in Karnataka today, and if BJP’s tally reduces in 2019 (as it certainly looks to be the case), these coalitions will play havoc and derail whatever little good is being done. If the thought is that voters will learn a lesson because of a coalition and elect BJP the next time around, whoever made that suggestion should be fired!
Issue after issue. Battle after battle. Every single day, the entire party apparatus has been swinging from fighting this fire to that. When will development happen? Vikas and Acche Din should not become another India Shining. Bullying voters, blackmailing them under the guise of religion, showing them carrots which everyone knows will never come within reach, and most of all, not delivering on what has been promised and acting mute about it, is not what we elected this government for. That was done with aplomb by consecutive UPAs. Can we keep the egos aside and show action on issues that really matter? On issues that we voted you into power for in 2014?
In the perception battle, we’re losing badly. And for most common folk, that perception is more powerful than the reality. I will overlook the crores of people who’ve received LPG, the lakhs of villages which’ve been electrified, if I don’t perceive good being done directly to me. ‘Perceive good’ is enough even if the actual benefit is still a distance away. Our stock markets factor in the coming years’ projections and push up or pull down a scrip’s price today. Valuations of 10x and 20x are often seen because even there its all about perception. If BJP were a stock, in the opinion of most people who voted for it, it is currently trading at valuations not supported by its fundamentals. And whether in stock markets or in the real world, expectations are rather fragile. If there is even a whiff of suspicion on the ability to meet those expectations, crash landings happen.
Can we please go back to being the BJP of 2014? Of pre-2014, where we had a wonderful connect with our people? Where we would highlight and work on issues which they all wanted resolutions for? Where we weren’t perceived as egoistic and unapproachable? Where we would work with smaller parties for the greater good? Where our leaders held chai pe charchas to meet their constituents and speak to them firsthand? Where our campaigns didn’t entirely consist of blaming the Congress and other regional parties? Where party leaders — Amit Shah, Ram Madhav, GVLN Rao — worked behind the scenes from the party office and we got to see the man we elected — Narendra Modi speaking to us directly about our problems? Where increasing the party cadre at grassroot level didn’t happen at the cost of development? Where our nationalism isn’t brought into question every other day? To where like in the picture below, as Modi ji shows us, the voter is in the foreground and not the party? To where ‘winning at any cost’ became more important than giving India its Acche Din?
Can we not get stuck on these battles and move on to the actual war please? Because if they don’t move now, and if BJP wins less than 250 seats next year, they’re not the only loser. All those people BJP peddled hope to in 2014 are the losers. The party we elected with glee lost its way, plodded along without much substance, lost its sheen, and there is a real possibility that it would lose that blockbuster mandate we gave it. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Lets not continue what we did for the last couple of years and then expect different results in 2019. Yes, we love BJP over Congress. But when someone comes along and tells me that to prove my love, I should pay more for petrol and pay higher taxes, no thank you, I'd rather give up my love and abstain from voting! My Roti Kapda Makaan is way more important than my politics.
Let the same thing which brought us to power not pull us down from there. Leave the useless battles. Come back onto track. Fight the real war. The one you said you would and didn’t. People will see the change. It is important that we win 300+ in 2019. Because if we don’t, then this opportunity may never come about again for this generation, and all this would have been for nought. When things couldn’t get done with a majority, what can we expect to achieve in a coalition? The people deserve better.