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19 Nov 2019, Edition - 1589, Tuesday

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Coimbatore

Election Results 2019—A Commoner’s Viewpoint

R.Ramanathan

First things first: I am an ordinary citizen of India, not in the business of journalism, psephology or political analysis. But as a voter with an interest in what is happening around me and my country, I watch all developments closely. My views are totally impartial and I do not carry a candle for any political party or individual.

I am writing what I really feel about the 2019 elections and what should lie ahead of us.

The results of the elections are just out and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won the people’s mandate with a thumping win. I say Narendra Modi, not BJP or NDA, because he alone is the reason for this remarkable victory. Any adverse result would have put the blame on him squarely, so the viewpoint that he is the architect of this result should also be accepted.

Modi himself made no bones about it. Time and again he reiterated that any vote for the lotus symbol would be a vote for him, making his candidate in the constituency almost redundant. His ability to make the election battle a presidential one was a masterstroke. His opponent Rahul Gandhi, though an improved leader from what he was in 2014, was indeed no match to him.

Some of Modi’s welfare schemes were well delivered which helped him to the extent that people shied away their caste considerations and voted for him. Chemistry won over arithmetic and a great communicator backed by an excellent marketing team and ground level foot soldiers helped Modi become the leader without any serious challenge.

Congress is today in the doldrums. It has always been a party where everyone is a leader and no one considers himself/herself a worker. Factionalism and pride brought about its downfall. It could not learn from Amit Shah the art of forging alliances.

The victory in Tamil Nadu is that of M K Stalin on whose back Congress piggy backed. The doors to alliances with AAP, SP-BSP, etc. were open but Congress decided to not walk through them. Would it have made a difference if they had forged these alliances is of course debatable, but at least the grand old party would have ended up with fewer enemies in the future.

Dynasty politics are not working for most parties and more so for the Congress. Their campaigns bordered on the negative, and “Chowkidar Chor Hai” actually backfired. The cliché goes that Congress has to reinvent itself, but how?

One view is that the someone not from the Gandhi family should lead the party but that is practically an impossibility. No decision would be made without their consent. True the late P V Narasimha Rao did turn things around but that was at a time when Sonia Gandhi was learning the ropes and, once she mastered it, we all know what became of him.

Kerala, Tamil Nadu and, to some extent, Punjab bucked the national trend. BJP would have reasons to feel disappointed with the rout in Kerala as it had hoped to ride on the Sabarimala controversy. That issue did both BJP and the state ruled LDF in. If the BJP had brought an ordinance [as it usually did in many cases] on the Sabarimala issue preventing women of menstrual age to enter the temple, it could have canvassed as a party seriously caring for Hindu traditions.

It didn’t and rabble rousing and frequent calls for hartals didn’t help. The local leaders of the UDF [Congress] took advantage of the situation and won a landslide there. Punjab too could have been a landslide had Captain Amarinder Singh continued to have a free hand without a certain Navjot Singh Sidhu to deal with. The party high command should have reigned in Sidhu and allowed Captain to have his way, but allowing a regional leader to grow is something unheard of in Congress.

Tamil Nadu is a different ball game altogether. Modi’s BJP has always been considered a “Hindi Party” which does not care for the interests of the non-hindi-speaking people. The attitude of the Central Government in its handling of issues like Jallikattu, Sterlite firing, hydrocarbon and methane projects, Gaja cyclone relief, Cauvery and eight lane Salem–Chennai corridor worked against it. The task of BJP to rise in Kerala and Tamil Nadu would be as herculean as it would be for the Congress and other opposition parties to rise elsewhere.

So what next for Mr Modi?

Now that he is in a more than comfortable position with a huge majority he should put forward a list of dos and don’ts and ensure strict compliance.

The list of dos would be:

1.Form a cabinet of Ministers who would be given complete freedom to perform their duties. Let Cabinet Ministers be known to all [Reality Check: how many would be able to name the ministers of agriculture, housing, industry, commerce, etc in the Modi government ?

2.Pick ministers on the basis of ability and not on caste, religious or geographic considerations. Giriraj Singh, Sakshi Maharaj, etc., are not ministerial material.

3.PMO should assist the PM and not direct the Cabinet.

4.Prioritise the needs of agriculture, rural India and urban middle class. Linking of rivers should be among the first tasks. Bullet trains can wait. Ensuring safety, cleanliness and punctuality of trains would do better.

5.Give equal importance to all states and regions-irrespective of whom they voted for.

6.Give us 10 smart cities in the next 5 years.

7.Create jobs by bringing in more industries. Encourage private investment.

8.Give farmers a good support price for their crops and ensure a good post harvest mechanism to minimize wastage.

9.Look for other industrialists to help and develop.

10.Make GST simpler with a maximum of 2 slabs.

The list of don’ts would be:

1.Put down lynchings and hate crimes with a firm hand and take action immediately if and when they occur. Do not wait for a week to comment on them.

2.Don’t let your motormouths declare that all those who didn’t vote for the BJP are anti-nationals and not Indians.

3.Don’t pump in money to banks just to write off loans of big industrialists.

4.Don’t have the government run hotels and airlines.

5.Don’t hesitate from privatization.

6.Don’t interfere in the independent working of institutions.

7.Don’t avoid media interactions. No harm shall come if someone poses you a question. Avoid the radio complex of delivering only monologues where in only one voice can be heard.

The mandate is given with hope. It is a mandate that people feel would help them come out of the adverse conditions they face today. It is an inclusive and not a divisive mandate. Sab ka Saath is paramount.

The ball is in your court Mr Modi.

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