The final countdown..
So the campaigning has finally come to an end. Less than 24 hours for the Exit Polls to come out and 4 days for the results. What a journey it has been - not just for those in the fray, the organizers, workers, 'war-room' managers and those who covered it on the ground - but even the likes of me who followed it from the side lines and participated in the dialogue on social media.
Of course, Narendra Modi ran the "mother of all campaigns" in the history of Indian Elections - termed as the 'Maximum Campaign' and beautifully depicted in this graphic
For the last leg the entire world descended on Varanasi - journalists national and foreign, political commentators and even academics from across the world. Sadanand Dhume, the WSJ journalist, quipped in a tweet to me:
@SandipGhose Don't be surprised. An election like this comes once in a generation. @ProfVarshney
— Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) May 9, 2014
The credit for permanently changing the rules of the game has to go to one person - whether you like him or not - Narendra Modi. It was truly a 'watershed election' as everyone seemed to agree on Barkha Dutt's 'wrap-up show from Varanasi (watch video here). The final outcome is not known yet and as some die-hard detractors of Narendra Modi are still hoping against hope that he'll falter at the finishing line (Read this post). Undoubtedly, it is yet a possibility - especially with practically all major political forces of the country lined up against him and even stalwarts of his own party being less than supportive (to put it mildly). Other than Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and a few other second rung leaders - most other big names have been conspicuous by their silence and missing in action (from the campaign trail). But, the fact that he has come thus far is a "phenomenon". Today - it's virtually 'Modi Vs the Rest'. The single point agenda of all parties and leaders of any national standing is how to "STOP" Modi.
Less than a year ago I recall a popular political commentator) pooh-poohing the idea of BJP coming to power. This was in Bangalore and he supported his theory pointing out BJP is likely to draw a blank in Karnataka - the state that had sent the maximum number of BJP MPs in the last elections. Next, everyone came up with dooms-day predictions when Nitish broke-off with BJP over Modi. People said - BJP had axed their chances by giving up old allies. Then came the Advani, Sushma sulking episodes over Modi being appointed in-charge of the campaign Committee in Goa. Everyone went to town talking about the split wide-open within the party almost writing-off its chances. The rest is history now and can't bear repetition. Now, we can only wait for the results and watch how the drama unfolds over the next 4 days.
I for one was one of the early converts on Modi - though I wouldn't like to be counted (and, hope others don't) among the "Bhakts". I'm not blind to his faults and aware of the risks of someone so domineering coming to power. But, I do think - to use a cliche - India needs a strong leader to salvage it out of the mess that the Gandhi family's remote control government - guided only by the interest of ensuring the survival of the dynasty - has landed the country.
The way Modi has run this campaign shows he knows a thing or 2 about organisation and management. In creating a campaign on such a grand-scale he has displayed a vision that is beyond the imagination of any politician in this country - the troika of Mother, Son and Daughter included. He has been accused of being bank-rolled by corporates and engaging the best international PR agency. Even if the same resources were made available to any other party - be it AAP or Congress - none could created something this scale and impact.
Ridiculous arguments have been used as to why Modi is not fit to be PM - from his lack of 'social skills' to his poor facility in English. A case has been made out that - he takes false credit for the success of the "Gujarat Model" tho much of it was either legacy or is owed to the entrepreneurial traits of the Gujarati businessman. Even a first grade student of Management knows that it isn't easy to preserve what you inherit let alone grow it further unless you are particularly gifted. Further, I contest the theory - Modi isn't a team player. The greatness of a leader lies in gathering the talent around him and having the ability to sift their advise and come to the right decisions. If Modi didn't have the ability to do so - he wouldn't have been able to run Gujarat with such aplomb for 12 years or conceive and execute a campaign of this order.
But, the real success of #Modi lies elsewhere. This evening I was surprised to hear the buzz about him and BJP in the Bar of the Coonoor Club among the elite Tamil gentry spending their summer recess in the hills. More than the number of seats he brings to the BJP in the Hindi-heartland, what he'd have done for good is spreading the roots of BJP in areas where they were hitherto non-existent - eg West Bengal, South India and the North East. BJP may not Lok Sabha win many seats in Bengal but they would have sufficiently increased their vote share to be a force to reckon with in the coming Assembly Elections (read this piece by Abhijit Majumder of HT). And, if indeed, BJP forms the government at the centre with Modi at its helm - the equations could change drastically across the country.
But let's wait for a few days more.... till then : Aab Ki Bar Modi Sarkar