While celebrations are in place, no one needs to tell Narendra Modi how tough and thorny the path ahead is. India has voted decisively for him and is thirsting for change. No more would they be carried away with his eloquence, catchy slogans and media dressing. Voters want results. The Vikas Purush has to walk his talk. He inherits a government that has been in rigor mortis. It will take some doing to awaken it and infuse a sense of purpose. The markets will not celebrate Modi’s rise every day and so he has to take unpopular steps to rein in the economy.
Modi has worked hard for 12 years to reach New Delhi. He always wanted to be here. Former Gujarat chief minister and leader of the opposition, Shankersinh Vaghela told me last year that Modi had told him this when they worked together in the RSS decades ago.
Modi will soon realise that he needs to look beyond the Gujarat model he is so proud of. What works in Gujarat may not work in Kerala or West Bengal. Gujarat will continue to do well even with a new chief minister as Gujaratis have business and enterprise in their DNA. Not true of Malayalees or Oriyas.
Modi’s autocratic style worked in Gujarat. He used it to get things done quickly and efficiently. Ministers and bureaucrats did not argue with him. In Delhi even with a brute majority in Parliament, he will not be able to run a steamroller. He will have to respect institutions, traditions and transparency. Every move of his will be watched and dissected. This did not happen in Gujarat as he decimated the opposition. Even the media there lost its voice. But, the scenario in Delhi will be different. He will have to learn how to tolerate criticism, listen, adjust and tweak his plans to fit regional needs as regional parties like AIADMK and TMC get stronger.
The BJP has many forward looking leaders, some of them bubbling with ideas. Modi is known to surround himself with lightweights who concur with him while neutralising strong independent minded leaders. Personality politics will not work nationally. It pays to use good minds to sculpt the future. With such a brute majority he can now easily take risks to boost the nation’s morale with real moves. He can emerge a game changer.
If he gets the right advisors, he will not make the mistakes he made in Gujarat. He needs to create an image of someone who will protect human rights, minorities and work towards inclusive development. All these three have been given the short shrift in Gujarat which did not have a single Muslim candidate in the last assembly or in this election. Its development indicators are miles behind most mainline Indian states. He needs to rise above the agenda of the RSS and VHP. It is most likely he will now with this mandate as he did in Gujarat. That is why the RSS and VHP are secretly apprehensive about Modi.
In Gujarat, see how he systematically consolidated his position. Let us not forget that the BJP had banished him at one point as Keshubhai Patel, the then chief minister, did not want him around. But when he got the opportunity, he dug his feet in. He used the opportunity to showcase himself and the party and then show the country that he could emerge as an alternative. He will now energise the BJP, weaken the opposition, bring many outside his party to book and start looking at the next election from day one. He is here for a long innings.
The writer is the managing editor of India Legal and author of Modi Demystified that will soon be released by Harper Collins