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Decimation of Congress, decline of the Gandhis

Saturday, 17 May 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

  • Pic for representational purpose

Ab ki baar, Modi sarkaar has come true. For the first time in 30 years in India, a single party was voted to power. The Narendra Damodardas Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the 2014 general elections with 283 seats, leaving the Congress with just 43 seats in a decisive mandate.

The 550 million people, who voted in the world's largest democratic exercise, gave the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) 337 seats in the 543-member lower house while decimating the Congress's United Progressive Alliance (UPA) which managed just 58 seats. Big Congress leaders, including Union ministers Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Ajay Maken, were left by the wayside.

Analysts pondered whether this sweep indicated the end of coalition era – the last time a single party came to power was in 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi led the Congress to 414 seats in the aftermath of his mother Indira Gandhi's assassination.

In perhaps the most telling number of the rout that was Election 2014, the UPA's combined total was 13 seats less than the BJP's tally of 71 in Uttar Pradesh's 80-member house. In India's most politically significant state, the Congress won just two seats, one each for its president Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli) and vice-president Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), who held on with a slim margin of 78,000 votes – against 3.3 lakh in 2009 when the party won 21 seats.

Of the remaining seats, five went to the ruling Samajwadi Party, including its chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in Azamgarh. In what appeared to be a rewrite of caste equations, the Dalits abandoned Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party, which failed to open its account. The religious polarisation was complete.

Among the other biggies that ended with a cipher were the DMK and the MDMK in Tamil Nadu and the National Conference in Kashmir.

But some regional satraps held their own and emerged powerful even as the Modi juggernaut rolled – Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK got 37 seats, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress bagged 34 seats and Odisha's Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal took home 20.

The clamour for Modi as prime minister coloured India's political map with varying shades of saffron – deeper in the Hindi belt of Central and North India that includes Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and lighter in east and southern India.

The victory exceeded its most optimistic calculations and the celebrations in the BJP began early morning on Friday. Laddoos were distributed at the party's national headquarters in Delhi where the song 'achche din aane waale hai' blared in the backdrop. Amid the festivities, the message was more than clear – this was a victory for Modi, the man who had ruled Gujarat for 13 years and was now headed for 7 Race Course Road.

Modi won by a record 5.7 lakh votes in Vadodara and bagged the Varanasi seat too, leaving Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal in second position. The party, making its debut in this election, got four seats.

Addressing wildly cheering crowds in Vadodara, Modi thanked India and said "acche din aane wale hai".

Congratulating Modi, BJP president Rajnath Singh said the support had cut across the boundaries of religion, caste and class. Recalling former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he said: "Andhera chatega, suraj niklega, kamal khilega (the darkness will be dispelled, the sun will rise, the lotus will flower)." "Modi, Modi". It was a personality cult and Modi was the hero of the hour.

In stark contrast, the Congress office was desolate with the quietude of loss. The defeat was so complete that it might not even get the status of leader of opposition, which requires that the party get at least 55 seats or 10 per cent of the votes. Rahul Gandhi may be leader of opposition, but one without cabinet status and other trappings.

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi addressed the media, but refused to take questions. "As vice-president, I hold myself responsible," Rahul Gandhi told the teeming camera crews. His mother, also accepted defeat, and said: "The people's verdict is against us... As Congress president, I take responsibility for the defeat."

The verdict is in. Prime minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Modi in the morning... before walking into the sunset. It's the end of an era.

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