Victorious BJP leader Modi works his magic

Victorious BJP leader Modi works his magic

Victorious BJP leader has a promise to keep — eliminate poverty through sustainable development within a decade

By Reporting From New Delhi (Pranay Gupte)

Published: Sun 18 May 2014, 1:36 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:52 PM

Narendra Modi seeks blessings from his mother Heeraben in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on Friday. — Reuters

The British don’t usually dance in the streets after a general election, and neither do the Americans after a presidential poll. In most Western democracies, election results mostly elicit quiet smiles and polite handshakes.

But in this capital city of the world’s largest democracy, and in towns and villages all across India on Friday, men, women and children — sometimes joined by foreign tourists — noisily celebrated the historic victory of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha polls.

Of the 543 seats that were contested, the BJP by itself won more than 300, and together with its political grouping NDA, captured at least 375 slots. The ruling Indian National Congress wound up with barely 50 seats. In post-Independence India, no non-Congress party has ever obtained such a huge majority in India’s lower house of parliament.

“This is history by any definition,” said Dr R.K. Pachauri, the Nobel Laureate and founder of The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, who knows Modi, currently chief minister of Gujarat state.

“The election results tell us, firstly, that democracy is alive and vibrantly effective in India. Most importantly these election results also tell us that Indian society has reached a level of political maturity which is the reason why they have elected a leader who is a known performer and whose record of personal integrity is without blemish,” Dr Pachauri said. “The people of India have shown their abhorrence and rejection of corruption.”

He added: “The election tells us about the importance of effective communication and mass messaging on a scale that has not been witnessed before. Modi ran a brilliant campaign which tapped and utilised modern technology and provided messages for the public which highlighted the inadequacies and weaknesses of the government in office, particularly the cases of corruption which have taken place. But, more importantly, by highlighting his record of governance in Gujarat he created hope for the masses which showed the intelligence of his strategy in communicating with the public.”

That ability to communicate effectively was again displayed by Modi on Friday as the counting of more than 550 million votes — or 67 per cent of India’s 813 million eligible voters — revealed that the BJP was headed towards unprecedented numbers in parliament. In a nod to the Indian tradition of seeking a mother’s blessings, Modi called on his 97-year-old mother Heeraben, as cameras clicked and video was beamed live across the nation.

He then travelled to his constituency in Vadodara — one of two that he won, the other being Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — and delivered a restrained “victory” speech.

“The era of partisan politics is over,” Modi said. He went on to emphasise that his government’s priority wouldn’t be social engineering — as opponents of his right-wing, Hindu fundamentalist party had feared — but sustainable economic development.

His speech seemed to please a prominent businesswoman and former sheriff of Mumbai, Bakul Rajni Patel. “The new government must address urgently the issue of revival of economic reforms, initiate administrative and judicial reforms and ensure total transparency in governance,” Patel said. “The new government also needs to initiate the most needed viable and sustainable infrastructure projects across the country, where poverty levels are still unacceptably low.”

“The election results clearly tell us that young and aspirational India has spoken and given its verdict for the change, development and economic prosperity. The results also celebrate the triumph of free and fair elections in the world’s largest working democracy,” Patel said.

Concurring with her assessment, Dr Pachauri — who is also chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — said: “I think the Modi government would have to tackle simultaneously a number of issues of governance, which would test the ingenuity and intelligence of Modi as well as the BJP. Firstly, the whole system of environmental governance will require to be replaced by a more harmonious system for evaluating the environmental implications of economic activities, which should actively involve people who have to ensure economic development has a primary determinant of poverty eradication while at the same time protecting and preserving the environment. The whole system of environmental clearances by governments at various levels will have to be addressed through a more perceptive and transparent system where all voices are heard and decisions are taken by independent bodies which accurately reflect the will of the people.”

There was general agreement in policy-making circles in Delhi that Modi’s new administration needs to address the issues of transparency in the governance and effective policy framework and discipline for the energy consumption. It needs to develop the large-scale generation of alternative sources of cleaner energy like solar power, nuclear energy etc., officials said, as well as indigenous solutions through bio-waste.

It also needs to use the renewable energy in factories and other economic activities like trading and supply chains. To reduce air pollution, the new government must ensure lower emissions in manufacturing processes, construction processes and agricultural processes.

The new government needs to attend urgently to develop methods for water preservation, soil conservation and cleaning up of the rivers and oceans. Above all, to achieve all this, the new government needs to introduce a robust framework for education in civic, and health and hygiene issues.

There was also general agreement — even as Modi consulted with BJP chieftains — that some of the government programmes which involve large outlays as hand-outs for people such as those providing rural employment guarantees need to be phased out urgently and replaced by programmes that create skills, entrepreneurship and other institutional capacity by which economic development can be sustained. The administration of programmes such as cleaning up India’s rivers would also need to be de-bureaucratised and brought closer to the people for effective use of resources.

“India has vast and skilled manpower and educated young population and a robust and well developed IT sector which can give it a competitive edge on the global stage,” said Babulal Jain, a Delhi entrepreneur who frequently works with government agencies. “The fact that a large and young middle class also have a linguistic advantage of knowing English, can give India a competitive edge amongst Asian countries.

Narendra Modi may be inheriting an ailing economy, but he can quickly infuse it with energy and vigour.”

How quickly?

Modi’s answer was that he would aim for the elimination of poverty through sustainable development within a decade — which would be the end of his second five-year term in office.

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