Modi's victory signals arrival of the outlier

This is one of the defining moments in independent India

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Ajay Singh | May 16, 2014




It has finally happened. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi will shortly take over as India's prime minister. Given the landslide victory he has scored across the country, he has emerged as the tallest leader whose stature could easily dwarf even leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and VP Singh across the spectrum in the recent past.

Modi's march to New Delhi is quite spectacular. He rode the tiding wave of people's aspirations and expectations, and tapped people's anger against traditional politicians. He carefully crafted his image as an outlier, a politician who invents his own idioms and agenda and does not conform to traditional rhetoric.

Perhaps Modi sensed people's mood long before top political strategists could come to terms with it. This was evident last year when he determinedly took the centre-stage during the BJP's national executive at Goa where he was declared the chairman of the party's campaign committee. His ascension was challenged from within when party patriarch LK Advani stayed away.

Advani's logic which found few takers within the parivar was that Modi's numero uno position within the BJP would deflect the focus of national mood against corruption and misdeeds of the UPA. However, this logic was summarily rejected by the BJP-RSS combine and Modi was subsequently projected as the PM candidate brushing aside Advani's objections.

Advani fell in line not without evoking a certain degree of scepticism about Modi's efficacy. But what was really amazing was Modi’s confidence that his victory was certain. In his campaign, he was unambiguous in his assertion that he would prove sceptics wrong. He built his campaign around his own personality.

The obvious reason for the success of his campaign lay in his image as a political underdog beleaguered by the traditional elites of Delhi. He successfully projected himself as the victim of the Congress machinations as he was subjected to CBI interrogation and harassed on various counts. The Congress's taunts running him down as a “chaiwala” also triggered consolidation of social underdogs in his favour.

The Modi wave demolished regional parties in all Hindi-speaking states, and brought under its influence the south and the northeast where the party never had a strong footprint. However, Modi's juggernaut is effectively neutralised in Tamil Nadu, Odisha, and West Bengal where regional leaders displayed better political acumen.

Modi's elevation as prime minister is certainly one of the most defining moments in independent India. After Nehru, Indira and Rajiv, Modi is exceptionally credited to lead a Lok Sabha where the opposition would be completely marginalised. On the other hand, it would not be wrong to say that Modi's Lok Sabha would be only replica of his Gujarat assembly.

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