The BJP’s colossal landslide has led to some serious soul-searching by the Congress opposition, but the answer to its downfall should be obvious to all and it’s that the party completely lacked any proactive vision.
The latest Indian elections were basically a referendum on Modi, and to his credit, he won by a colossal landslide. The Congress opposition is stunned, especially after party leader and scion of the country’s post-independence elite Rahul Gandhi lost his family’s traditional seat in the northern district of Amethi, and it’s frantically begun some much-needed soul-searching in an effort to discover what went so terribly wrong. The answer to its downfall should be obvious to all, however, and it’s that Congress completely lacked any proactive vision, instead positioning itself as a reactive force opposed to everything that Modi represents.
While it’s true that there was theoretically some very promising merit in that approach, it conclusively failed to achieve electoral results, proving that most of India is already firmly indoctrinated in the Hindutva beliefs that its Prime Minister stands for. This is the result of the so-called “Hindi Heartland’s” demographic explosion that has irreversibly altered the country’s political landscape and determined its internal trajectory for the indefinite future. Failing to recognize this was fatal for the opposition because it showed that they didn’t learn their lessons from the last election and were still campaigning on flawed and outdated assumptions.
In other words, had Congress accepted the genuine popularity of Hindutva in Indian society and realized that India isn’t an exception to the nationalist-conservative zeitgeist, then it would have wisely tried to co-opt some elements of this ideological vision into its platform instead of standing against the majoritarian will of the people. To be clear, India’s domestic political trends are very concerning and have the very real potential to lead to large-scale violence against its many minorities, but these “hard truths” can no longer be ignored for “politically convenient” or “wishful thinking” reasons after the latest election’s decisive results.
With this in mind, it’s clear that Congress’ reactive stance wasn’t appealing enough to most Indians. For Modi’s many political faults, he can’t be criticized for lacking vision, which was apparently attractive enough to the voters that they opted to give him a second term in office despite failing to fulfill his grandiose economic promises over the last five years. To be sure, it certainly helped that his very aggressive foreign policy distracted the masses from focusing too much on the economy after he ordered a Bollywood-like “surgical strike” against Pakistan shortly after the Pulwama incident.
It didn’t matter to most Indians that this was a blatant campaign trick because Modi played to their political fantasies and delivered what they desired irrespective of the real costs that this entailed to the country’s international reputation. This keen observation speaks to the profound influence that perception management techniques have over Indian society, proving that they’re more than capable of getting people to overlook their own economic hardships as long as they’re led to believe that the country is “on the right track”, especially if it makes a dramatic display out of “punishing” Pakistan (as they’re “encouraged” to see it).
Seen from this perspective, the average Indian regarded Congress’ reactive platform as “standing in the way of progress and history”, as well as “spoiling the fun” that society was supposed to be having after the “surgical strike” stunt. Modi’s incomparable charisma reinforced the notion that Congress doesn’t have any vision of its own and has therefore devolved into a “coalition of malcontent minorities” comprised of angry leftists, secularists, Muslims, Dalits, and some regional forces who only complain about the country’s course without offering any constructive proposals for changing it.
It’s unimportant that the party pointed out many genuine problems, especially in the socio-cultural and economic spheres, because Modi’s charismatic personality was able to successfully reverse the relationship between him and his challengers by making it seem like they’re the ones who are fearmongering and not him and his BJP allies like they have a track record of regularly doing for political-majoritarian reasons. Instead, the perception was skillfully shaped that Congress is nothing but a group of corrupt criticizers who are trying to scare the people into voting them back into power.
A turning point has definitely been reached in Indian domestic politics whereby the interconnected demographic explosion in the “Hindi Heartland” and the viral nationwide spread of Hindutva have forever changed the state of the country’s internal affairs, and that the only hope that any opposition force can have to return to power is to incorporate these elements into their future campaigns. Indians are craving a sense of vision that thus far only Modi and the BJP have been able to credibly provide, which is why they so decisively turned against Congress for being nothing other than reactionaries.
The party’s lack of a proactive vision was undoubtedly the reason for its downfall, and it’s unclear whether it’ll ever be able to politically recover from what might very well have been the BJP’s deathblow. In a sense, it can be said that Congress ironically bestowed Modi with the best gift that it could have ever given him, which is his historic mandate to continue implementing the vision that they’re so dead-set against. India, the South Asian region, and the rest of the world will now bear witness to the consequences of Congress’ catastrophic mistake in misreading the country’s pulse and failing to offer any constructive counter-vision to Modi’s plans.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Eurasia Future