Have you ever wondered, amidst the manufactured debate about the Gujarat model of development, why there is never any talk of an “Amethi model”? No mystery there. There is no development in Amethi. Congress cannot talk about something that does not exist. When your track record is regression, the only choice is pre-emptive aggression.
In the same decade when Amethi was wallowing in stagnation despite having the second most powerful person in India as its Member of Parliament, Gujarat was lifted from agricultural growth of around 2% to 10%. A few simple facts should suffice, without any overdose of statistics: with 5% of India’s population, Gujarat now soaks up 18% of national investment and contributes 26% towards its exports. Most important, a substantive portion of the meagre growth in employment during the arid decade between 2004 and 2014 has come from Gujarat. If Rahul Gandhi had done a quarter as much for Amethi as Modi has done for Gujarat, he could have offered a far more credible bid for leadership. Instead, his only option is silence on Amethi and diversionary tactics on Gujarat.
If anything, non-UPA parties have so much surplus ammunition that they do not quite know what to do with their reserve arsenal. In any other election, observations made by the Supreme Court on Tuesday 22 April would have made headlines. The highest court asked counsel of the Government of India, in sharp and even acerbic terms, why UPA had refused to obey a Court order to reveal names of Indians who had secret bank accounts in that convenient state known as Liechtenstein. Refusing to buy the Congress’ limp excuses for delay, the Court noted, “The direction to share the information forthwith cannot be understood as after completion of investigation by SIT. The Court said forthwith disclose…The language of the Court is clear. The directions are crystal clear when it said disclose forthwith…From July 4, 2011 till now, the revenue secretary and the joint secretary in the ministry of finance had kept our orders in cold storage.”
Such flagrant disobedience of a Supreme Court order is as astonishing as the complacent reaction to such a cover-up. Why did UPA hide these names? You can rest assured that if the list contained names of Opposition leaders this would have been lead story on Doordarshan and All India Radio for three years, and Congress spokespersons would have had a great deal to say on each day of this election campaign.
Government protected these names only because they include either those at the top of the present establishment pyramid or those within that charmed circle.
If media has missed this message, then the people have not. Now that voting machines have shut for nearly 350 Lok Sabha seats, it is quite evident that the Congress game plan for 2014 has gone belly up. Its very hinge, a total dependence on minorities, has been dislocated. Reports from Mumbai indicate that Catholic voters, for instance, refused to follow any diktat from a religious leader and went where their minds took them. A significant proportion of Muslims in the city refused to vote at all, rather than tread the traditional route to a Congress button.
The heart-warming reality is that a rising share of the electorate is voting for its stomach, for its welfare, and for the nation’s economy, rather than out of fear or emotionalism. It matters less who the voter trusts than that it trusts a party for the right reasons. The young are turning out to be the most mature voters within the demographic pattern, for they have the most to lose from a lost economy. Their anger might have been sufficient to push any government out, but their rage is now laced with hope that Narendra Modi will restore the vision and horizon that has faded.
Modi will have to deliver both as Prime Minister and as Member of Parliament. In Varanasi, for instance, the tremendous enthusiasm of the people, across all traditional fissures, is based on the conviction that the massive ills within and around this ancient city, one of the great intellectual capitals of world civilisation, will be healed and the region nourished back to health. The phrase is not in use at the moment, but within five years Narendra Modi will have to create a Varanasi model of development, just as he has ensured a Gujarat model. That should become the template in 2019 against which other constituencies will be measured.
If the vote is at an all-time high for Narendra Modi on the banks of Ganga, and across the varied expanse of the Indian compass, then expectations are even higher. It has been a hard slog towards the Lok Sabha, but once he reaches that apex of democratic achievement, Narendra Modi will have to turn his energies and mind back to the India that sent him to Delhi.