India's extraordinary mandate given to one man is a watershed moment in India's history. It is a vote for India. It is a vote that transcends social strata, caste, religion and political ideologies. India has voted for a man who has managed to instil a sense of hope in every Indian across the board. It is also a victory for India's democracy as a man of the most humble origins, with no fancy education, degrees or western veneer has made it to the highest job. Maybe that is the reason why the humblest Indian has connected with him, or should I say the reason why he managed to connect with every Indian whose heart beats for India. For this one needs to salute Narendra Modi.
I must admit that I never would have imagined that a person like me would salute the election of our new Prime Minister. It is perhaps because what India had become over the past few years was unbearable for someone so deeply in love with her country. The corruption, the scams, the arrogance of those in power, the total absence of any kind of governance on one side of the spectrum, and on the other the total lack of concern for the poor whose every right was denied. There was something terribly wrong. It seemed as if those in power had locked themselves into some ivory tower and were inured to the issues plaguing the poor. Lofty programmes meant to redress problems, remained just 'lofty programmes' and never truly reached the beneficiaries. They however were good meat for greedy predators.
Over the past months one has seen and heard our new Prime Minister as he criss crossed the land with zealous fervour. There were times when one felt scared and worried at what the future might look like were he to win. At times the discourse was vitriolic and scathing as the whole tone of this election seems to have been, with personal attacks and counter attacks. But when one heard some of his interviews, he said things that made sense. One was in a quandary. One just kept watching the biggest reality show and trying to make up one's mind.
The only thing I was certain of, was that India needed a strong Government and a stable one and no matter who came to power it had to be with a good majority. At that time one could not even think of the thumping majority India ultimately gave him; people who pressed the lotus symbol had scant thought about the candidate, they were voting for Candidate Modi! Even the people from the other side of the fence, the one easily manipulated, knew they wanted a strong Government. No one wanted a PM who was conspicuously AWOL and deafeningly silent. Everyone wanted a Leader, a Statesman, never mind the political hue as by now every voter knows that politicians change colour faster than a chameleon.
Yesterday I heard Mr Modi's victory speech in Vadodra and it touched a deep personal chord. Before I elucidate the person we heard yesterday was not Candidate Modi, but PM designate Modi, and that was apparent in the tenor of his speech and in the numerous reference to 125 crore people. Anyway let us get to the personal chord. Mr Modi mentioned that this was the first time that the country's leadership had passed into the land of a generation born after Independence. These words echoed deep in my heart as my own mother refused to marry before India became independent as she did not want to give birth to what she termed as a 'slae child'.
Mr Modi went on to say that we had not had the privilege of fighting for our freedom, going to jail and bearing the abuse of the colonial masters or dying for our country. I could not but remember the numerous stories I had heard at my mother's knee recounting the horrors my Nana who was a freedom fighter had gone through. His stays in jails while the family fought to survive; his lacerated back after meetings that ended in severe reprisal that Gandhians like him had to bear without a sound and that a little girl had to nurse; the coarse cloth that Mama had to wear while her cousins wore soft ones, the glass of flour mixed with water that my grandmother passed off as milk to her children as there was never money for such luxuries. It was entire families who fought for a freedom we never learnt to respect.
My grandfather was a Congressman but one who felt that the Congress should have been disbanded once India had gained Independence as that was its raison d'être. It was a motley crew of ideologies that in his opinion, and the opinion of other I presume, would break apart sooner than later. He had seen the writing on the wall. The Congress we see today has nothing to do with the bunch of young fiery idealists whose life mission was to free India or die doing so. For us, born after 1947, the opportunity to die for the country is not an option, but the question I have often asked myself is why we have allowed things to reach this low, and why we who have a voice and an education keep mute in front of all the aberrations we see each day.
India is not free. It may be free of colonial rule, but it has let down its most vulnerable again and again. Today after 67 years of Independence there are millions of Indians who have been denied their very basic rights. This picture was taken in Central Delhi where a group of Lohars - gypsy ironsmiths - had been living for decades. One fine day, the very administration that had 'allowed' them to camp there provided they paid their tithe, came with bulldozers and razed their flimsy homes. The young girl in the picture came back from school to find her home destroyed. It is shameful that children in the capital city of India have to go to school while living on the street. This after six decades of Independence. What freedom is this and why did the bazillions of people who must have passed by this camp over the years never got disturbed by this sight and ask themselves why such people were not given a proper shelter. Imagine having to dress your child up for school in these conditions come heat, cold or rain?
What makes our silence more reprehensible is that the poor live with dignity and honour and survive the worst plight with a smile. When I decided to take up the cudgels on behalf of the Lohars of Delhi, I needed a picture to prove my point. I asked the people in this snapshot to look sad so that I could make my case stronger. All I got is peels of giggles and funny poses. Remember these were persons who had just lost their homes and shelter but would not give up hope. This is the case of millions of people across our land, people who believe and trust that one day things will be better. It is for them that our new PM's motto 'good times are here
' makes the most sense.
Mr Modi says: It is not time to die for your country but to live for your country
. This may seem cliched at the outset but just give it some thought. When we look around India with our eyes open we see a growing disparity between the rich and the poor that seems to be deepening by the minute. It is a matter of extreme shame to learn that there are mothers who ferret rat holes to find grain for their children while food is thrown with impunity on the other side of spectrum. It seems that rather than living for India those of us who could and can make a difference have been busy living for ourselves. For a large part of India food, shelter, education, medical facility and other essentials we take for granted do not come easy if they come at all. Yes it is time to live for our country by each one of us doing what we can.
For the outgoing party, the writing was on the wall but it seemed they were to busy looking elsewhere or perhaps they were so blinded by hubris that they could not understand that a new young voter had emerged and s/he had aspirations that differed from their parent's. The feudal system that had been nurtured in different forms for dubious reasons had surreptitiously vanished and been replaced by a set of young voters who wanted a better morrow.
The young and restless have voted for Modi for pertinent and well though out reasons. They wanted an end to corruption and aspired to change. The common man was fed up with corruption both large and street corruption and above all price rise and the empty promises given by those in power while prices of essential commodities kept rising. The poor was angry when he heard people in high position stating that you could get a meal for 12 or 5 rupees. They were outraged when the planning commission came out with poverty lines that sounded more like a cruel joke: 32 rupees a day! The trust they had reposed 5 years ago had been broken in a cruel manner. Hubris at its best!
Those who voted for Modi did so because they felt he could deliver and run a government that has stood roots on the spot for five years. They may turn against him if he does not deliver what they want: food to eat.
The question is: can he deliver. This election has been a one in a kind as many factors have come together to make the Indian voter vote in an unpredictable manner. Every one wanted change and was willing to give it to anyone who seemed capable to bring it out. The voter was thinking out of the box. The nation was angry for multiple reasons and angry people are willing to do the unheard and that is what happened. They backed Ana Hazare as they saw a glimmer of hope, then backed AAP in Delhi and then dropped it when they realised it did not deliver. The were left with one option and they exercised it as they had not got the answers they sought from the Government in power. Modi had the stage to himself he had to find the right connect and he did, with the 95 million of new voters by giving them a viable future. The question is whether he will be able to rise above his beliefs and be the Statesman we need. Only time will tell but he must remember that the people who have voted him in and can vote him out too.
And for us Indians, it is time we live for India.