The results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are historic by any definition of the word. Narendra Modi became the first Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi in 1971 to return to power with an even greater mandate than before. In the five years of his rule, we saw a definite shift of the country towards the right. In the next five years, we can be certain that this shift will be further consolidated.
The most significant indication of the shift in the country’s Overton Window came in 2017 when Yogi Adityanath was appointed the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. A saffron-clad monk, the Peethadhish of Gorakhnath Temple, working as the head of the government of the country’s most populous state was the greatest indication of the direction India was heading in.
One would have thought Yogi Adityanath’s appointment as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was as far Narendra Modi and Amit Shah would go towards shifting the country’s Overton Window. But they went a step further when they nominated Sadhvi Pragya from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, a traditionally safe seat for the BJP. The BJP President maintained that it was the saffron party’s ‘Satyagraha’ against the Hindu Terror initiative of the Congress party. With her stellar victory over Digvijay Singh, a close aide of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, that appears to be going quite well.
Narendra Modi’s spectacular victory only confirms what has been known for a while. Hindutva is now the mainstream ideology in the country. The secularism of yore has been relegated to the dustbins of history. The victory also shows that the country will no longer be held hostage by the opinions of the Champagne Socialists. Nor will the Compulsive Contrarians hold any sway over public opinion.
There are numerous reasons why Narendra Modi’s victory is significant. However, the most significant perhaps is his unwavering commitment towards the public celebration of his Hindu faith. After the hectic schedule of campaigning for the elections, one of the first things he did was to trek to Kedarnath to meditate in the snowy caves of the Himalayas. In doing so, he reaffirmed his commitment to the ancient faith of our ancestors.
There are numerous other hallowed narratives that are threatened by Narendra Modi’s continued dominance of electoral politics. The aura surrounding the Nehru-Gandhi Parivar has already been blown to bits. In the years to follow, it will suffer considerably more. And one hopes that by the time his reign is over, the aura surrounding Mahatma Gandhi too is diminished.
While Narendra Modi personally has committed himself firmly towards the ideals of Gandhi, he has interpreted Gandhi quite differently than others. Instead of allowing Gandhian principles to cloud his vision of realpolitik, he has firmly kept them constrained to matters such as Swachh Bharat.
While it appears certain that Narendra Modi will not challenge Gandhi’s legacy himself, as the recent controversy surrounding Sadhvi Pragya shows, his continued dominance in power gives those who will question Gandhi the confidence and the voice to do so. While Sadhvi Pragya was herself criticized for her remarks, it sparked a debate around Gandhi’s own conduct during Independence and his deplorable approach to Hindu-Muslim riots and perverse sexual experiments with women far younger than himself.
Sadhvi Pragya did eventually offer an apology after much public outrage. However, one thing appears certain, the Lok Sabha now has at least has one member who is not as averse to criticising Gandhi and evaluating the real contributions he made to the country. It also reflects the opinions of a significant section of the Indian population who have their own very valid reasons to dislike Gandhi.
Sadhvi Pragya’s victory over Digvijay Singh is particularly symbolic of the cultural shift in the country. Digvijay was the person who had attended the launch of a book that blamed the RSS for the 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attacks. And he was defeated by someone who was a victim of his party’s attempt to create a narrative of Hindu Terror.
All of this is indicative of the fact that the Overton Window of the country has shifted comprehensively. The Prime Minister in his victory speech himself said that the brand of secularism that has been the Holy Grail of Indian Politics has been discarded once and for all by the Indian electorate. Our country will no longer be held hostage to the brand of Secularism that demands its Hindu citizenry to be ashamed of their heritage.
If political parties are to succeed in India, they can no longer afford to embrace the toxic brand of minority appeasement they have latched on to for decades. As others have pointed out, if any political party can hope to stop the Modi-Shah juggernaut, then it’s a Right Wing Hindu Nationalist party. And that is the greatest evidence that the Overton Window of the country has moved firmly towards the Right.
This is exactly why Modi matters. The symbolism of an abashed polytheist heading the world’s largest democracy is not lost on anyone. His victory was even celebrated by certain polytheists from other countries of the world who see in India the hope for the revival of polytheism in their own respective countries.
In the second term, Narendra Modi’s commitment towards the Hindu faith must translate into concrete legislative measures to free the Hindu citizenry of the discriminatory laws against them. That would be the best possible way for Narendra Modi to ensure his own legacy in the annals of Indian history.