Opinion: Modi’s Impact on Indian Politics is Much Bigger

India News

Lalu, Mulayam Impact : All MY voters in Bihar, UP mobilised. Lasted till 2014, weakened further in 2019.

Mayavati Impact: All SC, ST, OBC voters mobilised; only influenced in U.P.

Mamata Impact: Minorities in WB.

All such impacts had woefully limited areas of influence. They never ever saw spreading their effectiveness beyond their state boundaries. Impacts like these finally lost their steam in May 2019 as recent poll results show. 

To have an all India impact, the said political party must have a well-oiled organisational set up in place with a pan-India reach. Only two political parties in India – the BJP and the Congress – qualify on this count. While one messed up everything, the BJP stood tall as poll results 2019 show. 

Such an all India impact did make a Global impact in a massive way. All world leaders stood up and applauded one man – the charismatic Narendra Modi. 


The one political leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often been compared to is Indira Gandhi. Like Modi, after all, she was the last Indian prime minister to win a renewed absolute parliamentary majority for her party after a full term. And like the prime minister’s thumping 2019 triumph in the face of what the historian Ramchandra Guha has called the ‘Modi hatao’ narrative, she demolished the ‘Indira hatao’ slogan of 1971 with her ‘Garibi hatao’ war cry.

Yet, in terms of what Modi’s complete political ascendance means for India it is not with Indira, but with the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru that the prime minister’s persona must be compared with.

Modi may be the mirror opposite of most things Nehru stood for, but in terms of impact, the tectonic shifts he has heralded in the wellsprings of the nation are Nehruvian in scale. In fact, so deep ranging is the wider societal impact of Moditva that he can only be compared with Nehru.

This may seem a strange comparison to make. Nehru, after all, is the most reviled name in the Right’s political lexicon. He is often lampooned as soft, wimpish and placatory as opposed to Modi, who embodies for his supporters strength, manliness and resoluteness.

So, what are the similarities? First, at a fundamental level, just as Nehru created a new Nehruvian order, a new idea of India as a modernist, reforming society that came to be accepted by both the elites and most mass voters as the dominant narrative of what it meant to be Indian, Modi’s electoral triumph embodies an alternative idea of India: soaked in a hard nationalism and an unapologetic espousal of Hindu identity wrapped within a more efficient welfare state.

Ideationally, Indira did not represent a radically new idea of the nation from her father’s. She only took over the Nehruvian template on secularism and socialism and altered it by centralising power as part of a hard-nosed realpolitik approach. The Modi era, whether you agree with it or not, represents a radically different moral reordering of the nation.

Second, Modi like Nehru is uncompromising and unambiguous about ideology and ideals. As the PM emphasised in his victory speech his party’s journey from “do se dobara (from two to once again)” stood out because “we never stepped back from our path, never let our ideals dim. We never stopped, nor got tired, nor did we bend … We will never leave our ideals, nor our sanskaar.”

This stout defence of ideas echoes Nehru’s stringent insistence in the 1952 election campaign – against reservations by conservative elements within his own party – on what he called “an all-out war on communalism”, against “sinister communal elements” which would “bring ruin and death to the country”.

Similarly, Modi is unambiguous on the secularism question and what he sees as its cynical manipulation. “Especially for the last 30 years in this country” he said in his victory speech, “there has been a printout, a tax, label so fashionable that you could do anything and treat it like a purifying bath in the Ganga. It was completely false, and the tax was called secularism.” As he later told his NDA partners, minorities were made to live in fear by vote-bank politics and that this must end with ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ being extended to ‘sabka vishwas’.

Third, like Nehru’s conception of a “tryst with destiny” and an India awakened after a long slumber, Modi offers to his supporters the vision of a radical break with the past and of a future “new Bharat”. This is unlike Indira, whose politics was largely about fixing the present, continuing the skeletal outline of the Nehruvian dream and keeping power. As he stressed in his victory speech, “You will have to leave the thought process of the 20th century. This is the 21st century, this is a new Bharat.”

If the Nehruvian order and his idea of development was represented by his characterisation of big dams as the “temples of modern India”, Modi’s India in this realm and outside of identity politics, is best symbolised by toilets as the new vehicle of upward mobility and progress.

Fourth, just as Nehru saw economics essentially as a tool for development and delivering millions out of poverty, so does Modi. His declaration that there are only two castes of Indians now, those that are poor, and those engaged in alleviating poverty is intellectually not too dissimilar to the Nehruvian idea of a welfare state and what came to be known as the Bombay Plan to harness private capitalism for nationalist goals.

If Nehru was Chacha Nehru to an entire generation of Indians and appealed especially to newly empowered women voters, Modi too has assiduously courted a new generation of young voters with his direct outreach to exam taking students and an aggressive new wave of women voters. If Nehru was Gandhi’s anointed heir, Modi too has explicitly sought to appropriate the Mahatma’s legacy, including in his new call for a national renewal mission to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Gandhi’s Quit India movement call.

Modi, like Nehru, has argued that while the government is run by a majority, the country is run by consensus, promising to govern for all, including for those who didn’t vote for him. The PM has changed the conventional paradigms of politics. His legacy will hinge on the fulfilment of this promise.

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