Five years is an eternity in Indian politics. As Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav beamed beatifically into the cameras last weekend, the mind was thrown back to 2012 when just ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections, Gandhi had delivered a solo performance, stressing that the Congress was in UP for the long haul, and would fight the region-based caste parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. “The Congress doesn’t look at a single election, we have a 10 year plan,” he had boldly claimed then.
We want a Congress Mukt Bharat,” thundered Narendra Modi in the 2014 general election campaign, a slogan echoed repeatedly BJP president, Amit Shah. The declared goal was not just to win an election, but to “eliminate” the Congress from the country’s national political map. Two years later, the Modi-Shah duo’s ambition is on track. If at the start of 2016, the Congress was ruling in nine states, it is now in charge in just seven states after its governments were dismissed in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
News channels always face a ‘dharam sankat’ when Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi speak at the same time. In the last few years the tendency has been to relentlessly focus the cameras on Mr Modi while the Congress leader’s speech is routinely muted or becomes a deferred telecast in what might be seen as an accurate reflection of the two leaders’ contrasting political fortunes.
Daughters can be unusually prescient: Taking a first look at my book, 2014: The Election that Changed India, she asked why the cover had pictures of both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. “Shouldn’t you just be showing Mr Modi, he is after all the big winner, why do you need a Rahul picture also?” “Because,” I replied, “For every winner, you need a loser!”
Boxing films have always enthralled me. As a teenager, the Rocky series was inspirational. Raging Bull, the story of Jake La Motta, is probably the gold standard for all sports films, with Robert de Niro at his histrionic best. Other boxing films like The Fighter and Million Dollar Baby have also been captivating.
Barring a miracle, at some stage on Friday, Narendra Modi will be poised to fulfil his long-cherished ambition of being the next prime minister. Yes, exit polls have a spotty record in the country, but unless we have all got it horribly wrong, there is no reason to believe that there isn’t a Modi ‘wave’ in large parts of the country, if not a tsunami. When Modi writes his blog and thanks the Indian voter, here are a few more thank you cards he should send out.
On the face of it, a Narendra Modi’s politics is as different from Mayawati’s as a Gujarati dhokla is from a Lucknowi seekh kebab. One is a Hindutva icon, the other is the Dalit mascot. One is a chief minister of a fast-track state, the other of a state still struggling to catch up with the rest. One prides himself on being a CEO-like politician, the other is credited with a transferable votebank. One is trying to live down his image as a hate figure for minorities, the other is trying to live up to her status as a symbol of caste empowerment.