The next 24 hrs until the Bihar election results stream in will be a pressured, stomach-churning, wait for Narendra Modi. On his party’s success ride the next three and half years of his remaining first term in office. There are many who feel the elevation of Nitish Kumar in Patna even if propped up by Lalu Yadav’s regressive casteist politics is a turn of events to be welcomed because it will compel Modi to rein in the wacko element in his own party, and even leaven the attitude of the RSS high command, who will see clearly that persisting with the unnecessary roiling of the social milieu will dim Modi’s prospects of a second term and lose the Sangh the prized political ground it now occupies and the attendant benefits. The danger and the greater likelihood, however, is that Modi’s loss will embolden the opposition parties to a point where sessions of Parliament until the general elections in 2019 will degenerate into virtual pitched battles and an interminable series of adjournment motions, etc. that will be so disruptive, it will affect the functioning of the government until it begins grinding to a stuttering halt. This is the worst possible denouement for an India which desperately needs the govt to get going on economic and administrative reforms and for the country generally to fire on all cylinders. The still worst fate is that, with the BJP regime sidelined by its failure to control the many Hindu fringe groups, single party government will acquire a bad name, and the next general elections onwards India will be saddled with gridlocked coalition governments that will be unable to work at all.
What that may mean for India’s future is nightmarish to contemplate, and will only spark rueful sentiments about what might have been had Modi trusted not the Establishment of babus — the permanent secretariat of civil servants and police officers, but his own ideological thrust of trusting in the genius of the individual and the Indian private sector instead of falling back, in effect, to save and sustain a decrepit apparatus of state habituated to corrupt practices and to spreading poverty in the guise of promoting socialist aims. And further, how very different India’s stature would have been in the world had he junked the usual retired babus he has surrounded himself with and brought in outside advisers and expertise to help him configure a more outward-looking, agile and purposeful foreign and defence policy that would take up the challenge posed by a bumptious China instead of staying with a policy set that is strategically myopic, deepened the differences with neighbouring states and, in real and substantive terms, has lost India ground (by needlessly alienating Russia, for instance), reducing the country to growing irrelevance. If Manmohan Singh’s time in office is seen in retrospsect as the “lost decade”, the one-term Modi will be dismissed as an aberration, and the responsible right-of-centre ideology –reflecting the conservatism of an Edmund Burke, say, which distrusts big government and values the liberties of the individual, that so needs to gain strength and put down roots in the Indian polity and which a few of us had seen, perhaps mistakenly, as encompassed in Modi’s ideas, will remain unmoored. And India will oscillate between Leftist populism and illiberal socialism of the Indira Gandhi variety the declining Congress Party has, post-Lal Bahadur Shastri, represented.