After such a decisive verdict that came in the wake of the most vicious campaign to which the Indian voter has ever been subjected, there will obviously be both unfettered gloating and bitter recrimination. Yet since all political parties contend that elections are essentially a means to secure the authority to govern ~ serving the people being the larger objective ~ the leadership of both the winning and losing parties must realise they are duty-bound to ensure that there is no exacerbation of the ill-will and confrontation of the last few weeks.
Admittedly, each will have their own recipe for the well-being of the nation, which they will forcefully articulate. But it will be the responsibility of party leaders to try and avert any continuation of the polarisation that paid off at the ballot. Mercifully, both the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi and the man widely perceived as his principal adversary, Rahul Gandhi (though scrutiny of electoral outcomes and vote-share percentages might raise queries about the latter’s right to that claim), have both spoken in positive terms. Mr Modi struck a purple patch when, in the midst of lusty victory celebrations, he told ecstatic BJP workers that “votes are the mandate for government-formation but nation-building can’t happen without consensus”.
Dedicating the “massive mandate” to all citizens he said he was ready to leave the thrust and parry of electioneering behind him now that the polls had been completed. While there were a couple of sharp thrusts “across the aisle”, he also stressed that “we have to take everyone with us, even our opponents. We have to work for the benefit of the whole country.” Reaching out to all parties/state governments, Mr Modi reminded them that power also brought the responsibility of “fulfilling the aspirations of the people”.
These are important words and it devolves on Mr Amit Shah and the party he leads to adhere to the Prime Minister’s script. There is little scope for euphoria at the Congress’ headquarters, Rahul ~ and sister Priyanka too ~ exuded grace when they congratulated Mr Modi. Rahul said it was not the occasion to try and assess reasons for his rout: the day belonged to Mr Modi.
Although the result of the Amethi poll had not been formally declared, Rahul also congratulated Smriti Irani ~ it was not easy to accept such humiliation pleasantly. What is now necessary is to ensure that the decency displayed on Thursday is sustained, and indeed trickles down to party cadres, not just within the BJP and the Congress but also within parties such as the Trinamul Congress which waged a bitter campaign. Sure each grouping will strive to further its own agenda, the “fight” is far from over.
The government does have a special responsibility in preserving the seemingly-salubrious climate, there must be no overdoing the gloating. Mr Modi does not have to pull out the history books to find examples of such elevated functioning ~ the legacy of Atal Bihari Vapayee will show him the route to success with honour.