By Prashant Sood
New Delhi, Dec 29 (IANS) It was a historic, memorable and momentous year for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And it was a year the Congress would like to forget.
After 10 long years in the opposition, the BJP took control of India, by forming the first government in 30 years with a parliamentary majority for any one party.
And after the Lok Sabha battle left virtually all other parties in the dumps, the BJP went on to take power, again for the first time, in Haryana and Maharashtra, formed a government in Jharkhand and became the second largest party in Jammu and Kashmir.
But activities of right-wing Hindu groups appear to cast a shadow on Modi’s agenda of good governance.
2014 was phenomenal in many ways: India’s third longest-serving prime minister, Manmohan Singh, made a quiet exit after a decade at the helm; the Aam Aadmi Party quit power in Delhi in a decision its leader Arvind Kerjiwal later admitted was a mistake; and J. Jayalalithaa became the first chief minister to face disqualification as legislator after being convicted for corruption.
But Modi clearly was the hero of Indian politics in 2014. The former Gujarat chief minister changed the BJP’s fortunes in a way that left its opponents gasping.
When 2014 began, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance appeared weak but still seemed to have a chance in the general elections. But Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, unleashed a revolution by harvesting the mass discontent over price rise and corruption.
As prime minister, Modi has continued to steer the BJP campaign in state elections, leading to victories in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. In Kashmir, the party is knocking at the doors of the government — for the first time.
Even as a weakened opposition targets the government over its unfulfilled promises, Modi has retained the political momentum.
The coming year will pose electoral challenges in Delhi and Bihar. The government will be expected to translate its promises into action including over bringing back black money stashed abroad. And it will be seen if Modi can check Hindu groups determined to make minorities embrace Hinduism.
Modi, who for years faced flak over the 2002 riots in Gujarat, surprised even his critics the way he took charge of India after leading the BJP to a historic triumph in the parliamentary elections.
On his first visit to parliament, Modi touched his forehead to the stairs of the main gate – a gesture that was widely noticed.
Later, he sought to energise bureaucracy and speed up decision making. He displayed a hidden talent vis-a-vis foreign affairs by forging better ties with most countries – near and afar.
The Modi government has launched several ambitious campaigns – one to make India the manufacturing hub (Make in India) and to clean up the country. The government issued ordinances on some key pending bills to speed up the economic reforms.
Unlike any other prime minister, Modi continues to reach out to the people through speeches, radio talk, social media and official portals.
Although the BJP bagged an incredible 282 seats in the Lok Sabha, leaving the Congress battered at just 44 from the 206 of 2009, three regional parties resisted the Modi wave: the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha campaign yielded little dividends, raising questions about his leadership qualities. To add to the insult, the Congress finished third or fourth in elections in the states later.
In contrast, the BJP, under Modi confidant Amit Shah’s leadership, is confident of breaking new grounds in three states where it has been weak: West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The scale of BJP victory has forced the old Janata parivar to try to merge the Janata Dal-United, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-Secular, Samajwadi Party and the Indian National Lok Dal.
But the BJP remains supremely confident. Just before 2014 ended, the government named the now ailing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour.