India Rising wants governance, opportunity and dignity – at home and in world
The election was called at 10:50 am by the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj who congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and thanked the electorate for this verdict. The votes were still being counted but the early morning trends were clear—this is a wave, a NaMo wave that is bigger than the 2014 wave. For an incumbent government to get this kind of a result tells its own story. That story is captured in the Sensex as it hit a lifetime high of 40,000 by 10:30 am. Bond prices liked the verdict and were up too. The two indicators of money were both exuberant as is the electorate that has demonstrated its maturity and ability to decode complex issues in Verdict 2019. I wrote at the beginning of Election 2019 that this is an India Rising-election that will change the old narrative of benevolent maai-baap handouts. Verdict 2019 gets me to add to this narrative—this election is a turning point in the electoral narrative of India that has for long played on caste, religion and election freebies.
There are three stories playing out in this election result. The first story is of governance. There is a rising India out there that the Narendra Modi-led BJP has identified, served and targeted through this election. This Rising India is part of the aspiring middle class that is either newly emerged from poverty or has moved up the income ladder—the supposed job drought story notwithstanding. And this rising India is very sure that it wants a change. It is tired of the old hand-out promises of which very little reached the citizen. The ability to the Modi government to reach electricity, gas connections, roads, bank accounts, healthcare, houses, and toilets to a huge chunk of Indians who hitherto had been left out, has formed the core of the victory for the BJP and has cut across the old electoral vote bank math. On the ground, the change is visible and voters have responded with their ballot. The coverage is not 100%, but there is a two decadal jump on the trend line of these benefits reaching people. The electorate is mature enough to understand that five years is too short a time for a 100 percent coverage and this government needs more time to deliver.
The second story playing out is that of opportunity. Rahul Gandhi’s promise of an income hand-out to the poor has fallen flat. He read the country wrong. With over 200 million people exiting poverty in the recent past, and the new middle class accounting for more than half the population, the math has changed. On the back of governance, the newly minted Middle Indian wants opportunity more than she wants a hand out. This opportunity is not just in organized sector and government jobs, but also in the massive unorganized service sector and in micro enterprises. Have a broken iPhone screen? Go to the local market and the wiry millennial in blue jeans, bleached hair (oiled) and a thick Haryanvi accent will fix it for you for 500 bucks. Want a snack delivered, your clothes dry cleaned, your house vacuumed, whatever it is you want done, tap on the app, and some young kid will show up and do the job. This is an aspiring young country that is hungry to grow. The old order of upper class benevolence is so done—this is the verdict of Election 2019.
The third story is of dignity. The military and diplomatic victory of India over Pakistan and terrorism has been understood by the electorate. The common thread that voices, specially from UP—a big state that affects the overall result of the country—articulated was this: Modi ne videsh mein desh ka naam roshan kiya hai (Modi has made India shine in the world). The ability of this complicated and sophisticated argument coming from the average voter speaks of a deep driving desire for dignity—both at home and aboard. The average non-English speaking (with the correct pronunciation) Indian has traditionally been shamed about his culture and roots by a small group of Indian elite who have managed the narrative for decades. Technology, social media and an escape from poverty has caused this Rising Indian to crave for dignity. This Indian is rewarding the Modi government for making India shine in the world and for giving dignity to all that is uniquely Indian.
What is good for the people is obviously good for the markets. Verdict 2019 is good news for our money. Markets like stability, continuity and reform. All of this on the cards—you stay with your SIPs and ignore the market volatility that is bound to come with an election result. I had called this election a referendum on Modi at the beginning of the process. It is indeed that. The country likes what it sees as the outcome of the process set in motion by the PM and says its dil maange more.
Monika Halan is Consulting Editor at Mint and writes on household finance, policy and regulation.