The wait is over. Finally. After 6 weeks, 9 phases, 3 dry days, and more than 550 million votes cast, India finally has a new prime minister: Narendra Modi. Congress conceded defeat around lunch time today. The mood around Mumbai has changed. This afternoon, the vibe feels positive, more energetic than usual. The stock market has surged, the rupee has strengthened, and all is right with the world.
But, I feel hung over. As if the election fever of the past few weeks has finally broken, but I’m still weak from the treatment. All the hype, all the hyperbole, and all the hysteria have come down to one simple truth: “It’s the economy, stupid.” In 1992, Bill Clinton won the US presidential election by focusing on this simple slogan, and Modi seems to have taken a page out of that book. The BJP’s primary focus during the campaign was its pro-development stand in Gujarat, the state for which Modi is the Chief Minister. That outlook seems to have worked. For all the hype around the up and coming Aam Aadmi Party, the party’s focus on corruption does not seem to have captured the imagination or votes of the vast majority of Indians. While Indians despise corruption, it seems they are more concerned about their own economic prosperity. And, that prosperity has taken a bit of a hit the last few years. For that, they blame the incumbent Congress party. AAP simply did not offer the same economic vision as the BJP.
In the end, while most pundits foresaw a BJP victory, they were also uncertain as to what the victory would look like. The critical number is 272. If the BJP won that many seats outright, they did not need to form a coalition to govern. Anything less than a clear mandate would require the party to form a coalition. The fewer overall seats they won, the more they would need to draw on a coalition and risk a weak khichdi government, where nothing would get done for the next five years. The clear victory well beyond the required seats puts the BJP in a strong position to govern as it chooses and pull in allies as needed.
Now that it’s all said and done, what’s a political junkie to do? How are we going to get our fix without the incessant tweeting of little party birdies promoting their posts? What will the cartoonists do without such awesome political fodder as Sharad Pawar’s exhortation to Navi Mumbai voters to vote twice? How will potential voters survive without taking any more Facebook quizzes about politics?
Simple. Follow my six-step election hangover cure:
- Follow @narendramodi on Twitter. Modi is the most followed Indian politician on Twitter and the second-most-followed politician in the world, just behind US President Barack Obama. The BJP has used Twitter as an effective social media platform to reach voters even before the official campaign. The BJP has created a special victory wall and Twitter hashtag to encourage well-wishers to leave messages.
- Drink some chai. Modi’s origin as a humble chaiwallah at a train station in Amhedabad is a key part of his appeal to voters. During his Mumbai rally, Modi invited the city’s 10,000 chaiwallahs to attend, which resulted in an impressive turnout. Chaiwallahs are a ubiquitous Mumbai fixture. Find a good one, and give it a try. If you don’t want to brave a street stall, there’s always a hotel or restaurant.
- Watch Slumdog Millionaire. Back in December, Chetan Bhagat created immense controversy on Twitter when he compared Modi to Slumdog Millionaire’s protagonist, a chaiwallah who wins the big prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Most expats watch Slumdog before coming to India, but I encourage you to watch it again after some time here.
- Take a #selfiewithModi. To encourage voters to spread the word through social media and show their support for Modi, the #selfiewithModi hashtag was created when Modi himself tweeted his own ink-stained finger to show he voted. Although the photo became controversial because of its location close to a polling booth, the #selfiewithModi tag became very popular as voters went to the polls.
- Tour Gujarat. You could start at Blackbuck Lodge where Bombay Jules took us on a safari in April. A key part of Modi’s appeal is the “Modi miracle” in Gujarat. Compared to many other states in India, Gujarat has good infrastructure and a positive business-oriented outlook that encourages development. Critics argue that Modi does not deserve the credit he receives for this development, but even The Economist took little issue with his development record.
- Eat a Gujarati veg thali. The home of Gandhiji, Gujarat has a large vegetarian population. If you can’t tour Gujarat, you can try its staple meal: the thali. According to CNN, the best in Mumbai is the Friends Union Joshi Club in Kalbedevi.