No, i am not implying this is India’s verdict. In fact, it could be far from the national consensus, as Facebook is a highly skewed demographic of younger, affluent and more educated Indians. As some say, many people on Facebook don’t even bother to vote. Also, Modi has some fervent supporters, who rush to support him in times of need such as this poll. Hence, i would take the results with a huge pinch of Gujarat-made salt.
However, to ignore these numbers completely will also be foolish. Modi always had some sort of a fan following in cyberspace, but a 16-to-1 lead is a staggering one. This means his fan base has increased dramatically in the last two years. Rahul Gandhi is a far better known national brand, and is younger, better looking, suave and aspirational in some ways. Then why are the youth of this country not rooting for him? And if Modi is as much of a demon as some say, why do people vote for him? What has led to his rise? And more importantly, can he make the switch from ruling Gujarat and Cyber Pradesh to ruling the 28 states?
The first, the decline of Rahul Gandhi is easy to answer. Hyped up immensely by the English-speaking media and any Congressman who wanted to ingratiate the family, Rahul entered politics with massive expectations. He also entered at the time when the Congress was at its evilest best – covering up huge scams, protecting all corrupt people, crushing anti-corruption crusaders, demonstrating hubris and showing arrogance. Rahul hid every time this happened. The Congress calculated that the people who were aware of what is going on were far outnumbered by the ignorant ones in this country, and so none of the criticism mattered.
Silence towards criticism is normally a good strategy, but only if the criticism is unfounded. The Congress was morally wrong, and refused to accept or amend any of that. The Lokpal bill is forgotten and the slow judicial system is being used to their full advantage. In all this, to expect Rahul Gandhi to somehow shine and have educated Indians root for him is a bit much.
Rahul has also suffered due to a cultural shift in Indians. While still enamored by dynasty, the educated set is questioning the sense of entitlement more than ever before. Rather than ‘of course he deserves it’, it is now ‘has he lived up to what he has been given’. With no real track record besides hiding whenever there is a national crisis, Rahul has a long way to go if he wants to win the trust of the educated. Today, let’s face it, it is just not cool to support Rahul Gandhi amongst the youth. The Congress, if and when it decides to be less arrogant, needs to think hard about this issue. One tip: clean up your dirty act, rather than keeping Rahul away from it.
The second interesting phenomenon is the rise of Modi. Sure, many ascribe it to Gujarat’s development record. However, that does not explain the cult-like following. It is Modi’s personality, a sense of urgency, his seeking of prosperity and decisiveness that is in sync with the disgruntled youth of today. Good colleges don’t have seats, and good companies do not have enough jobs. The youth wants this addressed, and Modi looks like the guy who can. Yes, call it selfish, but the youth doesn’t care about a controversial piece of history. When you don’t have your own future, you can’t worry about someone else’s past. Also, another factor that has led to Modi’s rise is the constant, whining criticism in some quarters. The Congress’s constant anti-Modi tirade has made him larger than life. This, when Congress refuses to accept any blame for running the most immoral government in our history.
Hence, anti-Congress people (there’s quite a few) have shifted over to Modi. There was a time when supporting Modi was considered communal. Today, it could simply mean being against the Congress. And since millions want the Congress out, they are gravitating towards Modi.
Will Modi’s cyber support spill over to the streets? It is hard to say. It could. The internet is often an early sign of things to come. Modi could do it, if he is lucky, stays humble, has some genuine remorse for the past and makes the right moves.
The BJP and its allies also have to take a bet on this man, who despite controversies, is growing in popularity by the day. They also need to stop the internal bickering and work towards winning the next election, including mobilizing people to vote. Else, the only PM they will ever have will be on Facebook.