We imagine Modi’s goal would be to broaden the playing field not through compromise (as the Economist wisely suggests) but by having a vote consolidation plan for West Bengal and Kerala. If he can manage to get up to 20% in either state, the BJP will achieve the status of the Muslim League (IUML) – a pocket of votes and seats that nobody can ignore.
But even the most pessimistic (for the BJP) forecast suggests the
party led by Mr Modi will be the biggest and will get more seats and
votes than at any previous election in India. It has made inroads among
voters in areas (such as Kerala or West Bengal) where it had no
impression before. An estimated record turnout of 66.4% of voters also
buoys the BJP, adding to the strength of its likely mandate. It looks
inconceivable that any other party, whether Congress or some combination
of regional outfits, could form a government.
Thus the BJP, with Mr
Modi in charge, is preparing to rule.
To get control of the
lower house of parliament, and thus to form a government, Mr Modi needs
272 seats. Higher estimates by the pollsters suggest he could pass that
figure with only the support of the closest allies of the BJP, without
reaching out to coalition partners such as Jayaram Jayalalitha in Tamil
Nadu. Yet even if these turn out to be accurate he may prefer to build a
broader coalition, for two reasons.
First, to rule effectively Mr Modi
needs to project power beyond the lower house of parliament. Legislative
changes require consent of the upper house, where he has no majority.
And any prime minister must find ways to co-ordinate work of the central
government with powerful state governments. A wider coalition could
help in both areas.
Second, Mr Modi presumably dreams that his party can
be in office for more than one five-year term. That requires limiting
the clout of the (soon to be) opposition Congress party. The more
coalition allies that the BJP can attract today, the more isolated
Congress will be. Yet if Mr Modi is to manage a broad coalition, he will
have to change style from the rather aggressive figure on the campaign
trail who traded insults with opponents, sneering at rivals. As a chief
minister he could rule his state, Gujarat, with no consideration for
power-sharing; now he should adopt such skills quickly.
will come first for Mr Modi? The transition in India can be fast, with
Mr Modi likely to be installed within a week or so of the official
results (and a replacement chief minister for Gujarat named too). He is a
man who exudes impatience, and whose campaign has often emphasised the
need for efficient, decisive government able to implement policies with
speed. India’s stockmarkets are rallying, investors expect measures to
be taken quickly to encourage investment, economic growth, job creation,
better infrastructure and a broad return of confidence in India.
At the same time, Mr Modi will have to find
the voice of a statesman who represents all of India, not only the
victors. He rose first in the Hindu nationalist movement, the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which leant heavy organisational support in
this election to its protégé. It would be natural if it, and other such
bodies, now hope that Mr Modi will promote their values (broadly
equating being an Indian with being a Hindu). Mr Modi should disappoint
them. Many in India, including Muslims, Christians and more secular
Hindus, expect Mr Modi to make clear that his priority is not Hindu
nationalism but economic recovery. The clearer he can be about that, the