2014: The Year That Saw Modi Emerge Front and Centre

Published: December 30, 2014 18:17 IST
(Sandeep Phukan is Deputy National Editor with NDTV)

A stunning Lok Sabha victory for Narendra Damodardas Modi in 2014 also changed the course of Indian politics and contemporary history.

In a presidential-style election campaign, Mr Modi emerged victorious and propelled the BJP to a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, a first in 30 years for any political party.

Mr Modi's development mantra caught the fancy of the vast majority as the BJP re-defined the relationship between technology and election campaigning.

From using 3-D hologram to posting a variety of selfies and engaging on social media platforms like no Indian politician had on Twitter and Facebook, the BJP's  chief campaigner used every available avenue to reach out to India's young and the restless.

On May 16, when India gave its verdict, Rahul Gandhi tried hard to put on a smile in his moment of defeat. But Verdict 2014 was a clear turning point for the Congress.

The party was reduced to 44 Lok Sabha members, its lowest-ever tally, birthing a new surge of  questions about Rahul's leadership. Some Congress loyalists suggested that his sister should take centre stage..."Rahul doesn't have the charisma that Priyanka does," said Hansraj Bhardwaj, former Law Minister and a long-time Gandhi loyalist.

The other challenger, Arvind Kejriwal, took a dip in the Ganga in the holy city of Varanasi and saw his political fortunes sink as well. His campaign didn't impress voters who turned emphatically to Mr Modi and the Aam Aadmi Party got wiped out in its homestead of Delhi. Voters seemed to be in a punishing mood after Mr Kejriwal resigned as Delhi's Chief Minister just 49 days after taking office.

In the South, voters enthusiastically thanked K Chandrashekhar Rao for his campaign for India's 29th state: Telangana.  He became the first Chief Minister of the country's youngest state.

The original cyber politician, Chandra Babu Naidu, made an impressive comeback in  neighbouring Andhra Pradesh; so did Naveen Patnaik for a fourth term as  Odisha Chief Minister.

2014 also saw a clutch of top-rung regional leaders battling scandals and charges of alleged corruption.

J Jayalalitha had to step down as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister after being convicted for corruption in a nearly two-decade-old case.  Mr Patnaik's clean image was dented as his close aides were arrested for a mining scam in Odisha, and the Sharada chit fund scam  - a Ponzi scheme that bankrupted lakhs of small investors - singed Bengal's Mamata Banerjee as some of her MPs were arrested for their alleged involvement in the scandal.

Ms Banerjee said the centre was using the CBI to falsely implicate her party's members. The stage was set for a royal Bengal battle.

"Mamata Banerjee, I am Amit Shah and I have come here to dislodge you," declared the BJP President in Kolkata. That is not a warning that can be taken lightly. Mr Shah devoted his year to scripting remarkable victories for the BJP in state after state.

Prime Modi's pledge of assembling "a Congress-mukt Bharat" came to fruition in some parts as the BJP won Jharkhand, Haryana, Maharashtra and made impressive gains in Jammu and Kashmir.

But six months into office, the Modi government's challenges are weighty and expanding.

The Opposition blames the government for failing to keep its promise of bringing back black money from Swiss banks within its first 100 days in office , a major election promise made by the PM and other top leaders like Rajnath Singh.  

And then there is the challenge from within: motormouth ministers and groups affiliated to the BJP that appear determined to push a hard-line right-wing agenda, despite the PM declaring that the focus must be on development and economic reform.

If Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti's comment on "Ramzaade" versus "Haraamzade" was embarrassing, another MP, Sakshi Maharaj, made the government squirm by declaring that Gandhi's killer, Nathuram Godse, was a patriot.

Fiery MP Yogi Adityanath campaigned for "ghar wapsi" or the reconversion of religious minorities like Muslims and Christians to Hinduisim and lobbied against "love jihad" - the allegedly duplicitous use of marriage and romance by Muslim men to convert Hindu women to Islam.

Critics ask if these campaigns have the support of PM Modi who has privately warned his law-makers against making controversial statements but has publicly not commented on the religious conversion controversy.  The opposition's protests saw the upper house of Parliament or Rajya Sabha paralysed during the winter session. The government is in a minority there and it had to use emergency executive orders or ordinances to clear important legislation.

"During campaigning, the Prime Minister had said his government would waive farmer loans, that it would recover land encroached by China and Pakistan, that he would provide employment for the youth. People gave you votes and you became the PM. Now do at least one thing for the people," thundered opposition leader Mulayam Singh Yadav in Lok Sabha, a day before the winter session ended.

Prime Minister Modi, who was sitting few seats apart, listened to it and responded with warm smile. But it is clear that as his government steps into 2015, its to-do list is bulky and urgent.

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