A sea change has just happened in India. Secular India has passed into the hands of the Hindu rightwing. Narendra Modi, with his Bharatiya Janata Party and its partners in the NDA, is now poised to take charge as India's new leader. The Congress, having ruled for much of the post-independence period, has been decimated, with many of its leading lights falling by the wayside as the country's political right has advanced. The Aam Aadmi Party, initially showing promise of being somewhat an influence in shaping public opinion on the issues, has been disappointing in its electoral performance.
No election in India has been as exciting, as pregnant with meaning, as the one just concluded. And the reasons have all been out there. The corruption of the (till now) ruling Congress led to a haemorrhaging in governance. At the other end, the stridency with which the BJP forged ahead with its promise of development and effective government convinced millions across the country of the need for change.
The results are now out there for all to see and so are the ramifications. The BJP and its allies have romped home with a landslide. As the most visible public face of Hindutva, Narendra Modi has now turned into India's image around the world. In a very large sense, it was less BJP and more Modi that Indians across the spectrum went for. Where, under the conventional rules of parliamentary politics, Sushma Swaraj as the leader of the BJP-led opposition in the last Lok Sabha should have been taking over as prime minister, the BJP leadership's decision earlier on to project Modi as its official prime ministerial candidate came to be seen as part of a calculated strategy to take the party to power. With Gujrat as a model for what the rest of India could achieve in terms of economic progress in future, Modi toured the country, oblivious to the many charges of insensitivity and possible criminal behaviour laid at his door. Swaraj did not campaign for him. Lal Krishna Advani made clear, earlier on, his disapproval of Modi as the BJP's man for prime ministerial office.
All of that now pales before the remarkable electoral triumph Narendra Modi has brought home through his purposeful leadership. And yet it is that leadership, the tenor and quality of it, which raises questions about the road India takes from here on. The road has certainly diverged. Secular India has opted for a makeover, into Hindutva-driven India. Nowhere have Narendra Modi and his friends reassured Indians or anyone else for that matter that the secularist tradition inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947 will be upheld. And at no point has Modi or his acolytes given any hint of regret or sorrow about the 2002 communal riots that left as many as a thousand Muslims dead in Gujrat. Modi never took responsibility for the crime. Nor did he show remorse about the tragedy. No court ever sought to prosecute him.
Which only hardens the belief in many that the BJP under Modi, while going ahead with its Gujrat-style development programme, will be little inclined to shift from its avowed belief that secularism is not the principle India should pursue, that Hinduism matters. It is telling that in such key states as Uttar Pradesh and Gujrat, the BJP was unable to nominate any Muslim for a seat in the Lok Sabha. Paradoxically, it is equally significant that such prominent Muslims as the journalist MJ Akbar have hitched their wagons to the BJP star.
The BJP landslide causes tremors in the South Asian region and beyond it. A whole new ball game now begins, with indications that the government formed by Modi will be strong where governance is concerned and resolute where its interaction with the outside world is the issue.
Pakistan, with its weak civilian government and interfering military, cannot but be wary about its relations with a country which now has a government unwilling to mouth the old platitudes of upholding conventional diplomatic links.
Having repeatedly raised the issue of illegal migration of people from Bangladesh into India and promising tough action, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have little reason to ease the pressure on Sheikh Hasina's government on the need to acknowledge the illegal migration issue. The BJP triumph will, in addition, be seen in Dhaka as a warning to a traditionally strident anti-India rightwing in Bangladesh that it whittle down its provocative stance.
The United States appears ready to work with Modi. That can only bring other western nations into the loop, despite their reservations over the 2002 riots. With Russia, the prospects of Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi, both tough-minded politicians, striking up strong links is now a distinct possibility.
A Modi administration will clearly have its own perspectives in its approach to ties with China. To what extent Delhi and Beijing will feel comfortable with each other, with a tough-sounding BJP in office, is a loaded question. Modi, even as he demonstrates firmness with Beijing, knows the limits to which his administration can go in bellicosity toward the Chinese, if it indeed comes to that.
The electoral triumph of the BJP causes a tectonic shift across the Indian political landscape. Power passes from a traditional ruling elite into the hands of the middle class. And perhaps it has brought home the truth that the days of politics by entitlement or hereditary right, so long practised by the Congress, are now over.
The biggest change ought not to be overlooked: Jawaharlal Nehru's socialistic and secular India, having passed through Manmohan Singh's free market democracy, is now set to be Narendra Modi's Hindu, consumerism based India.
The BJP is set to redefine the idea of India. A whole world has changed.