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Politics has become deeply personal in India, and this was demonstrated yet again, in the most unexpected way, by the 2024 election results.

I live in Mumbai, where people avoid discussing politics on a daily basis. The rhythm of Mumbai’s life is such that its people appear aloof, busy with matters more important to their lives, whether they are tempo drivers or business tycoons. However, like so many other Indians, they are not aloof; they observe silently but speak loudly, and with utmost clarity, when they vote. In that sense, Mumbai represents India with all its diversities – during elections and beyond.

In the latest edition of elections, one noticed there was less chatter across the country, leading us to believe that people were either indifferent or quiet, perhaps maintaining a studied silence to confuse pundits. Silence meant different things for different sets of people in the run-up to the elections.

What the results illustrate is that most individuals are making independent decisions when it comes to voting, but they are voting in the collective interest, not necessarily in pursuit of their own personal interest. It is all seamless. The people have conveyed that larger concerns of the collective must be responsive to the seemingly mundane challenges of daily lives and vice-versa. 

It was remarkable to observe that once the results were out, almost everyone was discussing politics and the meaning of the outcome with unbelievable passion, on a scale rarely seen before. This was in sharp contrast to the silence before the counting day. Evidently, the people spoke with their votes. In conversation with multiple stakeholders in Mumbai – fruit sellers from Ratnagiri, businessmen from the suburb of Borivali, taxi drivers with roots in Bihar, or delivery boys from Uttar Pradesh – I noticed a surge in views after the verdict.

Over the years, we have heard stories of big debates and fights breaking out on WhatsApp groups of families and friends. This election has brought to light one more dimension – even within close family groups, there are contrasting political views. Maybe they avoided discussing it, or maybe they didn’t get a chance at a deeper and more honest conversation. But after the results, I have observed frenzied debate and discussion within families, not seen very often earlier. This holds true for the entire country. Silence gave way to triumphalism, peppered with I-told-you-so bravado.

They all – from urban dwellers to rural folk, from the elderly to Gen Z – have made their political choices as individuals. Yet, it reflects a collective wisdom. Indians, deeply and passionately democratic as they have always been, know that they are the masters of their country and they assert their control through votes every five years. Going back to the era of coalitions yet again after a 10-year break is a reminder to politicians that they must deliver on their promises in letter and spirit; if not, they will be punished. And the delivery has to be specific and tailored to the needs and aspirations of the people. A one-size-fits-all approach may not work. Not in the information age we have hurtled into. 

Just to recap, the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is back in power for a record third term, albeit with a reduced majority. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lost some parliamentary seats, Rahul Gandhi’s Congress and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) have gained some. The Opposition fell way below the majority mark.

We will be at fault if we try to draw one umbrella conclusion. It is a multi-layered verdict- the beauty of the India we know and have grown up in. The 2024 mandate is like a rainbow whose colours politicians will have to work hard to decipher. And decipher they must, with humility and passion, not dismissively. This verdict signals a triumph of individualism.

The voter has accepted one set of parties in some areas and rejected the same parties in other regions. They have punished dynasts and turncoats somewhere and have given them a chance under the sun elsewhere. They have challenged certain notions of national interest, caste loyalties, and religiosity. Individualism has triumphed over caste and religion-based considerations. A vote by more than 64 crore toiling Indians has sent a clear message – politics is deeply personal, and it is indeed about the economy in all its dimensions. Welfare politics has to move to a different level and deliver on jobs, growth, and equity – all measurable KRAs (Key Responsibility Areas).

The underlying message of the ‘please-all’ verdict is that politicians must redouble their efforts and stay grounded in the times ahead.

Three cheers for India’s democracy and all that it represents.

(Sanjay Pugalia is the CEO & Editor-in-Chief, AMG Media Network)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author

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