Even as these lines are being written late in the evening on a day that would go down in the annals of India’s political history as a golden-letter day for the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), reports are constantly trickling in pointing towards bigger and bigger margins of victory for the Narendra Modi-led NDA coalition. Clearly, the BJP has not only held on to its support base of 2014, but has further consolidated it across the length and breadth of India, taking all its new and old allies in stride.
Modi’s exceptional delivery on several fronts—campaign management, good governance, heightening the nationalistic fervor to incite party supporters’ feelings combined well to almost wipe out its rivals, mainly the Congress! A large number of youngsters voted for strongman Modi, who mesmerised the middle class and poor alike.
While most of the top leaders of BJP registered victories with huge margins over their nearest rivals, the pro-incumbency wave led by Modi turned out be a kind of tsunami of votes across the North, South, East and West. Modi’s high pitch campaign, targeting Congress, resulted in the grand old party getting decimated from a large number of states. Delhi (7 seats), Haryana (10 seats), Rajasthan (25 seats), Gujarat (26 seats), Andhra Pradesh (25 seats) and Uttarakhand (5 seats) are among the states that held BJP flag very high.
The party, for instance, could win only one seat in Madhya Pradesh and two in Chhattisgarh–the two states under Congress rule. Of these states, the biggest shocker came in from Madhya Pradesh. Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of the prominent leaders and party’s national general secretary lost from Guna in the face of the Modi tsunami.
On the other hand, the BJP did well by breaking new grounds in West Bengal and Odisha. All eyes were set on West Bengal, where BJP made deep inroads and shocked TMC’s loud mouth Mamata Banerjee on her home turf, in what was seen as an acrimonious tussle for supremacy. This is BJP’s best ever performance in the once Communist dominated state.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi who won from Wayanad constituency in Kerala with a record margin, suffered humiliation at the hands of firebrand union minister Smriti Irani in his family pocket borough of Amethi. His mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, however, managed to secure a facile win from Rae Bareli. That is the lone seat Congress could win. Elsewhere in UP, the BJP recorded emphatic victories is a large number of constituencies and brushed aside much of the challenge from the SP-BSP Mahagathbandhan or the grand alliance.
When the exit polls, done by a number of pollsters on the last day of the seven-phase election, predicted mega win, not many experts actually believed that the BJP would cross 300 and the NDA would touch the mark of 350. But that miracle has been achieved, thanks to the formidbale Modi factor.
BJP had very intelligently crafted its poll strategy in multiple phases since the last two years. The party not only banked upon the work of the Modi government (read Ujjawala scheme or DBT and rural housing etc) in the past five years of Modi regime, but also calculated caste equations and other factors such as farmers’ cash benefit scheme and national security before entering the actual fray. Polarisation on grounds of religious lines also helped BJP a great deal in clocking impressive victories. The ‘world’s biggest party ‘ was so confident of the PM’s personal charisma, that it risked changing all 10 sitting MPs in Chhattisgarh and about 14 in Madhya Pradesh, not to speak of changing constituencies of Maneka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi in UP or a Giriraj Singh in Bihar. The astute homework done by the party’s ace strategist Amitji beat all its rivals hands down, said a newly elected MP from Uttar Pradesh.
The invincible duo of Modi and Amit Shah, the BJP chief for almost five years, knew where to hit hard. The national security and Hindutva issues were harped upon repeatedly – chief campaigner Modi would always lash out at the Gandhi family, the dynasty (he would always call them namdar) and the misrule of the Congress party in the last seven decades. His lethal attacks on the Gandhi mother and son caught the imagination of the people as he would try and reiterate his dream of a ‘Congress-Mukt Bharat’ (India free of Congress party). The rhetoric seems to have worked in many states, as the Congress party could barely increase its tally – from 44 Lok Seats in 2014 to about 50 seats in 2019.
Most of the political analysts have credited this emphatic victory of BJP and NDA to the strong Modi factor. “Modi hai to Mumkin hai” slogan clearly won the hearts of millions of Indians cutting across caste and regional barriers. “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” also seems to have reverberated well all over the country. The American magazine Time termed Modi as ” Divider in Chief but curiously enough he turned out to be a great uniting factor for BJP.
- Abhilash Khandekar, Senior Journalist