Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party has broken its own record, touched Indira Ganshi’s feat, reversed recent electoral losses, head-butted into regional fortresses and finished whatever remained of a feeble national Opposition.
Wee, that is now done. It is time to look at what delivered the BJP this phenomenal win – ab ki baar, teen sau paar – and what it needs to deliver to the people going forward.
The 2014 BJP campaign was of hope, in which Modi sold India a vision for the future, but 2019 was about reminding people of what might happen if not voted again.
The clear message to Modi from voters: “We have given a second term to clear the damage and the mess of last 60 years which requires rectification and the process takes time.”
How did the BJP fare on the following pointers?
Face of the party
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections was about two faces, two ideologies, two powerful brands --- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi --- who dominated the political discourse.
Apart from these two powerful candidates, we had other faces too which included Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, TMC’s Mamata Banerjee, BJD’s Naveen Patnaik. Modi’s face easily won this contest.
National security --- a definite electoral agenda
Barely two months before the 17th Lok Sabha election, the tragedy of Pulwama attack made India mourn and the quest for retribution brought all citizens together. There was no way the Modi government would not have taken advantage and not made it an electoral issue.
The Opposition, on the other hand, initially downplayed the Balakot airstrike and then tried to steal the limelight from Modi. It was no big deal and had been done earlier too but without publicity, they said. That didn’t go down well.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan helped Narendra Modi when he said the two countries had better chance of peace talks if Modi was in the driver’s seat.
Another helping hand was extended by China when they finally agreed to allow United Nations to declare Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
Need for strong Opposition
Other than ‘remove Modi’, the Opposition did not have anything else to offer. In an attempt to ‘remove Modi’, Opposition parties did try to get together into a Grand Alliance. It never took place at the national level.
The Congress announced its NYAY scheme but failed to convince voters.
A post-election alliance may have worked out if the numbers turned in their favour but the narrative set by the parties could not see beyond Modi.
Uttar Pradesh voters were left confused with the cynicism with which the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party dissolved 25 years of enmity in a 25-minute meeting. Despite the gathbandhan of the SP, BSP, and RLD, the BJP is down only nine seats from its tally of 71 the last time.
The verdict of 2019 cleared that the Opposition needs to create a narrative --- the need for strong Opposition that checks the government remains.
Requirement of political continuity
Like every institution, the mandate shows that country was seeking political continuity.
First, the alternative to the Congress was the BJP—which has become a key driver of Indian politics.
Second, the Gandhi-family dominated politics looks like entitlement-driven; on the other hand, rise of a chai wala, Narendra Modi gives hope.
Third, the BJP thinks, governs and articulates itself in Hindi.
Fourth, the BJP in its previous term delivered a sense of rising India across the world.
Fifth, it gave rebirth to nationalism and patriotism. It developed a sense of going beyond the family and the community.
Big talking points during campaign: Agrarian issues and jobs
Both the agendas were genuine concerns. Inspite of being hurt by the lack of jobs, voters had faith in Modi’s image to believe that he would eventually solve the unemployment problem.
Agrarian distress in Vidarbha was shown strong but the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has swept the elections.
Rahul Gandhi, in the latter stage of campaigning, focussed away from these issues somewhat, choosing to harp on the alleged corruption in the Rafale deal, instead.
Is it a personal defeat for Rahul Gandhi?
The Congress’ tally barely rose to 8 in the last five years. Rahul was not only the face of the election campaign but he also chose the narrative and turned into a personalised one between himself and Modi.
Slogans such as “Chowkidar chor hai” was perceived to be “lacking sophistication”. Hugging the Prime Minister in Parliament was a joke, and delaying the decisions to contest from Wayanad and to field or not to field Priyanka from Varanasi only displayed lack of conviction.
His defeat in the family stronghold of Amethi was a stinging indictment. The Amethi seat had been won by the Congress 11 times in 13 elections since 1967.
Since the time Rahul took over the party reins only in 2017, he had been leading its campaign against Modi through the latter’s first term.
Voter’s message to Congress
If an alternative is needed, it should be credible and tangible rather than a mere attack, without any evidence on an individual.
The oldest political party needs to rebuild and rejuvenate itself in key states before it can begin to hope of becoming a political force again.
Is lawmaking in favour of BJP?
The new government will find it easy to push through Bills in Lok Sabha but may still have to negotiate in Rajya Sabha, where it is short of majority.
During the first term, the Modi government got around this lack of numbers in Rajya Sabha by pushing certain laws as Money Bills.
Within Opposition, not all parties have a common position on all issue. Certain parties like YSR Congress, TRS, BJD, are neither a part of the UPA nor the NDA.
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