New Delhi: Sitting in his sparse, wood-panelled office at the Prime Minister’s official residence in mid-April, Narendra Modi told a team of The New Indian Express while in the midst of the election campaign that he saw huge goodwill among the people for his government.
A little over a month after that interview, Modi’s words proved prophetic as he led the National Democratic Alliance to a spectacular victory, turning on its head conventional wisdom that gave the grouping at best a slender advantage in the 2019 general elections.
In his first words after the ‘Tsunamo’, Modi stressed his government’s commitment towards sab ka saath, sab ka vikas. “Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again,” he tweeted.
Later, addressing delirious party workers at a wind-swept BJP headquarters, he said his party would be humble in its victory and would not “act with ill-intention.”
“If someone has won, it’s Hindustan that has won, it’s democracy that has won. I congratulate all the winners, no matter from which party or region they contested (from).”
Hours earlier, Congress president Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat and congratulated Modi and the BJP. “Today is the day to wish Modi all the best, hope he looks after the interest of the nation,” he said.
In leading the NDA to a consecutive second term in office, Modi became only the third PM after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to retain power with a full majority in the Lok Sabha.
The BJP, which bettered its 2014 show, left a caste-based regional alliance in tatters in Uttar Pradesh. Rahul embarrassingly lost in Amethi and several regional satraps were left to lick their wounds.
Powered by a 50% vote share in several states and a surge to 38% in West Bengal, the BJP successfully managed to blunt the Opposition’s campaign against the government’s track record on the economy, jobs and the crisis in the farm sector.
The nationalism card coupled with the BJP’s organisational heft proved to be too strong for its opponents not only in the Hindi-speaking belt — the party’s main catchment area — but also in states such as West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana, where it has been traditionally weak.
In Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where only six months back the BJP had to bite the dust in the Assembly elections, the party bounced back with a performance that made the winter loss seem like an aberration in the distant past.
The BJP’s near-repeat performance in UP showed that Modi’s personal popularity and chemistry with the voters had trumped the caste-community arithmetic of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance.
In nearly 60 of the 80 seats in the most populous state, the Muslim, Yadav and Dalit demography, the core vote base of the SP-BSP alliance, was heavily stacked against the BJP. Yet, it put up one of its best performances, forcing Akhilesh Yadav to go incommunicado for much of the day and Mayawati clutching to the bogey of EVMs.
“There is no match for Modi among the opposition parties,” said Rahul Verma of the Centre for Policy Research. “He’s charismatic and people still repose faith in him despite not being very happy with the economic side of the government’s performance.” The results also underlined the futility of the corruption campaign against Modi.
The huge mandate is a clear rebuff of the Congress slogan of “Chowkidar chor hai,” a line Rahul coined while alleging a scam in the Rafale fighter deal. The BJP rode on pragmatic seat adjustments with key allies such as the JD(U) and the Shiv Sena while benefitting from new faces in the fray. (THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)