National Democratic Alliance(NDA)’s loss in 2004 General Elections was unpredicted. But United Progressive Alliance(UPA)’s loss in 2014 was not. People had become frustrated with a decade long rule which they saw as corrupt, spineless and dynastic.
However what were not unpredicted was the sheer scale of UPA’s decimation and the grand scale of BJP’s victory. Under a charismatic and capable Narendra Modi, the tough and resilient Hindu right wing fought the General Elections as a last stand. BJP, a right wing party with a narrow base among the middle class Hindus had never won more than 200 seats in any General Election. Modi set an ambitious target of 272 seats. Well oiled campaign machinery with Modi in the pilot seat ensured a convincing victory with BJP winning over 280 seats in the House (the simple majority is 273 seats). The subsequent elevation of Narendra Modi as the Indian Prime Minister and his right hand man, Amit Shah(both from Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi) enthused a new sense of confidence in the party and its affiliates. Modi set his eyes on having governments in states that had never been ever in the Hindu party’s fold. And he did succeed, mostly.
Today, BJP controls the lower house of the Indian Parliament without the need for any allies. It is well on its way to appoint a BJP-RSS(BJP’s Ideological parent) member as the Fourteenth Indian President and has sufficient numbers to easily appoint India’s next Vice President without breaking a sweat. Thirteen states today have a BJP Government. Another four have a BJP ally in the Government with BJP as a partner. It has a brutal majority in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically important state. In the next two years, before going to the polls, BJP will have seats in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament (though not a majority, not until 2021-
2022 by various projections). The party is in a comfortable position to push key legislations and make hard decisions without any political ramifications. The Demonetization of Indian Currency Notes in November 2016 and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax in July, 2017 are evidences that the Government is in a position to enforce it policies. But a question remains to be asked? How did a right wing with a significantly narrow base like BJP become a juggernaut? Was it because the opposition is too weak or rudderless? Is it becau se of the Narendra Modi factor? Was the public fed up with the policies of the past governments? Is Amit Shah a political maverick? Is the BJP’s campaign machinery unbeatable? Yes and No.
Yes, because every factor has a compounding effect on the scale of BJP’s victory margin. No, because even if a single factor is missing, BJP bows out of the game. BJP can pull in votes here and there but for BJP to be an unstoppable juggernaut as it is, all these factors have to be satisfied. The party’s campaigns in Bihar and Delhi suffered from the lacunae of these factors.
Result, they lost. In Uttar Pradesh, all boxes were ticked. A weak and inefficient opposition, a haphazardly cobbled together coalition to oppose BJP that did more harm than good, Amit Shah’s ticket distribution, RSS’s social engineering outreach and the Modi’s presence ensured that they won over 80% seats in the gigantic House Assembly. To top it all, Modi spent the final three days campaigning in Varanasi, his own constituency in the final phase of the elections. An Indian Prime Minister who gets down in the dirt and does his own heavy lifting is rare and BJP won every single seat in the Prime Minister’s constituency.
The General Election of 2019 is still a year and half away. This is long time in politics. But it would not be preposterous to call the next elections a done deal for Narendra Modi. The symptoms are all there. The Opposition is still weak and rudderless. Attempts to cobble together a coalition of opposition parties are half hearted, at best and suicidal for some, at worst. The BJP gets stronger on the top by absorbing leaders slighted in other parties and on the bottom by the RSS’s social engineering. Most of all, Modi’s popularity is still intact even after taking grossly unpopular decisions like the DeMo and the GST. The policies of his administration and the work of his party on the ground are trying to string together a rainbow coalition of castes behind him. There have been many hiccups along the way. Protests against beef ban, cattle laws, lynching in the country, alienation of Muslims, flare-ups in Kashmir and much more have had made things look tricky for the present dispensation. But, the hard truth is that even these unfortunate incidents only strengthen the party, not hurt it. To begin with, most of Muslims never voted for BJP and are unlikely to do so in the near future. Beef ban has played right into the rhetoric of Hindu right wing which worships the cow as Mother Goddess. Distressed farmers are being placated by loan waivers and BJP’s political machinery is busy making and breaking alliances as the need be so. There are no major allegations against the Government on corruption and the potential leaders of the opposition have been decimated. A feeble voice of protest rises from the Left wing but they have become politically irrelevant and are on their last legs. Modi has become the owner of the narrative and the opposition is often caught unawares of his political actions. Modi is efficient, hardworking and above all, a rags to riches story like his has resonated well with the masses who sick and tired of dynastic rule.
Needless to say, unless Modi falters on his own, the Opposition can do nothing about defeating him in 2019. One and a half year may seem like a long time in politics but for the opposition, time, it appears, has run out and they are helpless in front of Modi and his political juggernaut.