BJP-led NDAs victory in the Lok Sabha elections is not something that was totally unexpected. Most of the exit polls had predicted that the party will get majority on its own. Perhaps, it is the scale of victory that has surprised many people, especially, the supporters of third front and Congress.
But the gloomy and extreme reactions to the victory from them, as if skies have fallen, are misplaced and serve little purpose. Is it the first time that BJP has come to power?
This is not even the first instance when parties have come back with huge majorities in the second term–Congress too has won back-to-back elections in the past. Not just in Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi’s era, even recently when Manmohan Singh was prime minister for two terms in succession.
The BJP already had a high vote share and it did everything that was possible to increase its strength–from stitching alliances with smaller parties to focus on micro-management, connecting with smaller caste groups, even working hard in states where it was not a big player. The list is long.
But its biggest asset was Modi’s personality cult that has been built carefully over a long period and it has worked well cutting across caste and class barriers. Modi is seen as a strong leader and above all, a ‘Hindu leader’, a Hindi speaker, who does not come from a privileged background and has no qualms in showing his ‘Hindu-ness’.
This resonated well with the common man who has been constantly told about ‘seculars who are ashamed of showing their religious affiliation’ and the ‘educated elites’, ‘JNU types’ and the ‘dissenters’ (who are all labelled as Urban Naxals or anti-nationals), those ‘weakening the country’.
Polarisation has been a major factor in Indian politics for decades and it continues to work well. A large section of people start their day with WhatsApp messages (in which Congress spelt as ‘Khangress’ and Mamta Banerjee is always termed ‘Mumtaz Bano’) and get their daily dose about how the government had stopped infiltration as well as how it kept Muslims in ‘their place’.
With lakhs of supporters who are ever ready to push forward the narrative in favour of BJP, and a pliant media, particularly, nonstop coverage on TV channels, the party had little difficulty in projecting ‘Brand Modi’ and convincing people that the need of hour was to elect BJP again & give Modi a second term.
In fact, even after demonetization, people had begun speculating that just before elections there may be something–tension at the border or a warlike situation that could turn the tide in favour of BJP. It was predicted and it happened after Pulwama.
Across North India, groups of youngsters came out of lanes in most cities and took our rallies on their own. Their excitement was visible, as they felt Pakistan had been taught a lesson.
Come with whatever charge against NDA, the party’s workers and supporters had a reply to it, a narrative that convinced its core voter. The incidents of lynchings have affected Muslims in the last five years.
Often Muslims rue that the secular parties’ cadre did not come on streets to oppose lynchings or even protest. The reality is that communal killings have occurred in India for decades. Earlier, there were big riots and the figure of deaths in these riots were not in single or double but triple digits (in Congress-ruled states too).
Across the world, ‘nationalism’ has been used by parties across the world to gain success in electoral politics. It’s a tried and tested formula. But when nationalism and Hindutva get together, it is a cocktail that can have a real impact—BJP swept entire Hindi belt , once again did well in Gujarat, improved its tally in Karnataka and entered West Bengal in a big way.
Governments come and go. Public mood can change anytime but it needs political acumen to catch attention of voters.
Just a few months ago, Congress had emerged victorious in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
The victory in MP had come after 15 long years. But, within a couple of months after the Assembly election result, BJP with its constant attack and noise in MP, had succeeded in creating the impression within the state that Kamal Nath government hadn’t been able to fulfill the promises, particularly, the loan waiver.
This is just an example. Being complacent is no solution. For opposition, it’s the time to brace up and start hard work. BJP has worked extremely hard for years to reach this stage.
In order to fight BJP, the opponents have to introspect, devise strategies, work with commitment, learn to come up with their own narrative and learn how to counter the propaganda peddled against them quickly and go to people. That’s the way in electoral politics.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. NewsD neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)