The Bharatiya Janata Party’s stunning victory in the 2019 elections has busted many a myth.
It has shocked the Opposition, which is now in total disarray. Rumblings of discontent have begun within the Congress. The BJP’s big win has sent all political equations and theories for a toss. Let’s analyse:
1. BJP is a North Indian party
It has long been said that the BJP is predominantly a party of Hindi-speaking states. It is a party supported by banias and traders. In 2019, the BJP-led NDA has won the maximum number of seats across all the regions of India be it north, south, west, east and north east.
The NDA has won 40% of the seats located in east India, 87% in the Hindi heartland, 90% in western India, 24% in south India and 56% in north-east India. Today it is a truly national party, a status which Congress once enjoyed.
2. BJP is anti-Dalit
After the BJP emerged as the choice of the Dalits in 2014, a propaganda was started to paint it as anti-Dalit. The Rohit Vemula suicide, Dalit protest in Una and similar incidents were highlighted. Even the BSP shook hands with its bitter rival, the SP, to win back Dalit support in Uttar Pradesh.
Despite all this, the BJP won 54 of the 84 Scheduled Caste reserved seats and 14 out of 24 Dalits dominant seats, signifying that the party’s Dalit support has remained intact: in fact, it increased from 2014. In 2014, it had won 40 and 7 such seats respectively.
3. BJP is anti-Adivasi
Similarly, after the BJP displaced the Congress as the number one recipient of Tribal vote due to the tireless efforts of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the regions inhabited by them, parties -- especially the Congress -- have been trying to gain back this traditional vote block.
In the recent state elections, it did get some success on this front. The BJP was accused of diluting the Forest Rights Act and this was made into a major poll issue. Despite all this, the BJP won more than two-thirds of the ST reserved seats / Tribal dominated seats, bettering its performance of 2014.
4. Farm distress is a big issue
Farm distress was one of the top issues figuring in many opinion polls. The Congress tried to lure farmers by announcing loan waivers in its manifesto. Farmers were getting low prices for their produce.
While there is no doubt that farmers are facing problems, they have reposed faith in PM Modi and the BJP as they feel the party is taking steps to double their income. The NDA’s tally in agrarian seats has increased from 153 in 2014 to 194 in 2019.
5. Unemployment is the top-most issue
Unemployment also featured among the top issues in opinion polls. However, its prominence declined as one moved into the election phases. As per CSDS, while it was the top issue for 21% respondents pre-poll, it declined to 12% by the end of Phase 7.
A lot of hue and cry was made about unemployment rising to 45-year highs. This was countered by the government through EPFO data. Despite all this, youth across the country have overwhelmingly backed the BJP as they feel it is best placed to create jobs.
The NDA won in 74% of high unemployment seats, up from 69% in 2014.
6. The middle class is going away from the party
Tempering of economic growth, low job prospects and high fuel prices led to a feeling that the middle class was not as supportive of the BJP as earlier. The urban voter has been the backbone of the BJP since its inception.
The party, however, managed to retain its urban support, bagging more than half of the seats in 2019.
7. BJP does well in low-literacy states
After the historic thrashing, many Congress leaders and political commentators have argued that high-literacy states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu have not supported the BJP and its caste/communal politics works well in low-literacy states.
Data, however, shows that this is entirely untrue. The BJP-led NDA has won more than half the high-literacy seats in 2019.
8. Rural distress will dent the BJP’s prospects
Rural distress, like farm distress, was touted as one of the major issues figuring in discussions and op-eds. The Congress raised the issue of the ‘collapse of the economy’ due to demonetisation and low wage growth in rural areas.
Despite this, the NDA has improved its tally in rural seats from 115 to 146. The schemes like Ujjwala, PM Awas, Swachch Bharat (toilets) have worked wonders.
The poor and the downtrodden have voted for the party which provided them with these basic needs and helped them open bank accounts. As a poor man from a village in Madhya Pradesh told me during my visit post-poll: ‘Jisne humko sab kuchh diya, hum uska ehsaan kaise bhool sakte hain?’ (How can we forget one who has given us so much?)
9. Muslims hate the BJP
The BJP has been branded as anti-Muslim by the Opposition. Muslims united to defeat the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. However, everywhere it is not the same. More and more people from the community are supporting the party.
The BJP won one-third of the Muslim-dominant seats. Through the triple talaq ordinance, it has managed to win the support of Muslim women.
10. 2019 was a very tight election
The elections were touted as very close, tight, wave-less with an undercurrent against the incumbent government. In the end, however, it was a sweep election, bigger than the 2014 victory. By Phase 5, the NDA had attained near-majority, 265 seats versus 272 required.
Source for all data: TOI Data Hub
Amitabh Tiwari is a political consultant, strategist and commentator advising political parties and leaders. He is a former corporate and investment banker and tweets @politicalbaaba