The Bharatiya Janata Party has registered a stupendous victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Its ‘Abki Baar, 300 Paar’ slogan has come true.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only prime minister to have come back to power with a full majority since 1971. The BJP is the only party to have retained power with absolute majority since 1984.
What are the reasons that led to this victory?
1. Leadership of Modi
Narendra Modi has done it again and the BJP which had won 282 out of 543 seats in 2014, has won 302 seats in 2019. This is clearly Modi wave 2.0 or even a Modi tsunami.
This is a truly national victory in the sense it has won good number of seats in eastern India (Odisha, Bengal) and southern India (Karnataka and Telangana).
The number of BJP voters who said they would not have voted for the party if Modi had not been the prime ministerial candidate increased from 27% in 2014 to 32% in 2019. For BJP’s allies, this number also went up from 20% in 2014 to 25% in 2019. (Source: NES 2014 and 2019).
In the same survey, 17% respondents gave importance to the prime ministerial candidate while voting. Since there was no PM candidate from the Opposition, these people simply voted for Modi or stayed at home, denying any benefit to the Congress and the ‘Mahagathbandhhan’.
Almost 7% voters of the Congress and 8% of its allies’ voters also voted for BJP because of Modi.
2. Negating local level anti-incumbency
Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have followed this formula for decades now of changing candidates to negate local level anti-incumbency due to non-performance.
In recent state elections we have seen the BJP changing 25%-30% of sitting MLAs in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. This creates a perception that leadership takes feedback of people and punishes non-performers.
Recall the MCD elections in 2017, where BJP denied tickets to all its sitting corporators, but still managed to come back to power in the municipality.
3. Strong desire to win: Kissing and making up with allies
The BJP has shown far greater flexibility in sealing alliances than the Congress or the regional parties. The Congress and the regional parties’ plan of making 2019 a ‘one-to-one contest’ failed. Congress contested against regional parties in Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Andhra-Telangana, Kerala (I consider CPI-M a regional outfit), Delhi, to name a few, thus splitting vote shares and helping the BJP.
On the other hand, realising the importance of Nitish Kumar in its Bihar strategy, the BJP ensured he made ghar wapsi to the National Democratic Alliance and was pampered with equal share of seats. Even the Shiv Sena which day in and day out attacked the BJP, not even sparing Modi and Shah, was persuaded to continue the alliance by giving almost equal seats to contest.
4. Focussed campaign
The BJP knew it could lose some seats to the formidable ‘Mahagathbandhan’ in Uttar Pradesh. Hence, it started hunting for states where it could make gains. Mamata’s minority appeasement politics in Bengal, coupled with the decline of the Left, provided an opening.
Almost 19 years of anti-incumbency against Naveen and panchayat poll victory in Odisha also showed potential. Modi held 17 rallies in West Bengal and 8 in Odisha, largest number of rallies after Uttar Pradesh, where he addressed 29. 40% of his rallies were held in these three states.
In the end, the BJP lost only 9 seats in UP and compensated it fully in Bengal itself where it gained 16. It successfully employed, what I call, the 50:20 principle with focus on 5-6 states that account for half of the Lok Sabha’s strength.
6. Building a new vote block of women and beneficiaries
Women are increasingly voting on their own, not influenced by their male family members, due to increase in literacy and education levels. Women voter turnout was higher than men in 13 states and Union Territories accounting for 25% of Lok Sabha seats.
Schemes like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao; Swachch Bharat, Ujjwala, Awas Yojana, and Mudra, BJP has attempted to fulfill the aspirations of millions of womenfolk across the country. Even the Triple Talaq ordinance has found favour among Muslim women.
Of course, these things are difficult to capture in opinion polls. There are an estimated 24 crore beneficiaries of central government schemes, no filters of caste/religion were applied and this created a loyal vote base.
7. Building a new vote block of youth
Youth, cutting across caste lines, voted for Modi in 2019. Almost 18% Yadavs in UP, 57% Jatavs in UP, over 50% Schedule Castes in Bengal voted for Modi.
These are the aspirational youth who voted on the development agenda of Modi and the BJP.
Youth across states also preferred a strong leader. Like in 2014, results show that majority of 9 crore first-time voters backed the BJP.
Although unemployment was the biggest issue in 2019 elections, as per My India-Axis Exit Poll, 43% unemployed youth voted for BJP as they thought it was in the best position to solve this problem.
To sum up, many factors propelled the BJP to get this historic mandate, but it comes with immense challenges and responsibilities. Hope Modi lives up to the expectations.