SINCE we are nearing the Cricket World Cup, let me use a cricketing analogy for the stupendous Narendra Modi win today. The 2014 campaign of Modi was like that of Arjuna Ranatunga who led Sri Lanka to world cup victory in 1996. Lankans played like champions under him, without losing a single match from the first the final. They stormed from nowhere to lift the cup and change the game forever. Much the same way, Modi arrived on the scene, first capturing the BJP and then storming to Raisina in a campaign reminiscent of the Lankans. But the 2019 campaign of Modi was more like that of the Australians under Steve Waugh. The Kangaroos under Waugh played like they owned the wins of each series. Modi’s campaign this time had that go-getter spirit combined with the self-assured calm of Waugh. Modi knew he is coming back.
As we comprehend the scale of Narendra Modi’s victory giving him second term as Prime Minister of India, one thing is clear: Increase in registered voters coupled with higher turnout means it is going to be the most representative government in the history of independent India. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has spread its sweep to take the commanding pole of Indian politics, both in terms of geography and acceptability, having contested highest number of seats, and sharp increase in its vote-share reflected in quantum jump in seats won with over 5 lakhs margins.
The credit would also go to Amit Shah for having marshalled the resources like a General. Learning Bengali and about Mamata Banerjee’s health parameters before getting into Bengal showed the doggedness of the BJP chief. Not that there was no scare. BJP won 2014 with 31.34% votes. Compared to this, in 1977 Indira Gandhi had lost with 34.52%, and Rajiv Gandhi lost 1989 with 39.53%. The difference was combined opposition in those two elections. While opposition unity against Modi looked like a chimera from the beginning, even in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which had a semblance of an alliance, the compulsions of arithmetic proved to be a bogey, greatly boosting BJP performance.
And yet, the BJP led NDA looked like in a shambles 8-10 months ago. Shiv Sena was in a tango with Mamata Didi, Akalis were snapping at BJP heels over GST on Langar, and Chandrababu Naidu had just quit. So how did Shah manoeuvre to deliver today’s verdict? Contrary to perception that he is difficult to deal with, Shah showed an uncanny adaptability at compromise, not only resurrecting the NDA but adding to its strength before Election Commission officially announced the General Elections.
It began with the monsoon session of parliament in 2018 with the NDA beating the TDP sponsored no-confidence motion, and wresting deputy chairman post from the Congress, thus showing early contours of political re-alignments ahead of general elections. In state after state, Shah went the extra mile to bring the estranged allies on board and make those that were fidgety comfortable with compromise.
In Bihar, despite being an ally, the JDU had voted against the Triple Talaq bill in the Lok Sabha, opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha, and remaines non-committal on Kashmir and Ram Temple. Nitish in fact spoke in support of Art 370, even if indirectly. Shah persevered by giving up five of BJP’s sitting MPs in favour of JDU to keep Nitish with NDA. Similarly, despite Ram Vilas Paswan openly opposing the ordinance route to Ram Temple, BJP gave his party six seats in the Bihar alliance, one more than his LJP won in 2014, and a bonus RS seat for Paswan himself! Shiv Sena contested Palghar by-poll against BJP in 2018 and Uddhav Thackeray expressed wish to be part of grand opposition alliance to Mamata in Mumbai. He also had his own show of strength in Ayodhya to put pressure on the Modi gov on the issue of Ram Temple. Yet, just ahead of the campaign we saw how the Sena did an about turn and was firmly in NDA fold, perhaps on a promise over impending Maharashtra Assembly elections later this year.
Shah succeeded in retaining Apna Dal despite its fulminations, facilitated return of AGP by putting NRC on the backburner; and gave Girdih in Jharkhand to little known single seat party All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), all aimed at bolstering BJP vote-share to beyond 50 per cent as an antidote to opposition unity.
All this shows that the 2019 campaign and today’s victory was not just about the whirlwind campaign of 300 plus rallies between Modi and Shah. The duo worked brick-by-brick almost every day over the last year to make sure NDA was most prepared for the victory, much like the Aussies.