In the 90’s BJP, VHP, and the RSS’s attempts to create a single, massive Hindu vote in North India created deep divisions in the country, and alienated its Muslim population. Therefore, this move was largely deemed to be a failure. Instead, the BJP decided to broaden its social base, and declared that it stood for large-scale internal liberalisation and calibrated globalisation. It even warmed to the idea of foreign capital and decided honour all commitments made by the Congress to multi-national corporations. The party put forth a two-fold agenda based upon cultural nationalism and economic nationalism. It also tried to form alliances with regional and state level parties, shunning its aim to emerge as a singular alternative to the Congress, and alternatively adopted the objective of heading a coalition at the centre.
Thus, after repeated failed attempts in the late 1990s, the BJP finally formed a successful NDA led coalition government at the centre from 1999 to 2004 with AB Vajpayee as the Prime Minister. The National Democratic Alliance gained a total of 296 seats in the Lok Sabha, with 41.3% of the votes, while the Congress and its allies gained only 134 seats with 34.7% of the votes. Then, from 2004 to 2014, the country saw the Congress lead United Progressive Alliance at the centre, but the tables turned in favour of the NDA in 2014, when the BJP won an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha with 282 out of 543 seats. In 2019, BJP has surpassed itself by gaining 303 seats, resulting in a historic win for the NDA, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Narendra Modi has always been an energetic campaigner, and if we analyse the reasons for BJP’s win in 2014, we can see Mr. Modi’s image as a challenger, offering a new alternative to the disenchanted voter, instead of the UPA-II, which had begun to seem tired, ineffective and corrupt. However, considering his win in 2019, a few more concrete reasons can be highlighted.
In 2014, PM Modi spoke about the importance of sanitation and cleanliness, and gave action to his words by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan initiative. Over its term, the Modi government claims to have built over 9 crore toilets for the poor and marginalised sections. Another initiative was the LPG scheme, where it was claimed that more than 7 crore LPG connections have been distributed to the poor households. Further, in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, the army’s retaliation across the LoC in Balakot, targeting a terror training centre of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, gained the Modi government immense popularity in the electorate.
Another reason was that the BJP leadership also invested in building human resources in the past 5 years, which enabled them to form a strong network of party promoters throughout the country. The BJP also remodelled Modi’s brand from a development oriented leader in Gujarat, to a leader with international stature and appeal. The imagistic appeal of a well-spoken and witty orator cannot be understated in a country which has immense media reach, and a major chunk of population that is not endowed with formal modes of literacy still. The Modi Wave therefore, has greatly benefited the party, leading some commentators to term the BJP as a one-man party run by a two-man army.
The Hindutva card has also enabled a massive growth of right-wing supporters. On the flip side, it has also led the Modi government to receive widespread disapproval especially by the youth, who openly express their distaste for the party’s religious stance. Some have even accused it of promulgating a communal divide in the country. Opinion polls too, went to the extent of predicting a loss for the NDA in the face of its failure to adeptly implement policies such as Demonetisation and GST. However, the lotus seems indeed to be the national flower of India, and the NDA surprised everyone with they way it swept the Lok Sabha polls. The electorate, although many of them are already disenchanted, can only hope for the best.
Picture credits- Scroll