Finally, over a month long suspense and thrill of the largest democracy of the world is over with the electorate of this great country returning Prime Minister Narendra Modi led National Democratic Front (NDA) to power with a stunning and for more convincing majority than the previous 2014 Parliamentary elections. Needless to mention, Prime Minister Modi is once again credited with being chief architect and key figure in NDA victory with his Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) making significant inroads in the states like Bengal, Odissa and Telangana while retaining its power and image over the electorate in most of the northern states. Not only in terms of the number of parliamentary seats, has the BJP vote share too jumped over fifty percent in several states.
While repeating the near improbable feat of landslide victory particularly in the Northern and Western India, the BJP has also improved upon its 2014 Parliamentary Election tally of 282 to 303 during the current election. The outcome of polls has convincingly proved wrong the opinion of many poll pandits who expected a significant revival of the Congress in many states as also the formidable combination of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) based on the castes combination in Uttar Pradesh contributing largest (80 seats) number to the Indian Parliament. Though finding the causative factors and detailed reasons of NDA’s success and failures of opposition would be a subject of detailed study and examination, a quick analysis of the same is attempted here.
Modi’s Promises to Fellow Countrymen
While addressing a huge gathering of the party workers and supporters, Prime Minister Modi thanked the Indian electorate “…Desh ke koti koti nagarikon ne is faqir ki jholi ko bhar diya (Crores of citizens of the country have filled the bag of this mendicant)” while making the following three promises to the fellow countrymen.
(1) He will not do anything with bad faith and intention; while working for the nation he might make mistakes but it would never be in bad-faith or bad-intention;
(2) He will honour the trust and faith of people reposed in him and he will never indulge in anything in furtherance of self-interest; and
(3) His body, soul and entire time is completely dedicated to countrymen. When they evaluate him, they should keep these yardsticks in mind and criticize him wherever find him deviant or deficient.
Reasons for Repeat Massive Mandate to NDA
While the positive development agenda of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” ((To take everyone along, for everyone's development) and “Rashtravad” (Nationalism) have played a significant role in Modi led NDA victory, the negative politics and attributes of the opposition parties too appear to have significantly contributed in favour of NDA. This election has also served as the watershed of a convincing defeat to the politics of dynasty, familyism and appeasement. The chief factors contributing to the massive victory of NDA are as follows:
The last general election in 2014 was fought with the tagline "Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas" and after winning the election, Modi led NDA government worked tirelessly for the inclusive development and empowerment of poor and common man during the five-year term. This is evident from the numerous schemes implemented during the period, some of which are listed here that were focused and directly benefited them: Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana; Swachh Bharat Abhiyan; Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti; Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana; Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana; Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana; Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana; Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana; Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin; Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushal Yojana; Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana; Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana; and Ayushman Bharat Yojana.
Under the Jan Dhan Yojana, bank accounts were opened for almost every poor and under-privileged in rural and urban areas. These accounts are now not only used for the direct transfer of any subsidy received from the government but also inculcated the habit of small savings among the target group. Sanitation and cleanliness was undertaken in a mission mode with a campaign for providing a toilet for every household in rural and urban areas with a view to keep environment clean and prevent diseases due to unhygienic conditions. Under Ujjawala scheme, free LPG connections were provided to approximately seven crore families having no access to the cooking gas. Reportedly, these two schemes alone have benefited over sixteen crore families in rural and urban areas in five years. Needless to mention, the development agenda of the current NDA government have significantly contributed towards improving the quality of life of millions of Indians and created favourable atmosphere for the party in power.
Even as futuristic agenda, the BJP Manifesto (Sankalpa Patra) rallies around the central themes of Rashtravad (Nationalism) as inspiration, Antyodyay (the raising of downtrodden) as philosophy and Sushasan (Good Governance) as mantra. It has a total of 75 items under 12 broad themes with specific milestones and targets inter alia including Nation First, India as the World's 3rd Largest Economy, Infrastructure as Foundation of New India, Good Governance and Inclusive Development. On the other hand, the main opposition Congress manifesto included criticism and condemnation of Prime Minister Modi and BJP almost on every count while promising doles, subsidies and loan waiver to people besides many other wishful promises without specific milestones and targets. It is not surprising that the electorate has not found their promises convincing and rejected even big temptations of Rs 72,000 annually to poor families and loan waiver to all farmers across India.
During the five years of the Modi regime, the country has constantly experienced two different narratives and debate on nationalism. While the BJP constantly stressed on the patriotism, national pride and honour with its willingness to go to any extent to restore and protect the same, the Congress and some other opposition parties called it hyper nationalism and detrimental to the interests of minorities in India, particularly Muslims. In the past, there had been umpteen instances of incursions and other violations on India-Pakistan and India-China borders which were underplayed or dismissed as minor or insignificant events by the previous governments, at times the political dispensation even discouraging or stopping the Indian Armed Forces to take retaliatory measures. Similarly, the governments were also perceived as soft and reconciliatory towards the separatist and terrorist activities on the Indian soil, particularly in Kashmir and some North-eastern states.
The case in point could be the recent imbroglio and standoff between India and China over Doklam (Bhutan) where the Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA) unilaterally started construction of a metallic road on the Doklam plateau southwards near the Doka La pass in June 2017. The piece of land falls in Bhutan but besides the Indian obligation to protect the former, the area is also strategically very important for India and its smooth access to the North-eastern states. Consequently, dispatching its troops, India firmly and resolutely stopped unauthorized Chinese construction activity. Despite constant threats and provocations for several weeks, the Indian troops firmly stood on the ground quietly preparing even for the worst situation. Finally, the Chinese side called off their bluff and troops withdrew from the Bhutanese territory towards the end of August.
During the last five years only, India and Myanmar had a joint operation against the terrorists inside the Myanmar territory and Indian army carried out a successful surgical strike against terrorist launch pads across the line of control in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir in September 2016 following the Uri attack on the Indian soil involving Pakistan supported terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Recently, when the same terror group targeted a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force killing fourty jawans on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the Indian Air Force carried out yet another surgical air strike deep inside Pakistan on the group’s largest terrorists training centre at Balakot wherein estimated 250-300 trainees, active terrorists and trainers were eliminated.
The NDA government has shown zero tolerance towards the external as well as internal disruptive forces indulging in violation of Indian interests or incursion in the Indian soil and terrorist attacks on Indian people or property. Apart from the above mentioned strategic strikes, Indian army has systematically identified and eliminated majority of hardcore terrorists operating in the Kashmir Valley and the Central Government has decisively acted against the separatists’ activities and illegal funding sources too. Strong muscular policy towards the regional enemies and adversaries, and a proactive foreign policy successfully garnering support and endorsement equally from the Western and Eastern democracies has worked in favour of the government and BJP. Notwithstanding constant criticism from the opposition parties and pseudo-secularists, such actions have received wide popular support from the Indian masses and nationalism has indeed played a significant role during the current general parliamentary elections.
Hindutva Vs Pseudo-Secularism:
Opposition parties, self-proclaimed secularists and liberals constantly indulged in the propaganda that Hindutva is a serious threat for the very existence and survival of the secular and democratic India, citing the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) as the communal and biggest threat for the nation. Ironically enough, the opposition and their sympathizers and supporters did this, as a tried and tested tactics of creating fear psychosis among the minorities, mainly Muslims and Christians, to garner their support. They were successful too to a considerable extent as is apparent from the voting pattern in certain minorities dominated parliamentary constituencies. Some Muslim clerics and Christian bishops had appealed the respective minorities’ groups months before with veiled appeals while some political leaders openly asked them to vote for them.
Opposition parties and self-proclaimed secularists have constantly attacked Hindutva treating Hinduism and Hindutva as two different concepts and declaring the latter as harmful for the secular India. In fact, a three judge Bench of the Supreme Court had decided on December 11, 1995 and further endorsed by a seven judge bench that the words ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Hindutva’ should not be understood and construed narrowly, confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices unrelated to the culture and ethos of the People of India. The Court ruled that Hindutva is a way of life or a state of mind and it should not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism, and also it is a fallacy and an error to assume that use of words Hindutva or Hinduism depict an attitude hostile to people practicing any other religion. Notwithstanding this verdict, the pseudo-seculars and vested interests continue to put Hindutva on trial with twisted and malicious interpretation.
Propaganda against the Hindutva continues unabated even after the election results with articles and blogs have occurred with allegations that Modi and BJP have created a sharp divide between the communities detrimental to the communal harmony and national interest. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi has publicly stated that the alienation of Muslims would increase after BJP’s current victory. Notwithstanding the stated observations and fear, the fact is contrary to the narratives circulated by the opposition and pseudo-secularists in this country. Well before election and during the electioneering, many bishops, clerics and politicians were seen even openly seeking mandate of minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, in favour of the opposition parties. Some of the parties with different ideologies and commitments had joined hands purely on religion, caste and regional considerations. They perhaps forgot that such unholy alliances with narrow selfish interests were bound to be counter-productive with the majority population determined to punish such elements with narrow vision and mission.
Over the years, the Indian electorate has increasing shown its maturity and belief in the need of a strong leadership which can lead the country to the select league of developed and powerful nations. Many opposition parties came together not because of any common ideology, programme or commitment but for common dislike and hate against Prime Minister Modi and BJP. Couple of months back, when about one and a-half dozen prominent leaders from various opposition parties shared a common platform at the oath-taking ceremony of the Karnataka Janta Dal (S) leader as Chief Minister following the state assembly elections, it indeed generated some hope of a viable alternative before the electorate of the world’s largest democracy but soon hope and aspiration of people were belied by these parties having failed to evolve a common minimum programme and consensus prime ministerial candidate.
Even after the formal coronation as head of the only other national party seen as probable alternative at the national level, the Congress President constantly disappointed the electorate by his erratic behaviour and speeches lacking proper direction, depth, vision and mission. In fact, more than a mature and visionary politician, he is still perceived as a cheap comedian and entertainer by a large section of the Indian electorate. On the other hand, selfish interests of the leaders of small and regional parties also came as a major handicap in forging opposition unity with many of them nurturing ambition as the prime ministerial candidate. Consequently, most of the parties separately and individually fought elections postponing alliance post-election.
On the other hand, the NDA had gone to elections with Narendra Modi of BJP as prime ministerial candidate and unanimous leader of the NDA. As such his hard work and selfless service as head of the government during the last five years has established him as an undisputed and indispensible leader before the Indian electorate. During the election campaign, the NDA raised Modi versus who question to the Congress and other divided opposition parties while the latter failed to project a leader as their viable prime ministerial candidate. While Prime Minister Modi and his party successfully projected their achievements in various spheres of governance and diplomacy, the opposition’s negative politics and criticism failed to discredit Modi and his government’s achievements.
Organizational Strength and Social Media Campaign:
During the recent years, the BJP has worked very hard to improve its organizational strength upto booth level and membership drive. As such the BJP leadership has made huge investment in building human resource during the last few years and now it claims to be the biggest party worldwide in terms of the organization and membership count. This is an important area where the party had clear edge over its rivals and the committed cadre made sure that content of speeches, appeals and slogans of Prime Minister Modi and other party leaders were widely circulated and made viral on the social media platforms. Besides, almost every booth in all constituencies was covered with dedicated BJP workers of reasonable strength as the last mile connectivity - a shrewd move giving advantage to the party’s campaign.
The rival opposition parties, mainly the Congress, tried to counter and match the skills and endeavors of the BJP but remained lackluster and deficient on strategy as well as performance. They relied mostly on the negative strategy and campaign. Constant attempt were made to put the Election Commission under pressure, and raising questions and doubts on the use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs). The myth of corruption and malpractices on account of Rafale purchase was already busted after the Supreme Court verdict and the Comptroller and Auditor General’s audit report yet the Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other leaders continued with mischievous publicity “Chowkidar Chor Hai” against Prime Minister Modi for which the former had to ultimately unconditionally tender apology to the Apex Court. Similarly, a negative campaign was also launched by their workers and supporters to malign the image and reputation of Modi and BJP through half-truths and fake news on the social media but all this only proved counter-productive harming the prospects of the Congress in the long run than doing any good to them.
Mustering Support from Potential Allies:
Among the opposition parties, the Congress is the only national party with its cadre and base countrywide in most of the states. Being the largest party, it also had responsibility to initiative with the regional and smaller parties but it completely failed to generate necessary mutual trust and confidence among potential allies like the Trinmool Congress (TMC), Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Aam Admi Party (AAP). While the BSP refused to ally with Congress in states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the traditional enemies BSP and SP preferred to forge an alliance without Congress in Uttar Pradesh. After a brief bonhomie of sharing the stage with Congress at Bangalore and being part of a meeting of the opposition parties under the patronage of the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the two parties failed to arrive at any understanding and TMC decided to go alone in Bengal. Both the AAP and Congress appeared willing for sharing seats in Delhi but the negotiations dragged for too long and finally both parties blaming each other failed to reach any understanding on seat-sharing formula. In fact, majority of the potential allies were found reluctant to accept the Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi as the senior partner in the race for power.
On the other hand, the BJP was seen willing and accommodative to its existing partners and forge new alliances with the willing smaller parties. It had a bitter rivalry and power struggle with the ally Shiv Sena during the state and municipal elections in Maharashtra since the last General Elections in 2014. The alliance was at the verge of breaking point but the BJP leadership took initiative and amicably resolved differences to bring the partnership on track again. When the Janta Dal (U) rejoined the NDA in Bihar after split, it had only two MPs in its kitty, the BJP not only agreed to be junior partner in Bihar Assembly but also allowed it equal share of the Parliamentary seats while simultaneously accommodating smaller groups like the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). The generosity and accommodation granted to its junior partners has not only rendered the NDA strong and united but also enhanced its image and acceptability among the electorate.
Dynasty, Familyism and Appeasement:
This parliamentary election shall be remembered in the years to come for another reason that the electorate of this country has completely rejected the concept of dynastic rule and promotion of family members at the cost of merit in politics as also the policy of appeasement on the considerations of creed, caste and religion. It will be a serious mistake and miscalculation if the political parties and their leaders do not understand the message Indian electorate which is loud and clear. The head of the oldest and largest national party was routed in his own traditional bastion and he had sensed it well before the polls so much so that he had simultaneously opted for another secured parliamentary seat in Kerala. There is a long list of candidates that clearly smacks of nepotism, and most such candidates were rejected by the people during this election.
Ever since independence, political parties and leaders with certain ideology constantly wooed minorities, particularly Muslims, by granting more social, religious and economic freedom to manage their community affairs keeping an eye on their vote bank. This irrational practice was nurtured and continued till date so much so that an altogether different narrative on secularism has been established. According to this narrative, those who only talk about the rights and welfare of minorities are real secular people. On the other hand, if any well-meaning group or individuals talk of equal rights and similar treatment of all communities including the Hindus by the state, they are outrightly categorized as communal by the said secularists. The policy of appeasement is another casualty which has been convincingly and completely rejected by the Indian electorate.
Electorate Displayed Its Maturity and Strength
The output and outcome of parliamentary elections for the 17th Lok Sabha are significant in many ways. The electorate has exhibited its maturity and strength that the people cannot be befooled any long by the traditional evils of Vanshwad (dynasty), Parivarwad (Familyism) and Tushtikaran (Appeasement). Then the electorate has reposed its faith in the programmes and policies of Narendra Modi and his governance with a greater and more broad-based mandate enabling him to lead the people and nation on the path of development and glory during the next five years. The mandate of the people is also significant from the point of view that it has convincingly rejected politics and politicians of negativity and falsehood to score points against rivals. The outcome of election is also a slap on the face of anti-national and pseudo-secular people who grow and prosper on the resources of the nation but operate with ill-will against the interests of the very nation.
The biggest surprise and significant outcome of the current parliamentary election is the rejection of huge doles and monetary concessions offered by the Congress vis-à-vis the agenda of development and good governance by Prime Minister Modi and BJP. Among the umpteen promises, the Congress had offered outright transfer of Rs 72,000 per year to the poor families and waiver of all farm loans across the country. As against this, BJP committed inclusive growth and empowerment of people rather than offering doles and waivers. For illustration, the party’s vision of Gram Swaraj envisages: Shaasray (housing) ensuring pucca house for those living in Kachha house or without houses by 2022; Sujal (Drinking Water) to ensure piped water supply to all by 2024; Suchna se Sashaktikaran (Digital Connectivity) to ensure that every Gram Panchayat is connected through high speed optic fibre network by 2022; Sadak se Samriddhi (Road Connectivity), a massive rural road upgradation programme to connect centres of education, healthcare and markets with hinterland; and Swachh Bharat Mission to ensure cent percent disposal of liquid waste water and its reuse. Needless to mention, the mature and aware electorate has opted for the development and empowerment instead of going for the temporary doles and waivers.