By Pradeep Bhandari
In April, the chatter in Delhi was about a hung verdict. I happened to be in Delhi for a day, traveling from Lucknow to Bangalore—a day before the release of the Jan Ki Baat opinion poll, where we were projecting 300-plus for the NDA. My travel through 15 states had given me an impression of a strong pro-Narendra Modi sentiment on the ground. Then, we had been called bhakts, and were abused for being the standalone platform predicting the return to power of a strong Narendra Modi.
Modi Wave 2.0 was not created after the Balakot airstrike, it was a relationship built with every passing day since May 26, 2014. The foundations of the relationship reflected strong personality traits, focused on welfare economics, awakened Hindu consciousness and an unapologetic national pride. If 2014 was a love affair of the people with PM Narendra Modi, 2019 was a marriage—a marriage that transcended hope, into trust. On the ground, I witnessed many instances of people recalling life-changing development experiences across caste and religious lines. Whether it was SC/ST/OBC or Muslim women, one of every three voters I interacted with was a beneficiary of Ujjawla or Awas Yojana or Swachh Bharat.
Modi ne hame bijli di, choola diya, ghar diya; ham unhe vote kyun na de? was a pan-Hindi heartland sentiment. His welfare policies helped him galvanize votes among women across caste lines, who formed the main pillar of the New Narendra Modi voter. The faith of voters helped him convert close contests into easy electoral victories. Eastern Uttar Pradesh was full of countless instances where the female spouses dissented from their male counterparts. It was Modi who brought a tangible difference in their lives, not Mayawati.
The chemistry of Narendra Modi with the voters helped him break the arithmetic of the gathbandhan, especially in Eastern UP. For the aspirational young Indian, Modi represented hope for a better and stronger India. Modi hai na was a prevalent feeling in aspirational young voters post Pulwama. This trust was built through regular communication he had with the masses in his five-year tenure. This helped him overcome any candidate-level disenchantment.
Greenfield West Bengal and Telangana were reverberating with an awakened Hindu consciousness. Violence in panchayat polls was the inflection point in Bengal politics. The upward march of the BJP in Bengal began since then. Jai Shri Ram in Bengal was not a religious slogan; it was a political slogan of freedom from violent suppression, appeasement, and lack of development.
On the ground, a Matua (SC community in East Bengal) in Bangon, and a Hindi-speaking Bengali in Asansol (Western part of Bengal) chanted the slogan with the same zeal and energy. The dilution of the Left vote, coupled with movement of the angry Hindu away from the TMC to the BJP made the BJP the main dominating force. It was natural for Bengal 2019 to display result trends akin to that of UP 2014. The remaining numbers left to reach 300 were consolidated by the opposition, which displayed attributes of an anti-national fringe.
The fringe intellectualism drained any possible core vote the opposition were expecting to get in the Hindi heartland. This coupled with threat of the unknown in the opposition camp drifted some loyal voters away from the polling booths. Many polling booths in traditional strongholds of the opposition camp polled less. This was a catalyst over welfare economic policies. National narrative also helped BJP sweep Bihar, and the hill states. In Bihar, the BJP-JDU-LJP alliance had a strong takeoff (base) vote of 55% comprising of upper caste, EBC, and Paswans. The RJD-INC alliance had a base take-off vote of only 35%. Both Modi and Nitish Kumar drew the women in Bihar to the polling booth.
The women also positively received the ban on alcohol consumption. The 2019 contest was only in the media. An illusion created by the media was of a close contest in Maharashtra, forgetting that unlike MP, Maharashtra did not suffer from any state anti-incumbency. Modi-factor, with a popular chief minister, made a near to sweep possible. Even the Shiv Sena strike rate was maintained on account of the Modi vote. Apart from Mumbai, Thane region where Shiv Sena had some individual presence, at all other places, it was Modi uplifting Shiv Sena.
Truth from the ground was that there was no other candidate competing against Modi apart from Modi himself. It was 2019 Modi challenging 2014 Modi. The 2014 Modi got 90% of the seats from 60% geography, 2019 Modi expanded his reach with more people voting in a larger geographical stretch. The seeds for 2019 were sown in 2014 when the PM touched the floor of Parliament, like he has for 2024 by bowing to the Constitution. Modi wave was always present for me, the voting outcome made it measurable for the outside world.
(The author is Founder of Jan Ki Baat.)