Organisational strength, charismatic image, stain-free tenure and connect with new voters are the reasons why Narendra Modi is set to continue to govern the country from 7, Lok Kalyan Marg
The countdown for elections to the 18th Lok Sabha has started, and all estimates suggest Narendra Modi will return to 7, Lok Kalyan Marg with an absolute majority.
While the Opposition parties are trying to put up a united front to stop Modi, the attempts to unite are limited to parties meeting at various locations in the country and dispersing without arriving at any concrete agenda. Opposition disunity apart, there are several factors that make Narendra Modi’s re-election as Prime Minister imminent.
Modi has met every test of popularity. In the post-Independence electoral history of India, there has been no mass leader whose popularity has soared consistently like that of Narendra Modi. Today, no other leader can match up to Modi’s ‘image’ and ‘leadership’. ‘Brand Modi’ evokes a trust among people that the country has not seen in the past, or the present. The absence of any other credible face is a major reason why BJP’s return to power is assured.
What constitutes the BJP’s biggest strength is the opposition’s biggest weakness. There is no face in the parties trying to take on the BJP that garners the kind of confidence Modi instils in the people. The fact alone sets the BJP ahead in the race against the rest.
Because of Modi’s leadership and his charisma, a large section of the country joined the BJP after 2014. This was the reason that in the 2019 general elections, the BJP achieved its best vote percentage. The result was a big stamp of approval of the people on Prime Minister Modi because the party had contested the election in his name, taking to voters the development work initiated under him.
While other governments have suffered anti-incumbency, Modi’s return to office in 2019 was one of the biggest pro-incumbency mandates in the country’s history. While the Congress has returned to power in the past, it has either been in the initial years of Independence when no opposition to Congress existed, or due to a sympathy wave as in the case of the 1984 victory in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The increase in the BJP’s votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha election was an unprecedented phenomenon in India’s political history.
It is Modi alone who has been voted back to power with an even bigger mandate than achieved in the first term solely based on his popularity fuelled by his governance model.
The BJP built on this popularity by expanding the organisation, which has rapidly expanded over the last 10 years. Not only have the numbers swelled, first under Amit Shah and then Jagatprakash Nadda, the organisational structure has been made more cohesive and dynamic.
Today, the BJP has a disciplined and structured organisation which has seamless communication up to the booth level. This is a model unique to the BJP. Powered by the structural cohesion, the BJP campaigns 365 days, while the opposition does not see a schedule which is followed even from dawn to dusk.
Popular among new voters
In his first term itself, Prime Minister Modi carved a new beneficiary voter class. In his second term, the number of beneficiary voters has increased further. In his tenure so far, Modi has strengthened his credibility among the poor sections of the country through timely delivery of benefits under schemes like Jan Dhan, Ujjwala, Saubhagya, Housing, Toilets, Pension, Insurance, Ayushman, Kisan Samman Nidhi and Free Ration. The impact of this beneficiary vote bank was seen in the 2019 election. Timely and effective delivery of services has ensured this vote-bank’s commitment and trust in Modi’s guarantees ahead of the 2024 elections has only increased. The opposition has no counter to this dedicated vote-bank that Modi has cultivated.
A sizeable segment, which was traditionally not considered BJP voters, started voting for the BJP as beneficiary voters after 2014. This new vote-bank has caused a lot of damage to the politics of casteism and appeasement in the country. As a result of this reshaping of vote-bank, the impact of regional parties in national politics has shrunk.
Any new government is born out of aspirations and hopes of change. The same hopes and aspirations facilitated the Modi government’s surge to power in 2014. Over the next 10 years, Modi caressed these aspirations and hopes with a government that was responsive and delivered. Being the visionary that he is, Modi has set India on the growth trajectory which is forward looking and envisions the roadmap for the country’s transition from a developing nation to a developed one — the realisation of an Amrit Kaal. Today, people look at Modi not only with aspirations brimming in their eyes, but also trust that these aspirations will be met.
In the last 10 years, the outlook from ‘despair’ to ‘hope’ has been Modi’s biggest achievement. It is this feat which evokes trust in Modi and feeds into his popularity. People unwaveringly believe in Modi’s vision for the country’s growth, and despite a lot of negative campaigns, corruption allegations and personal attacks, they have not been able to shake people’s trust.
Modi’s term has not been a smooth ride. There have been several occasions when questions were raised on the government, such as inflation spiked by increase in fuel prices, the hardships faced by people due to demonetisation for months, a terrorist attack, the chaos that followed Covid, the misinformation spread about Covid vaccination. But all through the tough phases, people remained unfazed believing firmly that with Modi at the steering wheel nothing can go wrong.
The reason is simple. Modi is a man of solutions. He turned each crisis into an opportunity to instil confidence in people. He did not just meet people’s expectations; he simply surpassed them through his innovative thinking and getting people to follow his vision by virtue of the trust he evokes.
Faceless, rudderless opposition
The biggest challenge that political analysts are talking about against Modi is the so-called ‘I.N.D.I alliance’. With barely a few months left for elections to get underway, it is important to look at whether this opposition exists or is an amorphous piece of imagination.
As of now, there is no I.N.D.I Alliance that exists. Except for the symbolic rhetoric of alliances on the forums, no formula has emerged on the basis of which it can be said that a ‘unitary structure’ is taking shape at the national level against Modi.
From Patna to Mumbai, even though the opposition parties have come on one platform, the fight on the ground seems to be multi-cornered. In Madhya Pradesh, the SP-Congress feud is just one example.
The defeat of the Congress in three states has further dwarfed the role of the Congress in front of regional parties. The parties are openly squabbling over who should be the face of the coalition, which in the first place does not exist. The only condition on which the Congress can save the I.N.D.I alliance is that it surrenders itself as the third or fourth rank party and allow room for regional parties to contest on more seats. While this can save the alliance from falling apart, this cannot ensure victory for the group because regional parties based on casteism have been rejected by the electorate.
It bodes well for the BJP that at a time the opposition is in disarray, all the constituents of the NDA are ready to contest the elections under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
Untainted, unblemished reputation
One of the greatest aspects of Narendra Modi’s 10-year rule as PM and over 10 years as Gujarat Chief Minister, has been that there is no stain on him or his government. While a lot of muck has been thrown at him, nothing stuck.
This will be a major reason for the BJP’s comeback in 2024, because Modi came to power in 2014 on the issue of corruption and irregularities in governance.
Today, after completing two terms, as he is entering the arena for a recontest, the opposition does not have any corruption charge that they can ensure sticks on the Modi government. Rahul Gandhi’s Rafale charges were defeated both in courts of law and in public mandate. The Adani issue too failed to find any resonance which has been proven in subsequent assembly election results.
Organisational strength, charismatic image, stain-free tenure and connect with new voters are the reasons why Narendra Modi is set to continue to govern the country from 7, Lok Kalyan Marg.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow with the Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation. Views expressed are strictly personal.
(The article was published on Firstpost.com on January 6, 2024 and has been reproduced here)