How BJP's loss is Modi's win?
Updated: Dec 22, 2018
If you think Modi lost in the recent state elections, you are missing the bigger picture. Modi has just started winning - the juggernaut is ready to be unleashed.
The sheer excitement and bashing going around these days on social media - be it for BJP or INC or any other matter is amazing. People just have found these platforms to be ideal to vent their anger. Name-calling has become a fad these days that most people enjoy. What should be enjoyed is unbiased and thought provoking discussions.
In the recent 2018 state elections, BJP lost its government in 3 states namely Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. People feel the Modi magic is over. If you think so, then you're forgetting the basic concept of magic - misdirection. When a magician waves his hand and says, "this is where the magic is happening", the real trick is happening somewhere else. So where the trick happened?
The Anti-Incumbency Sentiment
Many political pundits keep on saying BJP cannot digest power and they fly high and become too arrogant. Well, then we as voters are highly tolerant to have let them rule for 3 terms in MP and Chhattisgarh! The close tussle makes it realise that BJP and INC are equally favourites or unfavourites for the voters. The vote shares and seat shares in MP being so nearby are indicative of that they are not highly dissatisfied with BJP or too much in love with Congress. In 2013, wrestling 165 out of 230 seats was a clear indicator of the Modi wave. Unlike Chhattisgarh, wherein corruption and tiff between RSS and Raman Singh put them into the abyss. However, the pull back in Rajasthan was a litmus test that let the Modi-Shah know that the game is still in their control. If good numbers are not put up in the assembly by the INC in assembly, the unfavourable decisions can be stalled or averted easily.
Modi has been time and again termed as micro-manager and they are right. He enjoys monitoring the minutest details because that makes you feel powerful - knowing and deciding everything - like holding the reigns to the chariot. But, look at Gujarat elections just a year ago, the state he ruled for 15 years just managed to save face or else Congress now would have been enjoying the grandeur by taking all BJP owned safe territories of India. There in Gujarat, INC neglected the first past the post rule that helped BJP to sail through and now in MP, BJP returned the gift to them. Both parties while in incumbency missed out on the basic fundamental "every vote matters" with so many seats clinched by either by less than 1000-2000 votes which other wise would have changed the rulers of the state.
Remember, back in 90s when our remote control won't function beyond a certain range and we would be moving closer to our TV sets just to change channels. That is what has happened to the Modi control in Gujarat. This simply means his involvement in running the states is far less and hence, we cannot add the losses to his tally. People do know this and hence, voting patterns are different in state and centre elections. Moreover, Modi was a newer phenomena in 2014 whilst he is a known face now. So, they know when they are voting in state - they may choose INC because CM is 'NOT Rahul Gandhi' but while voting for PM, they know it is going to be Rahul Gandhi if they press hand on EVM. Also with the ploy of pulling in Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath over Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia is going to help BJP as if they put in a coy candidate like Manmohan, the public won't trust them - so rumours of Raghuram Rajan as PM candidate even if true won't help them.
The Tiff with the RSS
Modi has been on back foot heavily with RSS on Ram Mandir issues. Apart from that, the IAS power struggles, the Nirav Modi - Vijay Malya, rising fuel prices are just adding to the woes. In short, they have left Modi cornered. This means RSS would pressure or prepare a replacement and that could only have been a CM who also has won 4 consecutive elections like him namely Raman Singh or Shivraj Singh. Of the trio, Shivraj has been known to be the most favourite to the RSS even more than Modi. They had pushed his name in run up to 2014 PM candidate too when Advani was removed from the fray. Thus, Modi's equation with Shivraj has never ever been too warm.
If you haven't deciphered yet, Vibrant Gujarat is how Modi has won hearts of all the top notch businessman of India and that's how the money lobby has been with him and you cannot run an election campaign without funds! So, Modi was the only option for the BJP and the RSS in 2014. Over the top, with SRCC Delhi address, he had been in constant eye of the public as most favourite PM prospect.
Sushma Swaraj, another avid Advani camp supporter, said she is not contesting and Nitin Gadkari had been on back foot ever since his video of interview of BJP to make tall promises was doctored and shared. Thus, the strongest challenger left for Modi was Shivraj. If you feel that the power equation doesn't work like this, see any good political movie or read story, power struggles are always like this and such subtle moves is what makes a good heavyweight candidate light weight. Manohar Parrikar - another 3 times chief minister is not doing well, due to his health and may not be able to leave Goa. Rajnath Singh or Jaitley are no where in the race. This just means Modi stands tallest with no one in sights far far away within the BJP just like it was in Gujarat.
If Shivraj had won hands down this time, he would have been a good challenger and being from the Advani camp, he would have enjoyed a lot of support from otherwise silently sitting anti-Modi camp within BJP. Shivraj had a wiggle room to win marginally this time but that would have still kept him weak to be pushed by RSS to challenge Modi, if he is not moving the agenda on Ram Mandir. Apart from Rajasthan voters giving alternate mandates every elections, Vasundhara has been open guns against Modi with both her and Modi loving autonomy. Rajasthan results were expected to be a Chhattisgarh-like debacle instead of which the result has shown decent support for BJP.
Here's where the magic trick happened
5827 rallies from September 2013 to May 2014 PM campaign versus 20 rallies in MP and Rajasthan in December 2018. Why the Modi juggernaught is still docked? One would like to say that with 15 years as CM - his team was all set and in auto mode versus his 5 years as PM - where he is still struggling with the right combination. The responsibilities of PM are way more than a CM. But, look how Modi campaigned during last 4 states elections in 2013 because it was his first campaign to PM and it was crucial to win these states in the run up to 2014. Now, it is his re-election, he had started campaigning way back from September in 2013, but in 2018, he has not even warmed up yet. Perhaps, this is what can be perceived as so-called arrogance of BJP but it also can be confidence and planning. He knows that people would definitely vote for BJP rather than the Mahagathbandhan stitched by Congress - especially in states of Gujarat, MP, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh. The sole reason is that they don't have a strong challenger and people want a stable government. The opposition is united by Modi but divided by individual agendas. Demonetization and GST may have been criticised to have destabilised the financial harmony but the niyaat of Modi has not been into the question. Moreover, the Ujjawala Yojana and Jyotigram Yojana, both efficiently led by his most trusted General Piyush Goyal has touched hearts of rural India and that is a big chunk in his favour. And that's where the magic trick happened. Electricity, LPG cylinders, toilets sent to your home after so many years of independence by BJP and not Congress who has ruled for 60 years. The Triple Talak law abolishment has brought in Muslim female votes heavily (look at UP) and Ujjawala, Swachch Bharat and Ayushman Bharat would bring in the rest of the rural female votes. I just found that the same thoughts are reflected here in this article.
In 2013, he was the most acceptable face as PM across parties and still he is. The first fight for him was to become the party campaign chief and then second fight was to be the PM candidate for the BJP. 5 years later in 2018 - he continues to do the same - first win within the BJP and thus make Modi-Shah duo at helm of campaign once again. Not only that, he is 1-0 up against RSS because the failures do credit to lack of on-ground support which can be put to RSS and they can be made to work harder in 2019 or be doomed under Rahul Gandhi led opposition. He has settled score with Vasundhara as well whilst he managed to win enough seats in Rajasthan and MP so that Rajya Sabha equation doesn't get hampered heavily.
People have often claimed Modi to eliminate the opposition within the party and against. That's his style. Well now, Modi is again the sole option for 2019 with no threats and they have to fall in line on whatever he says.
The non-performing and arrogant state ministers who otherwise would have brought huge flak to Modi's re-election have now been shown their place. You can call it Modi's Swachch BJP Abhiyaan. Modi has kept a tight leash on the MPs and ensured they work. Hence, the performance of BJP is going to be quite different in Lok Sabha. The BJP karyakartas also had also become too complacent, sleepy, over-confident or arrogant (look at Gujarat debacle - neck to neck fight). Modi-Shah duo just may have sent a wake up call to them that we are not going to win unless you run faster.
Whatever you say, even though BJP has lost, Modi has won yet again.
The author is a former advisor of Team Modi's tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat and has extensively worked on his 2014 campaign. However, he is enjoying the balcony view for 2019.