Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brand appeal has delivered its ‘jaadu’ yet again. BJP’s poll slogan ‘Modi ki guarantee’ was at the centre of the party’s campaign in all the recently conducted Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana. The 3-1 verdict between the BJP and Congress in the assembly elections is a big boost for PM Modi ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in six months. But what does it entail? What is the writing on the wall? What does these elections tell us about the upcoming biggest festivity of democracy in May, 2024?
Political analysts on both sides of the political spectrum have their partisan takes. For some, Modi magic is inevitably stronger than ever. For others, the “six months” factor can make lots of difference and “I.N.D.I.A” can make a comeback at any time.
The question remains what is the Modi phenomenon? Is it just a personality cult, charisma like none other, or is there more to it? Have the people of Bharat instilled their hopes in a person, in an idea, or in an idea manifesting itself as a person? Let us find out.
One Big Nationalist Win
After the decline of Indira Gandhi and the “Congress System,” Indian politics for more than three decades saw the emergence and strengthening of regional parties. In fact, Indira Gandhi had a big role to play in it. But 2014 promised a resurgence of Nationalist politics and it has never looked back. The recent Assembly elections proved that the case remains so. The 2023 Assembly elections came as a wake-up call for regional parties that gave away their vote shares to the big elephant in their room. The BJP stood victorious in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. But the gains it made was more from the regional parties than its major rival Congress.
The BJP gained a 7.5 per cent vote share in Madhya Pradesh in 2023, compared to the 2018 elections. This gain comprised only 0.7 per cent of the Congress party’s vote share but majorly the 2.6 per cent loss in vote share of Independent candidates, a 0.8 per cent loss for the Samajwadi Party, and a 1.7 per cent loss in vote share for the Bahujan Samaj Party, among others. Similarly, in Rajasthan, the BJP snatched a 2.8 per cent vote share from its opponents, but mostly from the BSP and independent candidates, who lost 2.3 per cent and 1.2 per cent vote shares, respectively. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) too lost 1.2 per cent vote share in the state.
Communal “Vote Bank” Politics Persists
The Telangana verdict indicates a Muslim consolidation behind Congress, away from regional parties. The shift of minority votes from Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) to Congress in Telangana repeats a pattern we saw in Karnataka earlier this year, where significant numbers of Muslim voters shifted from Janata Dal (Secular) to Congress as well. The BRS won only 18 of 39 Muslim-significant seats (down 12 from last time). Significantly, Asaduddin Owaisi’s party, AIMIM, only managed to win 3 seats (down 4 from 2018). SP’s Akhilesh Yadav in UP and Trinamool Congress’s Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal will be watching this development closely.
The minority vote has historically been an important bulwark of their electoral support base. But simultaneously, in other states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, with a sizeable Muslim population of 7 per cent and 9 per cent respectively, the “vote bank” consolidation didn’t bother the BJP. Muslims in Telangana are more than 12 per cent and there has been a more than 10 per cent resistance formula at play ever since Modi government came into power in 2014. Eventually, the all-inclusive “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” government will have to go back to the drawing board to reevaluate why certain communities are not voting for development agenda, and why they still choose to become pawns for pseudo-secularists.
Women Voters’ March Ahead
In Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, the BJP campaigned around issues that concern women. The state where the impact of women was most felt was Madhya Pradesh, where the saffron party won 163 seats 230-member Assembly and Congress was reduced to 66. BJP’s social welfare schemes have kept people in the state satisfied. And what worked wonders for the party this year were the “Ladli” schemes. The “Ladli Laksmi” and “Ladli Behana” were big hit among women. In March, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan launched the Ladli Behna Yojana, under which all women over the age of 23 would get Rs 1,000 every month.
In Chhattisgarh, the BJP included financial assistance for women in its manifesto. The party proposed Rs. 12,000 for unmarried women voters as an annual allowance, a scheme announced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the state. It is clear that BJP under PM Modi is focusing a lot on the “Other 50 per cent” and women voters are rewarding the party for their development and welfare. It is, but obvious, that the BJP will continue its good work after taking the historic step of Women’s Reservation Bill, 2023, and it will be rewarded for the same in 2024.
Rejection of Caste Politics
The lukewarm response the repeated Caste Survey call given by Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi in the assembly elections show that people have summarily rejected the attempted resurgence of Mandal-ism in the 21st century. For “I.N.D.I.A”, caste survey seemed like a game-changing super weapon to combat the BJP’s poll juggernaut ahead of the 2024 polls, but its failure indicates two things. First, the BJP continues to retain its OBC base. Second, people are rejecting the idea of wide-scale social disruption that a putative caste survey would surely herald.
They seem to be choosing stability over social strife. For instance, almost one-third of MP’s 230 assembly seats are OBC-dominated. BJP was leading in 49 (20 more than last time) of 67 OBC-dominant seats in the state. PM Narendra Modi recently stated, “Interacting with beneficiaries of Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, the Prime Minister said, “Mere liye desh ki sabse badi chaar jatiyan hain. Mere liye sabse badi jaati hai garib. Mere liye sabse badi jaati hai yuva, mere liye sabse badi jaati hai mahilayen. Mere liye sabse badi jaati hai kisan.” (For me, there are four biggest castes in the country. For me, the biggest caste is the poor. For me, the biggest caste is the youth, the biggest caste is women. For me, the biggest caste is farmers). It seems the people of Bharat agree with him.
The Assembly elections have highlighted four core issues—resurgence of nationalism over regionalism, the persistence of minority communalism and “vote bank” mentality, the arrival of women in the parliamentary corridors in their full strength, and rejection of casteism. BJP with his uncompromising nationalist fervour, will march ahead to 2024 and would surely consolidate the whole nation under one programme of national interest in the Amrit Kaal. Of course, the opposition will keep flagging fault lines of “North-South Divide,” “Hindi vs Non-Hindi”, and what not, but the people of Bharat won’t be fooled by their divisive politics.