Will Modi’s trilogy buck 2004 trend?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Prof Alok Kumar Rai

The dynamics of socio-political ecosystem of the country is changing fast as the grand carnival of LokSabha General election 2019 approaches. Skeptics are waiting for a repeat of 2004 where Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government failed to stage a comeback despite very strong credentials, while the Modi supporters are hoping for a BJP win – bigger than the 2014 elections.

The outcome would in any case be known by May mid, but till then the opposition and BJP has taken the plunge in the electoral battlefield with a no holds barred campaign, at times making it too personal.

Three-pronged strategy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team seem to be working on a three-pronged strategy. First, BJP seems to be doing all within its limitation to make 2019 general elections an election of a leader than simply of an MP or election of a political party. Without doubt it can be concluded that Narendra Modi is the tallest political brand in the contemporary Indian politics, thus this suits the narrative of the BJP. His image of a proactive and decisive leader with the ability to connect with masses gives him a pan India appeal. While BJP is banking on the Modi card his challengers in the opposition seem to be competing amongthemselves.

The three biggest challengers, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee and Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati have never shared a platform designed for the purpose and are outperforming each other with different initiatives. Congress, being the second largest party in the country today, would be competing directly with the BJP in many of the states hence Congress president is obviously the biggest challenger to Modi. Strategic limitation of Rahul’s efforts is that he is challenging PM Modi by trying to be Modi which limits the intended outcome.

Mamata’s TMC hardly has any presence beyond West Bengal and Mayawati’s BSP connects only with a particular social group. Hence, a leader centric campaign serves the interest of the BJP more than any other contemporaries.

Second, through consistent efforts over four and half years of the government, Modi has been able to redefine BJP known as a party of “Brahmins and Baniyas” to a party of the deprived. His social sector initiatives like the JanDhan Yojana, Awaas Yojana, Ujjawala Yojana, Saubhagya Yojna, Sauchalaya Yojana, Ayushmaan Yojana were aimed at the downtrodden leading to creation of a new social and economic class that is gradually coming to the fold of the BJP. The humble socio-economic background of PM Modi and several appointments made by him in governance of the country and states have also complemented in the emergence of this new and reinvented BJP. This has been received well by the target segment as well.

Whatever was done has been done by Modi

Whatever will be done, will also be done by Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

To quote an instance, PM Modi came for a stamp release ceremony in the name of “Maharaj Suheldev” followed by a huge public rally organised by Manoj Sinha, Union Minister of Communication in his Lok Sabha constitutency, Ghazipur. After the rally when the crowd was leaving, a person aged in 50’s clad in bright white Dhoti-Kurta with jacket, seemingly belonging to upper caste while talking to one of his friend in Bhojpuri said, “Modiji bolalan bahut badhiya, baaki kailan kuchh naa”. (Modiji spoke very well, but he didnot do anything). A person walking just beside him clad in faded dhoti-kurta and chappal intervened and said, “Bura mat manab sabah, jawan kalian tawan Modiji hi kalian, aur jaun karihen, tawan Modiji hi karihen” (Please don’t feel offended sir. Whatever was done has been done by him only and whatever will be done, will also be done by him only). This concludes that a new BJP is born.

Third, Despite running a relatively “Feel Good” government, AtalBihari Vajpayee government could not get re-elected one of the reasons attributed to this has been poor alliance. Modi-Shah led BJP has been wise enough to forge alliances that could provide them synergy. There are two forms of alliance BJP is working on,

i)                   The alliance where partners are being made part of NDA and open and joint collaboration is being carved out like in the states of UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and continuing with the existing one even if it calls for a taking a step or two back.

ii)                 The strategic alliances where understanding is supposedly being built for a post poll scenario like in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana with YSR Congress and TRS.

This had become inevitable as the opposition has been able to forge a formidable alliance to challenge the BJP. In UP, it was SP-BSP alliance and in Bihar, it was relatively a larger alliance among RJD, Congress, HAM, RLSP. BJP also has reworked on its alliance model and increased its fold by adding few more alliance partners than 2014 in UP and has already added Nitish’s JDU at the expense of few seats and RLSP. Similarly, they could keep Shiv Sena with them by making a little more sacrifice.

It will certainly be interesting to see if PM Modi’s trilogy works for him in 2019 general elections.

Prof ALOK KUMAR RAI

Prof ALOK KUMAR RAI

(The author is Professor at Institute of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University. The views expressed are strictly personal)