Five years after the Modi tsunami decimated the Opposition, the Congress in particular, it returned with a greater force on Thursday to finish off whatever remained of the adversary. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma and magic virtually turned India into a “lotus garden” with the final tally by Thursday evening coming close to the NDA’s “Mission 350”.
By continuing to lead in 345 seats, the BJP-led NDA is set to improve its 2014 tally by nine Lok Sabha berths. While the BJP on its own had bagged 282 seats in 2014, it is now all set to cross the 300 mark and the swearing-in-ceremony is expected to be held with much pomp and show by the end of the week.
With Thursday’s stupendous electoral triumph, Mr Modi emerged as the first Indian Prime Minister since Indira Gandhi to pull off an election on his own and win a second consecutive majority.
Mr Modi, in his victory speech at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, said, “This is a victory of Hindustan… this is a victory of people.” He also dedicated his victory to “nationalism.”
The force of the Modi tornado was such that Congress scion and party chief Rahul Gandhi lost the home turf Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh, which was being represented by the Nehru-Gandhi family for decades. On Thursday, he became the first Gandhi to lose from Amethi, after Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
By defeating Rahul Gandhi, who has been winning the seat since 2004, the BJP’s Smriti Irani has emerged as a giant killer. Following his defeat, the signal was loud and clear — the nation had rejected Rahul Gandhi’s slogan-”Chowkidar chor hai,” and instead reposed its faith in “chowkidar Narendra Modi” and his band of “chowkidars.”
The Congress, which had been confined to a meagre 44 seats in 2014, could manage to improve its tally by only eight seats.
Speaking after the debacle, Mr Gandhi, who has been credited with keeping the Congress’ election campaign comparatively clean as poll discourse touched a new low, “congratulated” Mr Modi, Smriti Irani and said that his was a fight of “ideology” which will continue, but the people of the country has chosen “Narendra Modi to be their leader” and he respected their mandate.
Mr Gandhi was not the only Congress heavyweight who faced defeat on Thursday. Stunning political pundits, Pragya Singh Thakur, who is out on bail and facing trial in the Samjahuta train blast case, trounced Congress’ Digvijay Singh from Bhopal and K.P. Yadav beat the other top Congress leader, Jyotiraditya Scinida, from Guna Lok Sabha constituency.
The Modi wave virtually caused a political earthquake in West Bengal where the party hiked up its tally from two Lok Sabha seats to 18. The Bengal result has pushed the mercurial state chief minister and Trinamul Congress chief, Mamata Banerjee, into a blind corner. If the trend continues, BJP could sweep the Bengal Assembly polls slated for next year.
The BJP’s victory hasn’t merely delivered a body blow to caste and vote bank politics, but also to the federal polity of the country. Mr Modi, assisted by his general and party president Amit Shah, forced regional satraps to follow his lead and build a national narrative.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Modi quake uprooted the much-hyped caste-based alliance of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Despite the “Mahagatbandhan”, the BJP was set to bag nearly 60 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state. It will take Herculean effort on the part of the SP-BSP to recover from this crippling saffron blow.
While regional players and the Congress had tried to build a campaign around caste politics, regional aspiration and economic hardship, Mr Modi changed the narrative by building his campaign on muscular nationalism, aggressive Hindutva and anti-Pakistan rhetoric. The BJP and Mr Modi harped on surgical strikes and even sought votes in the name of Pulwama “martyrs.”
All those questioning the government’s handling of national security were called the “tukde-tukde gang” and “pro-Pakistan.” Mr Modi and the BJP also managed to build a derisive campaign against political elite and dynastic politics by coning terms like “Khan Market gang.” Speaking to the media, Mr Modi had said, “Modi’s image has not been created by the Khan Market gang, or Lutyens’ Delhi, but 45 years of toil.”
The massive verdict for the BJP clearly indicated that majority of the nearly 15 million first-time voters chose Mr Modi’s nationalism over the Opposition’s campaign against economic mess and stress.
Massive endorsement of the BJP’s nationalist plank has transformed Mr Modi into the most powerful right-wing leader of the country ever. Some feel the impact of this victory will eventually be felt in the social, cultural arena across the country.
Besides Bengal, the Modi tornado tore into Odisha and Telangana where it had barely managed to make its presence felt in 2014.
One of the major differences between the BJP and the Congress is that the former is perpetually in campaign mode. In sharp contrast, once a battle is over, Congress leaders get complacent.
Despite losing the Hindi heartland — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to Congress in Assembly polls last year — the BJP struck back with vengeance in these three states. The party swept these states by winning 28 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh, all 25 seats in Rajasthan and nine out of 11 seats in Chhattisgarh.
In Karnataka, despite the JD(s)-Congress coalition government, the BJP won 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha berths.
That in the personality clash Mr Modi towered over Rahul Gandhi was evident in states where there was a direct fight between the two parties and the BJP swept the polls.
Prime Minister Modi, who is also called the “master of political theatre”, beat the Congress hands down at the game. In every phase he had a different narrative to attract the electorate.
While in the first phase of campaigning he played the jingoism card, in the second phase he played the poverty card and in the third his “non-political” interview by actor Akshay Kumar apparently charmed the ordinary voters. During the fourth phase, Mr Modi made a claim that a “Congress leader wants to kill me’”. Before the fifth phase he raised the Nehru bogey and before polling in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, he dragged in Rajiv Gandhi to stoke sentiments around anti-Sikh riots. Finally, he played the Hindutva card with his picturesque trip to the shrine in Kedarnath.