Modi-Amit Shah poll strategy worked magic figures

ASHOK B SHARMA*

Is it the Modi wave or Modi magic that helped the BJP sweep the polls in Haryana and emerge as the single largest party in Maharashtra? It is time to distinguish the term “wave” and the term “magic”. An honest analysis shows that it is well calibrated strategy of Modi-Amit Shah duo that worked out the magic figures.

Some may question that if the Modi wave or magic, whatever you choose to call it, could work in Maharashtra and Haryana, then why did it not work at the time of the by-elections in Uttarakhand and Bihar. The answer to this is simple – by-elections were in isolated pockets where the candidates were the central figures and where the image of the party mattered less.

Some point to the record voter turnout of 76 per cent in Haryana and high turnout of 64 per cent in Maharashtra as the cause of BJP’s success. It is true that high voter turnout has always favoured the BJP.

Apart from this, there are other factors that gave BJP the bonanza before Diwali. It had gone solo and emerged as the single largest party in both the states. It did not project any chief ministerial candidate in the two states. Prime minister Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi was the only face of the BJP and the image of Modi and the party’s outreach to almost all sections of the population across caste, region and religion barriers seems to have paid. The aspirational youth were impressed by the ‘clean’ image of Modi and his promises for development. Voting pattern in this country has long since been on the basis of caste, region and religion. But first time voters and the young unemployed populace are more allured by the promises for development.

Modi as the star campaigner and the party president Amit Shah knew well that apart from fielding prospective candidates from vocal and assertive communities, the agenda for development can appeal to the young generation in particular.

BJP got 33.2 per cent votes bagging 47 out of 90 seats in Haryana, up from the 4 seats it secured in last assembly polls with only 9 per cent votes. Second in the race was the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) with 19 seats and 24.1 per cent votes, while the Congress was relegated to the third position with 15 seats and 20.6 per cent votes. Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress got 2 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal had to contend themselves with one seat each.

The predominant Jat community got split between INLD, BJP and the Congress. Chautala’s INLD, however, had the major share of Jat votes cornering about 45 per cent. About 22 per cent of Jat votes went to the BJP and 28 per cent to the Congress owing to the appeal made by the outgoing chief minister Hooda who belongs to the same community. BJP also fielded prospective Jat candidates like the party spokesperson, Captain Abhimanyu Singh and the farmer leader Om Prakash Dhankar.

BJP’s vote bank amongst the Baniyas and Brahmins, however, remained almost intact with only 11 per cent going to INLD and 14 per cent to the Congress. Other attempts at mobilisation done by the BJP were amongst the Scheduled Castes which formed the vote bank for the Congress. The BJP pulled about 31 per cent of the Scheduled Caste votes while 41 per cent remained with the Congress and 14 per cent went to INLD.

The most successful mobilisation of votes by the BJP was among the non-Jats, particularly OBCs, Punjabis and other castes. This was the major factor in propelling BJP to power. About 55 per cent of non-Jat OBCs and 49 per cent of Punjabis voted in favour of BJP.

However, in the three constituencies of Mewat region- Nuh, Ferozepur Jhirka and Punaha- which have 75 per cent Meo Muslims, the BJP  here cut a sorry figure.

Another factor that weighed in favour of the BJP was that majority of the people in the state were in favour of a change of government after 10 years of Congress rule. Modi’s image which is clean than that of Chautala or Hooda clicked the voter’s mind. The support extended by the influential organisation Dera Saccha Sauda boosted BJP’s propsects.

In the four-cornered contest in Maharashtra, the BJP, banking solely on Modi’s charisma, bagged 122 seats, falling short of majority by 23 seats. Just before the polls, BJP and Shiv Sena parted ways. Both these two parties with similar ideological backgrounds increased their tally- BJP by 76 seats and Shiv Sena by 19 seats. BJP cornered 27.8 per cent votes, while Shiv Sena mobilised 19.3 per cent votes in its favour. The tally of both BJP and the Shiv Sena when summed up comes to 185 in a house of 288 seats- this signals a clear majority.

But since both the BJP and the Shiv Sena have gone to the polls alone, it is interesting to analyse what prevented the BJP from achieving the magic number. After 15 years of Congress-NCP rule people were waiting for a change. With all the four parties- Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP going alone in the polls, people made their decisive choice and showed the political parties, where they stand.

For BJP it was strategic and a decisive risk to go alone. In a situation where people were desirous for a change, BJP thought it was the right time to strike the right chord with Modi’s development agenda. It did its home work to humble the Congress and the NCP, but not the Shiv Sena. 

BJP and the Shiv Sena locked horns in about 25 to 35 seats, which proved costly for both. BJP lost 12 seats by a margin of less than 2,000 votes.

BJP fared well in all regions of Maharashtra with the exception of Konkan. Its tally in Vidharba was the best with 44 out of 62 seats. In Marathwada, BJP increased its tally from 7 to 15 out of 46 seats. It is significant that Modi began his poll campaign from Beed in this region, where the former Union minister Gopinath Munde hailed from. The party performed well in northern and western Maharashtra too. In Mumbai-Thane area it was in neck-to-neck with Shiv Sena.

According to some poll surveys, the Modi-Amit Shah combine cut into caste barriers. Keeping its traditional Baniya-Brahmin vote bank intact, BJP made considerable dent into the Maratha vote bank of Shiv Sena and consolidated the OBCs and scheduled tribes in its favour. It made considerable dent into the scheduled caste vote bank of the Congress. Its support from Muslims was marginal.

It was Modi’s magic wand and Amit Shah’s strategy that worked to make inroads breaking caste, region, and religion barriers with the promise of the development agenda. It appealed to the youth and the first-time voters in a big way. Some may like to call it a ‘wave’ or a ‘tsunami’. Others may question that if the Modi wave could work there, why did it not work at the time of the by-elections in Uttarakhand and Bihar. The answer to this is that by-elections were in isolated pockets where the candidates were the central figures and where the image of the party mattered less. But politics on a mass scale like the Lok Sabha or the assembly polls had to have the Modi-Amit Shah combine to garner votes, support and ensure the part came out victorious. This in real sense can be termed as a well calibrated poll strategy that worked like magic.

(*The writer is a senior Columnist writing in several national and international dailies and magazines. He can be reached at ashokbsharma@gmail.com His mobile phone no 09810902204)

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