By Vijay Darda | 30-05-2014
Although the formal notification of the election schedule came much later, the campaign for general elections was kicked off when the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was anointed as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate in its Goa conclave on September 13, 2013. From then onwards till May 16th, when the votes were finally counted, and the results declared that the Modi-led BJP had won an unprecedented 282 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats (an absolute majority on its own), this has been a gripping saga without a single dull moment.
Modi has not just won the elections. On the way to this victory he has won many battles beginning from the one in which he was locked in an ego clash with his one-time mentor L K Advani. There is the long standing battle with his own public persona, and the challenge of reinventing himself as the prime minister of a culturally diverse nation from the much maligned past of being the most attacked chief minister of Gujarat. This has been called a Modi versus all election. He has won it single-handedly against all.
The fact that it was not a vote for BJP but for Narendra Modi cannot be lost sight of. And he also emerged as a symbol of change. He very intelligently and cleverly used this factor that ultimately resulted in the elections rising above caste and religious considerations. It was of course a positive gain where these considerations were not in operation. That way this election could be considered epoch making.
Come to think of it, our elections have been personality dominated right from the start, and even though we have the Westminster style of parliament on the British model, and in theory the prime minister is elected by the members of Parliament, in practice right from the days of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952, we have witnessed the US-presidential style campaigns. The main leader bears the brunt of the campaign.
During Panditji’s heydays, he could even get a lamp post elected, runs the legend. So, in running a big personality centred campaign, Modi has not reinvented the wheel, but only added the powerful element of an all-encompassing multimedia communication, innovative marketing and event management strategy. This happened on a scale that has never been witnessed in our elections, and paid rich dividends in terms of creating an all-round perception of Modi as the winner.
The results and their detailed break-up validate the long held view that when it comes to elections then amid the cacophony of all the political voices, the millions of Indian voters acting as individuals separated by distances and divided by every conceivable element have the unique ability to produce a synchronous verdict that best serves their interests.
So, whether it is at the state level or at the national stage, maybe we can now bid a goodbye to the days of fractured mandates and coalition governments. The fact that the BJP got a majority on its own and created a scenario that appeared far-fetched to many even within the party prior to the counting day only highlights the magnitude of the victory only underscores the collective brilliance of the voters that liberated the party managers from the hassles of living with the tantrums of the coalition partners. It is this wisdom of the electorate that needs to be appreciated.
The party’s sweep of the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi where it did not let any seat slip out of its hands, and its complete domination of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, where no other party could get seats in double digits is the numerical evidence of the success of brand Modi and its aggressive campaign. There is an added factor of this campaign that reveals the mindset of the voters. They came out in huge numbers, and it appears that having grasped the mood for change they just wanted to ensure that for Modi nothing was left to chance, and avoid a situation in which at the end of the day, they are left ruing the fact that he has fallen short of a few numbers. The fact that many traditional non-BJP voters changed their mind in this election, only shows that this was a case of a good product being backed up by some efficient marketing and organisational skills. Further evidence of this ‘determination’ among the voters is reflected in the average winning margins of the BJP candidates.
In this day and age of live television, there is a multiplier effect that is achieved within moments. A leader may be addressing a few thousands at the venue of a public meeting, but then his message reaches out to millions and moreover is played throughout the day. For Modi, the media played the positive role as multiplier to the extent that the BJP slogans caught the imagination of the young non-voting segments in homes. But the Modi campaign did not leave it at that and included everything in its arsenal from traditional nukkad sabhas and street plays to branded rallies, high-tech 3D rallies to Bollywood-style anthems and jingles, illuminated hoardings and newspaper advertisements, and reached most of the six lakh villages, almost every urban and semi-urban household, every TV set, radio, cell phone, WhatsApp, YouTube and the internet user. You just could not miss the Modi message.
Modi also enlisted the support of the youths from the IITs and IIMs and used their expertise to reach the masses through the social media. He involved them from the very beginning of his campaign.
His skills as an orator helped, and the fact that he was pitted against a perceived reluctant politician helped to convert the contest into a one-horse race. There was the danger of falling short of the halfway mark, but that was avoided by relentless campaigning and an organisational effort backed by the structure and dedication of the swayamsewaks of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. When they picked up Modi as their nominee to be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and this had gambled by putting all the eggs in one basket and raised their stakes. It now appears that the gambler’s logic has worked – higher the stakes greater the gains.
(To be continued)