Is there a Modi wave in India?


If anything the voter turnout in the initial phases of the election tells us, it is that the general election 2014 is no normal election. This election is as much about finding practical solutions to our problems as it is about opposing the status quo. The general public’s political awareness has increased in last 2 years. The public wants to engage in different issues rather than preferring to be helpless bystander. The youth of India (many first time voters among them) has also started taking a lot of interest in the day to day politics.  There is an underlying hope among the electorate that the 2014 election results will change the economic and political scene in the country forever. There is a ‘current’ that is working in the country which has made the public to resist nonperformance of the political class.

How big is this current? Can it be called a wave? Is it similar to the political wave India experienced in the elections of 1977, 1980, 1984 and 1989? What is the nature of this wave? Is it anti-Congress or Pro-Modi wave?

On December 8th, when the results of 4 assembly elections were declared, I was of the view that if India is experiencing any wave like phenomenon then it is anti-congress in nature and Modi is the face of this wave. The voting pattern in the 4 states (Rajasthan, MP, Chattishgarh & Delhi) indicated that people voted more against Congress than for BJP (which is the principal alternative of Congress in India).

Is it the same for parliamentary elections as well? Or has the anti-congress wave converted into a pro-Modi wave with time? Obviously, the final result on the May 16th can answer these questions.

In case, the following results are obtained on the 16th of May, the wave can be called an anti-congress wave.

1. Congress ends up with historically low number of seats (<=114) in the 16th lok sabha.
In 1999, Congress was reduced to its lowest ever figure in Lok Sabha (114) thanks to the rising BJP and regional parties. If Congress’ seats in the 16th Lok Sabha is around that figure or even lower, the mood all over the country can be declared as anti-congress. If we assume the Opinion poll results to be true, then this scenario is very much likely on the May 16th. In fact many polls are predicting less than 100 seats for Congress this time which will be a serious blow to the grand old party of India.

2. Congress fails to achieve the first position (in terms of no. of seats) in almost all states.
As per all opinion polls, except Karnataka (close fight, but Congress ahead), Kerala and Assam, Congress is nowhere in fight in any of the states. Congress may not even win seats in double digit in many states.

3. Most big leaders of UPA (including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi) will lose their seats.
In 1977, the Janata wave had swept the North India and as a result of which Indira and Sanjay Gandhi had lost their ‘safe’ seats of Amethi and Rae Bareily. It was a sign that Congress was thoroughly defeated. Will 2014 see a repeat? The reluctance shown by senior congress leaders to fight this time seem to be an indication what the results might be.

*If Sonia and Rahul manage to win their seats (even with less margin), the 2014 wave can be easily considered as smaller than the 1977 wave.

4. Congress becomes a minor player in the South India.
Even when the anti-congress wave had swept the whole of North India, South India remained sympathetic towards the Congress in 1977. In fact, after losing the Rae Bareily seat, Indira Gandhi seeked re-election in 1978 from Chikmagalur in Karnataka. The electoral wave post emergency, therefore, was not pan India and limited only to North India. The support for Congress in the southern part of the Indian peninsula can be gauged from the very fact that Sonia Gandhi fought from Bellary, Karnataka along with the Rae Bareily when her acceptance was in doubt. It is not surprising therefore that the state of Andhra Pradesh has been providing the largest no. of MPs to Congress in last 2 general elections.

If the recent opinion polls are anything to go by, Congress’s survival in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu is under serious risk. In Karnataka, it is in neck to neck fight with a resurgent BJP after Yeddyurappa’s return.

Now for this anti-congress wave to convert into a pro-Modi wave, following events need to occur.

1. BJP will win a record number of seats in the Lok Sabha (185+ at least)
BJP’s highest ever tally in the LS is 183 which it won in the 1999 general election. If there is a definite support in the public for Modi, it must cross the 183 mark set by Vajpeyee. If there is indeed a wave, it should breach the 200 mark as well which will be an unprecedented achievement for a party which has a limited geographical spread.

2. All big leaders of the NDA should win their seats handsomely

3. Modi will secure thumping victories from both his seats

4. Not just the Congress, even the regional parties/AAP fail to stop the BJP
If regional parties and AAP who are opposed to the BJP & Congress win a fair number of seats (which will automatically lead to a <185 seats scenario for the BJP), then it will puncture the claims of a pan India Modi wave. If people prefer a third party in seats where Congress (or its ally) is not the prime opponent of the BJP, then BJP can’t claim to be the public’s natural choice for the Congress’ alternative.

However, the non-congress, non-BJP parties are not doing well if the opinion polls are to be believed. As per such poll results and ground reports, JDU in Bihar and SP, BSP in UP (which are the major regional players) will finish below BJP in the respective states. In Odisha, reports claim that BJP has made some serious dents to the BJD vote bank in parliamentary polls without having solid party structure in the state. Sensing the mood, even non-NDA regional parties (like MNS, INLD etc.) are using Narendra Modi’s name for their poll campaign.

5. In South India, BJP gets more seats than the Congress
All requirements for a true Modi wave will be complete if BJP, for the first time in its history, wins more seats than the Congress in the south India. It looks like a possibility as BJP has gained ground in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (after alliance with TDP). Its alliance in the Tamil Nadu with MDMK, DMDK and PMK can also win a few seats and heavily damage the AIADMK base.


Not Jasmine, but India can have a ‘Lotus Revolution’

Time for the Lotus to bloom?

Indians, like citizens of many countries, are excited about the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ which has erupted in the Arab countries and countries in North Africa. The people in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Baharin, Yemen etc. have come to the street to protest against the autocratic regime in their countries which have set examples of poor governance. People here have started questions like, “Doesn’t India need a Jasmine revolution? After all these scams, inflation, price rise, goof ups in external affairs etc. we badly need a change. We must have our own Jasmine Revolution against this governance deficit”.

While thousands of  people hitting the street protesting against the government sounds exciting, but to be honest, India doesn’t need it. It is simply because there is no autocratic system ruling us. Whichever party (coalition to be exact as much has been blamed upon coalitions and its dharma these days) assumes power in India is chosen through a definite democratic process. There are enough checks available in Indian system to regulate the government’s activity. Independent bodies audits government’s conduct. Judiciary raps a government for its misdeeds. Opposition parties try to formulate the public opinion against the misdeeds of the party in power (may be for their own political gain). Media (with question marks over its neutrality) in many cases keeps up the public pressure on the governments. If the government still remain involved in anti-people activities, the people use their ‘Ramvaan‘ and vote out them in the next election. This wasn’t the case in the countries where Jasmine Revolution erupted. As we have these systems in place in our country, we don’t need any Jasmine revolution.

What we can consider is having a ‘Lotus Revolution’. The current regime at the center under the leadership of the Congress party doesn’t instill the confidence that it can rule the country anymore. The regulatory authorities mentioned above applied their muscles to force the UPA to change its road that is taking the country and the Aam Admy to Ravan Rajya. Days after days, we are angered with news of scams and how the powerful people inside the government guided the scamsters with their leadership. The blood boils when some other friends of the scamsters support the activity in full public view. As the year of scams 2010 ended, everyone in this country had hoped that the new year would be a different one. Highly wished wish remained a wish and the new year was no better. With ministers reportedly involved in series of scams, one would expect the top leaders take action against them and show the sign of confidence to the people. But neither the PM nor the UPA chief Sonia Gandhi seemed to be taking any action against the culprits. The PM looked hapless as ever; difference this time was that his pathetic condition was screaming more loudly than ever. Madamji either didn’t or couldn’t want to control her children. The country wanted to see her as a ‘Tiger Mom’ but she couldn’t get into that role nor the ‘charming prince’ could be the ‘tiger cub’.

If scams weren’t enough, the pathetic leadership got us into a serious inflationary condition in which price rise and inflation is justified saying these conditions will stay along with India’s growth. What a handicapped ‘Bharat Nirman’ is being done! The economist PM, the planning commission chief Montek Singh’s deadlines for reducing inflations passed silently as the prices remained high. So what’s the way to rein this unruly government?

After all the regulations imposed by the externally regulatory forces, the only option left is the flexing muscles by the people i.e. to vote the government out of the power. But there is one major problem in pursuing this option. Voting out Congress means choosing BJP and its coalition. That is what I call the ‘Lotus Revolution’. For people join this Lotus Revolution, the BJP has to be strong enough. People must believe that BJP is THE alternative to the current government which can give the country the good governance.

Road to 2014 for BJP/ The Lotus Revolution:

The BJP must brand itself as the alternative to the Congress in the next 3 years. It must get out of its nonsensical approach to issues. It must understand how people vote. Many political analysts and BJP leaders say that BJP lost elections in 2004 and 2009 because of India Shining slogan and attacking manmohan Singh personally respectively. Does the result of a national election depend on such small events during election campaigns?

People judge parties on their performances in the past five years. Their is a certain trend to explain how the people decide whom they vote. There can be a theory that precisely explains how a certain party is chosen and the others are not. When people feel extremely for or against a particular party, they vote in a definite way. If the governance is bad, then the govt. turns demon in the eyes of the common men and they vote with a national agenda in mind. When people faced Indira Gandhi’s emergency, whole India voted against her and her party lost even in traditional congress bastions. People chose the alternative which was the Janata Party then. When Janata Party couldn’t fare well as per people’s expectations and equaled their previous regimes in the level of misrule, people voted them out too and the alternative, Congress, was chosen. It was not the case of that period only. Later in nineties when doubts raised in minds of Indians about Rajiv Gandhi thanks to his flip flops in Shah Bano case and later opening Ayodhya locks, people perceived himself as a politician who can play with religious sentiments as per his requirement of votes. He was voted out and Congress was made week by the people. As there was no clear alternative, it only made BJP slightly stronger. He was the same Rajiv who rode the sympathy to the PM’s kursi few years earlier. People felt strongly sympathetic about him after Indira Gandhi’s assassination and voted according to the theory. On the other hand, when a government gives satisfactory governance, people vote differently without any national agenda. They vote according to their local needs and demands. In LokSabha elections, the voter thinks about the party’s promises for his state/area and vote accordingly. In such cases, lack of alternatives means people choose to continue with the same regime. Immediately after the Independence, due to lack of alternatives and people’s low aspirations from the govt.s, Congress continued to rule the country.

BJP needs to understand its failures and this theory explains it all. In 2004, the governance was satisfactory. If closely checked, govt. was perceived to be pro-urban if not anti-rural. With India entering the high tech age (more due to demand of the world), an imaginary divide grew between the rural and urban areas. BJP buoyed by its popularity among the middle class urban voters couldn’t see it. In the mean time Congress under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership strengthened its rural base. Sonia was smart as she was aware that the largest voter base still lives in the rural Bharat. That is why Rahul Gandhi often try to invoke that Bharat-India divide even now. As the voters could have gone any way in 2004, they chose congress as they felt it to be nearer to them. In 2009, again the governance was satisfactory. The voter could have tilted any way but Congress ensured the rural voters stays with it thanks to schemes like NREGS and farmers’ loan waiver. While BJP, still unable to see its deficiencies, kept on making its urban class image stronger. It’s extreme Hindutva had made it unpopular among many sections in the society.

For this ‘Lotus Revolution’ to take place, BJP needs to project itself as a national alternative of the Congress. It should be near to the rural voters as nearer as  it aspires to be to the urban voters. This rural+urban vote base is a sure win strategy. BJP can find the examples in its own ranks. Narendra Modi, arguably BJP’s most popular icon, is often branded as pro-industry CM something the urban voters like. That doesn’t make him alienated to his rural voters. In fact, he has been successful in developing infrastructure in the rural areas of his state, Gujarat. He has made the Public Distribution System of the system fault free. Broadband connectivity of villages, electrification of almost all villages in the state, improving the agricultural infrastructures are some of the very popular and positive steps that Modi’s govt. has taken to win the hearts of the rural mass. People feel connected with the administration as their CM hears public grievances directly. No wonder, Modi is in his 10th year of power in the state.

BJP’s other successful CMs’ case is more or less the same. Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh has more or less adopted the Modi model and elections after elections his govt. continues to be in power. Raman Singh too has re-written the growth story of Chattishgarh and also remains connected to the poor rural class. I have heard that Raman Singh, a doctor, continues to run his clinic to see patients on his free days for free of cost.

BJP must take note of these examples and plan its strategy accordingly. The only way to the power in New Delhi is by winning the Indian Vote bank (and not any specific religion, caste, region or income group’s votes) which is quite easy considering the anger among the general public. Presently, the ammunitions in the hand of BJP is more due to the Govt.’s inactivity than the opposition’s activity. It must get its acts together and start its preparations for the ‘Lotus Revolution’ in the 2014 from NOW.

Can BJP make Vajpeyee’s lines “Andhera Hatega. Suraj Nikalega. Kamal Khilega” true?