Millennium Post

Voters' outlook

The massive mandate in favour of BJP has curbed opposition voices in the aftermath of general elections. Soaring to its peak during the seven phases of the mandate, the fractured alliance of opposition parties ethically rejecting BJP's ideology for a 'New India' audaciously projected the end of Modi-Shah dominance. However, their intentions did not reach the roots. Discussing allegiances and candidates to field or even planning sops and counter-benefits – essential elements of election campaigning – happened proactively but they simply could not reach masses. The shortfall to inspire masses was evident in the dismal seats procured with party candidates losing out their respective battles as BJP ran riot with its massive popularity and strong image of Modi. Press and Media, and even experts dubbed it as a presidential-style contest and BJP also staged their campaign around Modi's return which invariably seeped in the average Indian psyche. The unavoidable question, 'if not Modi then who' played a huge part in that psyche. What the mandate shows is that Indians went for a safer bet, if not the best. High on confidence from 2014's mandate and boasting a non-graft term at the helm, BJP proactively mobilised groundwork to ensure that Modi's undeniable part in building a new India as well as his muscular reputation for its national security reached masses. Even if the entire episode of national security is discounted, it is fair to say that India simply did not want to vote for the current Congress. Historically, Congress has enjoyed deep-rooted fanfare but it did not seem so because BJP hit Congress exactly on that. The entire condemning the 'dynasty-style politics' played out by BJP urged voters to rethink the point of even voting for Congress. While BJP rallied around fundamental points such as the incapable coalition, no PM candidate in opposition, Congress's dynasty outlook and a rather naive leader in Rahul Gandhi, Congress built its resurgence by highlighting pitfalls of BJP – anti-incumbency. Their closed room policymaking to develop their claimed public-inspired manifesto fell short of Modi or Shah's rally urging voters to help Modi build the new India. While there is no doubt that the talking points of BJP's pitfalls remained one way to embed anti-BJP sentiment – as evident by a ruckus around Rafale, agrarian distress, unemployment, hollow promises, et al – they were simply not enough to swing the mandate. Multiple reasons can be corroborated for this, however, lack of a strong candidate, party's vision as well as concerted efforts to bring in alliances and promote a common agenda in the interest of the nation are some of the evidently critical gaps. A seemingly distraught Rahul Gandhi offered his resignation that was calmly rejected by the Congress Working Committee, which instead provided Rahul authority to revamp Congress. It is true that Congress needs to list down reasons for its downfall and make amends but a successive loss, and that too by a larger margin, narrates a tale more than just a collection of few reasons. It hints at party ideology and effectiveness. Congress did not do anything out of the box to appease masses. NYAY was a bold move but not something unexpected since discussions around a Universal Basic Income scheme had done the rounds. Their pursuit of tarnishing Modi's powerful image also did not materialise simply because Modi's work and zero instance of corruption provided him an edge. Surveys, opinion and exit polls, discussions across the country are enough to collectively build the narrative of 'Why Modi'. But do they answer 'why Congress' or 'why Rahul' in case we pitch Rahul against Modi in a direct presidential-style contest? Even the lobby of intellectuals which were visibly showcasing dissent through social media or otherwise, failed to dent Modi's durable popularity when it came to Centre's seat. Since 2014 – when it, ideally, learnt a lesson – Congress has not been able to muster that kind of support as enjoyed by the party in the previous decade or for that matter even before. In this context, their current tally merely reflects sympathy. Because Rahul's loss in Amethi is enough to realise BJP's groundwork. Apart from mobilising more voters – voter turnout in Amethi increased from 874,623 in 2014 to 942,543 votes in 2019 – BJP ensured a division in Congress vote. A patchwork of stitching alliances cost Congress dearly. It was easy for people to perceive that the opposition parties are not clear in their agenda, both towards their own objectives and alliance. This perception was inflated by BJP through their strong PM-candidate and five-year report card minus pitfalls. And, for BJP, its pitfalls were as if they never existed for no one spoke of demonetisation – a decision which affected masses and whose intentions changed before and after implementation – but they still got an overwhelming mandate. Congress's victory in the assembly elections of Rajasthan, MP, and Chhattisgarh but a drastic loss in general election provides an insight into voters' perception.

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