Rajat Sharma

Opposition must try to understand why Modi gets voters’ support

rajat-sirSoon after BJP scored spectacular wins in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now in his home state Gujarat, which is due to go to assembly polls later this year. He is busy chalking out a poll strategy for his party.

A day after addressing his jubilant party workers in Delhi, Modi took out a road show in Ahmedabad, and addressed meetings of party leaders, MPs, MLAs and panchayat chiefs. At a time, when leaders of other political parties are busy taking rest after gruelling campaigns in UP and Punjab, Modi appears to be quite energetic.

Modi was chief minister of the state for 13 years, and for the last 27 years BJP has been ruling Gujarat continuously, without a break. Any other leader in Modi’s position could have been complacent, but Modi belongs to a different breed. He never takes any challenge lightly.

Visuals of Modi’s visit to Gujarat are proof of his energetic role. There were cheering supporters on both sides of the ten km long road show from the airport to the BJP state headquarters in Gandhinagar. At his party office, Modi outlined the road map for party MLAs, MPs and other leaders.

More than a lakh elected gram panchayat representatives attended a big meeting, where Modi patiently explained to panchayat chief how to bring about development in their villages. The Panchayat Mahasammelan had the motto ‘Aapnu Gam, Aapnu Gaurav’ (My Village, My Pride). On Saturday, a massive Khel Mahakumbh will begin in more than 500 cities, towns and villages of Gujarat. More than 47 lakh youths have registered their names for participating in this Mahakumbh.

Modi’s rivals are surprised over his physical agility and stamina, and, that too, when he is going to turn 72 this year. Modi not only works hard during elections, but also meticulously plans each and every step of the campaign. His vision is always far-reaching. One has to understand why Modi convened a meeting of more than a lakh gram panchayat representatives and advised them how to bring self-reliance (atmanirbharta) in their villages.

If you go through the election data of 2017 Gujarat assembly polls, you will find that BJP got fewer votes in rural areas. The party got 99 seats, which was seven more than the number required for a majority. The 16 seats that BJP lost were all in rural areas. Congress won 77 seats, which was 18 more than it had won in 2012 elections. The Congress had got more votes in rural areas of Gujarat in 2017. Modi has not forgotten the fact that his party lost in 14 rural constituencies five years ago, and all these seats went to the Congress kitty.

Modi is, therefore, concentrating now on how to fill this gap in the party’s interact with rural voters. He has already started work on strengthening the party machinery in the villages of Gujarat. It is this ‘first mover’ advantage that puts Modi in a different league compared to other politicians.

After retaining power in four states, including the crucial state of UP, Modi went on to work on states which will go to elections later this year. On one hand, while opposition leaders are using their valuable time in issuing statements, posting tweets and indulging in blame games, they are oblivious of the fresh challenges that are going to come in their way.

To illustrate my point, let me cite the example of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. During his campaign, Akhilesh looked aggressive, claimed his party could win 400 out of 403 seats, bragged that Yogi Adityanath will return to his Gorakhpur ‘math’ after March 1, but on the day of reckoning, as results started pouring in, and when it was clear that BJP has recorded a comfortable victory, Akhilesh avoided coming in front of TV cameras. Akhilesh only posted on Twitter: “उप्र की जनता को हमारी सीटें ढाई गुना व मत प्रतिशत डेढ़ गुना बढ़ाने के लिए हार्दिक धन्यवाद! हमने दिखा दिया है कि भाजपा की सीटों को घटाया जा सकता है. भाजपा का ये घटाव निरंतर जारी रहेगा. आधे से ज़्यादा भ्रम और छलावा दूर हो गया है. बाक़ी कुछ दिनों में हो जाएगा”
(My thanks to the people of UP for increasing our seat tally by two and a half times, and vote share by 1.5 times. We showed that we can bring about decline in the number of seats won by BJP. This rate of decline will continue. More than half the deception and deceit is now over, and the rest will be over in a few days)

What Akhilesh did not say, was put on record by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. She alleged that BJP’s win in UP was not a victory of governance, but a victory of propaganda. She questioned, if SP’s voting percentage increased, then why wasn’t there a comparable rise in the number of seats? The TMC supremo alleged that Akhilesh and his party was defeated through malpractices in EVMs (electronic voting machines).

Mamata Banerjee also said that if a united opposition wants to defeat Modi in 2024 Lok Sabha polls, then it should stop relying on Congress. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut blamed Mayawati’s BSP and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi for Samajwadi Party’s defeat in UP. On her part, Mayawati blamed Muslim voters for not voting for BSP. She said, Muslim voters will rue their mistake in the near future.

Whatever these leaders may say in public, the fact is, opposition leaders are not ready to analyse the reasons that led to BJP’s historic win in UP. They are not ready to admit their mistakes and weaknesses.

Let me explain the main reasons behind Modi and Yogi’s win in UP. Both of them had already chalked out their strategy on which issues to focus as the polling went through seven phases. In the very first phase, they raised the issue of criminal gangs, political mafia, Yogi’s action against mafia by using bulldozers and the arms of law, and satisfactory law and order.

Along with this, both Modi and Yogi mentioned the welfare schemes that helped poor people, like Ujjwala scheme for LPG cylinders, PM Awas Yojana for building houses, drinking water, electricity connections, Kisan Samman Nidhi, and, above all, free rations to poor during the Covid pandemic. This caught the imagination of the ordinary, poor voter, and the voter decided to vote for BJP for its work.

Moreover, Yogi also worked on his pro-Hindutva image by frequently visiting Ayodhya, and speeding up work on Kashi Vishwanath corridor. The party appointed 10 workers for each polling both, who ensured that the voters would vote for BJP. This worked wonders for the party.

On the other hand, the opposition carried on with its negative campaign, its leaders were not visible for a long time, and they could not tell voters why opposition leaders had vanished during the acute phase of Covid pandemic. All these points went against the opposition. BJP’s gambit in allying with smaller parties paid off. Apna Dal, by wining 12 seats, has now become the third largest party in UP.

Women voters, irrespective of caste and religion, played a significant role in BJP’s victory. Women voters openly said, they welcomed the free rations given by Yogi and Modi during the last two years of pandemic.

You may remember, during the election campaign, opposition leaders were predicting that the BJP will be wiped off in western UP due to the farmers’ agitation, but this did not happen. There were dire predictions after the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, in which a vehicle belonging to a BJP leader’s son crushed protesters, but, in that region, BJP won all the eight assembly seats. There were also predictions that leaders like O P Rajbhar, Swami Prasad Maurya, Dharam Singh Saini, who quit BJP, would cause huge losses to the ruling party. The reverse happened. Maurya and Saini lost their seats.

Wins and losses do take place in elections, and voting percentage of parties do fluctuate. But if opposition leaders start blaming EVMs and blame BJP for its propaganda machinery, then I think, they will never be able to realize the true reasons for their defeat. The opposition will never be able to defeat Modi and his party, so long as it is unable to realize why Modi wins because of his connect with the common voter.

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