What happened to “Modi-wave?”

Notwithstanding the hype raised about the so-called “Modi-wave,” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to win the needed number of seats to form the government on its own strength. At the same time, in all probability, if this party’s campaign didn’t rest primarily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “image,” BJP may not have won even 240 seats. This certainly suggests that Modi’s strategies did succeed but hardly to his and his party’s satisfaction. Where did he err? And which factors weren’t considered by those assuming that he’d return for the third term with a thumping majority?

Clearly, the BJP and its supporters were over-confident about the impact of Modi-wave, which really carried little importance, as results suggest for majority of voters. Certainly, Modi did succeed in dominating media headlines at home and abroad on issues he viewed as important for electoral purposes. But even attention paid by him to his religious-card, particularly regarding the grandiose Hindu temple at Ayodhya, has carried little importance. His party failed to win even from the constituency (Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh), where the temple is situated. BJP has failed to win even 50% of seats from Uttar Pradesh, with the regional party- Samajwadi Party (SP) taking the lead here. In all probability, the voters saw through Modi’s “religious-show” at Ayodhya as his electoral propaganda and thus refused to be blinded by the same. Also, certain reports indicate that Ayodhya-show, paid little importance to grievances faced by people of the area. Undeniably, Modi went overboard in playing this card. Of course, he did gain attention but that rested primarily on manipulated agenda focusing on propagating his image as well as status. But a card of this nature can yield gains only for a limited period. It is likely to collapse if it fails to spell any gains for voters. This is what has apparently happened in Ayodhya and greater part of UP.

Besides, little importance was apparently paid to economic grievances of people at various levels. Younger generation of Indian voters appears to have given substantial significance to this fact. They are agitated by issues such as unemployment, increasing inflation, the hard reality of rich growing richer, poor-poorer and so forth. Modi’s rhetoric, weaving dreams, mattered little for them. With two terms as prime minister, in their opinion, he had been given ten years to fulfil his promises but he had failed them. It may be noted, the extensive display of religious-card by Modi carried little appeal for voters more concerned about their economic problems.

What has perhaps shocked BJP supporters most is that the party has performed dismally in the key state in Hindi-belt, that is UP. It is possible, if the opposition parties had not aligned and campaigned together on a fairly strong note, BJP may have performed better. Over-confidence, resting exclusively on Modi’s image appears to have failed BJP. In quite a few states, opposition parties’ alliance- INDIA-bloc and regional parties’ electoral fight was apparently guided by their campaign against Modi/BJP. Their primary aim was aggressively guided to be united to push Modi-led government out of power. Of course, the opposition parties have fallen short of their target. Yet, their least expected success has at least prevented BJP from securing the needed majority- winning 272 seats in 543-member Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament). Apart from UP, the anti-Modi strategy has also worked in limiting BJP’s success in southern India, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab and several other parts.

Against this backdrop, what can be said regarding opinion polls as well as exit polls predicting a return of Modi with a strong majority? Frankly speaking, these can hardly be relied upon. With India home to numerous political parties and cultural diversities, it is practically impossible to secure a reliable opinion of any group for the political party they may support/oppose. Besides, there is no denying, voters don’t always give their actual opinion on who they support/oppose. Fear prevents quite a few from actually stating the truth about who they support and vote for. So even if these polls (opinion and exit) are actually genuine, there is no guarantee that they are really based on correct data.

In essence, Modi-wave never really existed but a hype about it was certainly promoted through manufactured “news” and manipulated strategies. Voters woke to this hard reality when confronted by their economic grievances not being resolved by BJP-rhetoric resting on Modi-wave. Besides, opposition parties’ decision to give a strong fight to BJP has played a key role in spelling an electoral setback for Modi. This includes the marches undertaken by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, his parties’ seat sharing deal with other parties of India-bloc, joint-campaigns and so-forth. Modi himself was forced to stop making fun of Rahul Gandhi during his election campaigns. Overall, with this being an era of communication-boom, even semi-literate and illiterate voters may be viewed as smart enough to understand political language of leaders in the electoral fray. This is strongly suggested by their viewing Modi’s Ayodhya-card as his electoral card and not religious. BJP’s dismal performance in UP further proves this. Simply speaking, when image/hype about a politician’s “wave” rests primarily on manufactured agenda, it cannot float for too long. It is bound to be pricked democratically and burst like a balloon as these election results indicate. There is nothing surprising about this. Clearly, Indian democracy and secularism is too strong to let such balloons- including communal – float for too long!