Uncovering Narendra Modi - Amit Shah poll strategy
by Ashok B Sharma on 22 Oct 2014 3 Comments

What is behind the Modi magic and BJP sweeping the polls in Haryana and emerging as the single largest party in Maharashtra? Some point to the record voter turnout of 76 per cent in Haryana and high turnout of 64 per cent in Maharashtra as the cause; high voter turnout has always favoured the BJP.


BJP went solo and emerged as the single largest party in both states, and did not project any chief ministerial candidate in either. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the only face of the campaign and the party reached out with the image of Modi to almost all sections of the people across caste, region and religious lines. The aspirational youth were impressed by the Prime Minister’s clean image and promises for development. Voting patterns in this country have long since been on the basis of caste, region and religion. But new first time voters and young unemployed were allured by the promises for development.


Mr Modi as star campaigner and party president Amit Shah knew well that apart from fielding prospective candidates from vocal and assertive communities, the agenda for development can appeal to the young generation in particular.


BJP got 33.2 per cent votes, bagging 47 out of 90 seats in Haryana, up from 4 seats in the last assembly polls and only 9 per cent votes. It was followed by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) with 19 seats and 24.1 per cent votes, while the Congress was relegated to the third position with 15 seats and 20.6 per cent votes. Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress got 2 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party and Shiromani Akali Dal had to content themselves with one seat each.


The dominant Jat community got split between INLD, BJP and the Congress. Om Prakash Chautala’s INLD however, cornered the major share of Jat votes, about 45 per cent. About 22 per cent of Jat votes went to the BJP and 28 per cent to the Congress owing to the appeal made by outgoing chief minister Bhupinder Hooda. BJP also fielded prospective Jat candidates such as party spokesperson Captain Abhimanyu Singh and farmer leader Om Prakash Dhankar.


BJP’s vote bank amongst the Banias and Brahmins remained almost intact with only 11 per cent going to INLD and 14 per cent to the Congress. Other mobilisation done by the BJP was amongst the Scheduled Castes, once the Congress vote bank. The BJP pulled about 31 per cent of the Scheduled Caste votes while 41 per cent remained with the Congress and 14 per cent went to INLD.


The most successful mobilisation of votes by the BJP was among the non-Jats, particularly OBCs, Punjabis and other castes. This was a major factor in propelling BJP to power. About 55 per cent of non-Jat OBCs and 49 per cent of Punjabis voted in favour of BJP. But in the three constituencies of Mewat region – Nuh, Ferozepur Jhirka and Punaha – with 75 per cent Meo Muslims, the BJP cut a sorry figure.


Another factor that weighed in favour of the BJP was that majority of the people in the state favoured a change of government after 10 years of Congress rule. Mr Modi’s image is clean compared to that of OP Chautala or BS Hooda, and the support extended by the influential Dera Saccha Sauda boosted the party’s prospects.


In the four-cornered contest in Maharashtra, the BJP, banking solely on Mr Modi’s charisma, bagged 122 seats, falling short of majority by 23 seats. Just before the polls, BJP and Shiv Sena parted ways. Both parties with similar ideological background increased their tally – BJP by 76 seats and Shiv Sena by 19 seats. BJP cornered 27.8 per cent votes, while Shiv Sena mobilised 19.3 per cent votes. The joint tally of two parties comes to 185 in a House of 288 seats – a clear majority.


But since the BJP and the Shiv Sena went to the polls alone, it is interesting to analyse what prevented the BJP from achieving the magic number. After 15 years of Congress-NCP rule people were waiting for change. With all four parties – Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP - going alone in the polls, the people made a decisive choice and showed the political parties where they stand.


For BJP it was strategic and decisive risk to go alone. In a situation where people were desirous for a change, BJP thought it was the right time to strike the right chord with Modi’s development agenda. It did work to humble down Congress and the NCP, but not the Shiv Sena. BJP and the Shiv Sena locked horns in about 25 to 35 seats, which proved costly for both. BJP lost 12 seats by a margin of less than 2,000 votes.


BJP fared well in all regions of Maharashtra with the exception of Konkan. Its tally in Vidarba was the best - 44 out of 62 seats. In Marathwada BJP increased its tally from 7 to 15 out of 46 seats. Significantly, Mr Modi began his poll campaign from Beed in this region, from where former Union minister Gopinath Munde hailed. The party performed well in northern and western Maharashtra too. In Mumbai-Thane area it was in neck-to-neck with Shiv Sena.


According to some poll surveys, the Modi-Shah strategy cut into caste barriers. Keeping its traditional Bania-Brahmin vote bank intact, BJP made considerable dent into the Maratha vote bank of Shiv Sena and consolidated the OBCs and Scheduled Tribes in its favour. It made considerable dent into the Scheduled Caste vote bank of the Congress. Its support from the Muslims was marginal.


It was the Prime Minister’s magic wand and Amit Shah’s strategy that worked to make an outreach breaking caste, region, and religious barriers with the promise of a development agenda. It appealed to the youth and the first-time voters in a big way. Some may like to call it a “wave” or a “tsunami”. Others may question if the ‘Modi wave’ is continuing there then why didn’t it work during the by-elections in Uttarakhand and Bihar. The answer is that by-elections were in isolated pockets where the candidates were the central figures and the image of the party mattered less. But when considering polls on a mass scale like state assemblies or Lok Sabha, the Modi-Amit Shah strategy was well calibrated and worked like magic.  

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