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'Modi is unpredictable'

May 24, 2019 06:18 IST
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'We don't know where he will go from here and how he will conduct his government.'

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Anilchandra Shah acknowledge the cheers of BJP supporters in New Delhi, May 23, 2019. Photograph: PTI Photo

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Anilchandra Shah acknowledge the cheers of BJP supporters in New Delhi, May 23, 2019. Photograph: PTI Photo

Prashant Trivedi is a political scientist who specialises in the social development, political economy of land reforms and rural studies in Uttar Pradesh.

"The BJP spoke more about Modi than the BJP and voters voted more for Modi than for the BJP," Trivedi tells Archana Masih/

The BJP has won decisively in UP against what was thought as a formidable BSP-SP alliance. What did the BJP do right and where did the alliance fail?

It is a massive victory for the BJP. They have won most of the seats with a wide margin.

It is also a victory for the BJP's propaganda machinery. They have been able to convince people that this is a presidential style of election and there is no alternative to Narendra Modi.

The concern that who will be PM has gone to the ground level. The Opposition parties had no answer to this question.

The issue of national security appealed to the core vote of the BJP. The urban middle class got consolidated after Balakot.

The BJP also won over the OBC and SC votes.

The alliance was concentrated around 3 major segments -- Yadavs, Jatavs and Muslims. The BJP tried to isolate these communities from the rest of the OBCs and SCs.

Although the alliance looked formidable, it seems that the first preference for voters was the BJP.

Although a section of the voters rallied around the alliance, the BJP not only held onto its core urban middle class voters, but penetrated deeply into the OBCs and SCs.

The BJP's combination of organisation, propaganda machinery, money power has worked very well.


And also the image and personality of the prime minister?

Of course. It is a massive mandate in his name.

He was winning votes for the BJP in each and every constituency. He was a decisive factor because the BJP was going to the voters only in his name.

They spoke more about Modi than the BJP and voters voted more for Modi than for the BJP.

What about the Yogi Adityanath factor in UP?

Initially, he wasn't thought to be an asset in the BJP's hands because the state government was not doing very well, and people were not satisfied by the central government.

The mistake that the BSP-SP alliance did was to just confine themselves to caste arithmetic and not offer any policy alternatives to the Modi government.

This was a big failure of the alliance and they could not capitalise on the disappointment of voters, especially BJP voters with the state and central governments.

Stray cattle was a big issue in rural areas, but because this was an election to elect the PM, even if people were not happy with the state government, they voted for Modi.

Is this a vote for Hindutva or nationalism?

The BJP directed its propaganda at various layers. One of the layers was Hindutva. It was also about caste equations, nationalism, who will be the PM. One of the layers was Hindu identity. It did well because they have got most of the Hindu vote.

The BJP has got more than 50% of the vote in many UP constituencies which is unprecedented in Indian politics and could not only be because of propaganda. The party deserves credit for pulling off such a performance.

Of course. The BJP's election machinery is very well coordinated, they know their data, issues -- it was much ahead of other parties. The BJP knew what will work and where and used that information very smartly.

Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati were just no match up to Modi, isn't it?

The BJP successfully communicated to the people that none of these deserved to be PM, except for Modi.

Voters by and large -- even if they were alliance voters -- were convinced about this. Even if they were disappointed with his performance, they thought there was no alternative to Modi.

This TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor -- even if the BJP had not delivered on its promises -- worked in favour of the BJP.

The lesson for the Opposition is that only arithmetic will not do. You have to come out with a concrete plan. The biggest failure of the Opposition is its failure to provide a policy alternative to the present dispensation.

One of the biggest defeats of this election has been Rahul Gandhi's loss against Smriti Irani. What does this mean for the Congress?

The Congress had seen it coming and that's why Rahul opted for Wayanad.

In 2014, the Congress vote share in Amethi had come down drastically. It has not come as a surprise, but they were still hopeful of winning it with a slim margin.

It is a big blow for the Congress and a morale booster for BJP. The Congress has lost this seat for a second time. Sanjay Gandhi lost Amethi in 1977.

Smriti Irani had targeted this constituency ten years back and has constantly worked here and that has paid off.

Has Priyanka Gandhi been a failure?

Leaders like Priyanka Gandhi can work as a catalyst only when a party is performing.

If the party is out of the fray in all seats, except in two, it was not expected that she would make any impact when it comes to voting.

She got eyeballs and traction for the party, but played a limited role. Let's see what she does in the future.

Mr Modi's stature has risen manifold after this resounding victory. How do you think he will steer himself and the BJP in the second term?

Winning a second term so handsomely on his own is a big personal achievement. He continues to be very popular.

In every town and village, you hear his name. People have reposed their trust in him, but one thing about Narendra Modi is that he is unpredictable. We don't know where he will go from here and how he will conduct his government.

What happens to the Congress party?

The Congress is almost in the same place as 2014. They have failed to get the mandatory 10% of the seats to qualify for the post of Leader of the Opposition.

They have much to learn from the BJP. Even though the BJP have been in power for 5 years, they were more flexible in forming coalitions, while the Congress seemed more adamant.

They have to cultivate leaders on the ground and have state leaders like Captain Amarinder Singh and energise their cadres.

Don't you think Rahul should resign?

I don't think the Congress will do that.

What is the role of the Opposition now that it has been decimated?

The Opposition was not able to galvanise people even those who were not happy with the BJP's policies.

If they have to remain relevant, they have to raise movements on issues that affect people's daily lives, have better coordination and provide policy alternatives.

They need to show that they have an alternative to Narendra Modi's policies.

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