Three Hidden Elements That Influenced the Indian Electorate and Carried Narendra Modi to Victory in LS Polls
Mangaluru: Seven days after the culmination of the world’s largest exercise in democracy; it is clear that the 2019 Lok Sabha election has made an indelible mark in India’s political history, for better or for worse. Final election results witnessed the BJP party grabbing over 300 parliamentary seats while Narendra Modi successfully secured a second term for himself as the nation’s Prime Minister.
Even as India’s obsession with Modi only seemed to grow post-election results, it is vital for a democracy to stop and analyze election verdicts. This is not akin to disrespecting the “people’s mandate” as several Modi supporters would have you believe. Respecting India’s electoral mandate is only limited to acknowledging that the BJP party has a majority in Parliament and that Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister for the second time. Beyond that, it is the prerogative of every journalist and political analyst to make deductions on how that election verdict was achieved. Why did a majority of voters vote against their own economic self-interest? How exactly did Modi’s BJP pull off a “pro-incumbency” verdict when an excess of historical data proves anything but? Were there any external elements at play and what were they?
On the day that Narendra Modi is sworn in as India’s Prime Minister again, here are three lesser-known factors that got Modi to where he is today:
As the election season rolled in, it became clear that the ruling party of India was going on a spending spree. Modi enthusiasts were thrilled to see their icon starring in a ubiquitous role in the nation’s general elections. The party’s lavish advertising budget even had room for a 24X7 TV channel called ‘NaMo TV’ whose only purpose was to telecast the Prime Minister’s campaigning activities in real-time. How has the BJP been able to secure such vast amounts of funding? The answer is Electoral Bonds.
In FY 2017-2018, seven major Indian political parties received Rs. 1,398 Crores through electoral bonds. Out of Rs. 1,398 Crores, the BJP’s share alone amounted to over Rs. 1,030 Crores. The donations made to the BJP via electoral bonds were roughly worth Rs. 1,000 Crores. In contrast, the Congress party only secured donations of Rs. 150 Crores. Electoral bonds, which were introduced by former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the 2017 federal budget, have been widely criticized because it ensures that political donors stay anonymous. Before you make the assumption that these donors are just ordinary, passionate, working-class citizens, remember this: An RTI query revealed that up to the month of January, 99 percent of purchased electoral bonds were valued at either Rs. 10 Lakhs or Rs. 1 Crore. Needless to say, these donors are no ordinary, working-class Modi supporters.
Whatever your ideological affiliation, it should alarm you that this so-called ‘nationalist party’ has legalized foreign funding. The concept of electoral bonds has been a severe blow to transparency as corporations now have easy access to our lawmakers so that laws favoring corporate donors are passed in Parliament. Meanwhile, laws that would serve the interests of a common citizen may become secondary.
Election Propaganda and Misinformation
By the BJP party’s own admission, advertising and election propaganda is their number one expense as it spent over Rs. 500 Crores on publicity in 2018 alone. However, as the voting period came nearer, Modi and the BJP cadre changed their strategy to spreading blatantly false information among the Indian electorate. In early April, addressing a campaign rally in Bengaluru, Modi claimed that there had been no terrorist attack during his tenure. This was obviously a lie since the attacks on India’s military camps in Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amarnath Yatra, Uri, and Pulwama could not be termed as anything else but terrorist attacks. Additionally, there have been around 390 terrorist attacks perpetrated by Naxalites from 2014-2018.
Modi and his ministers also tried their best to oversell the various “schemes” implemented by the NDA government. Even as schemes such as the Sauchalaya Yojana and Ujjawala Yojana were used to garner more votes, there was no one to highlight the glaring holes in these schemes. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter that a large percentage of the newly constructed toilets didn’t have water supply. It didn’t matter that the beneficiaries of free gas connections could not afford refills. A lack of scrutiny and accountability enabled Modi to pass off these schemes as ‘successful’.
Large sections of the mainstream media undeniably played the role of accomplice by not only allowing party spokespersons to relay lies but by also failing to ask crucial questions, especially on the national security front.
Blatant Polarization of the Masses
If there is one thing that astutely characterizes this election, it is the barefaced attempts by Modi and his party to create a communal divide among the citizens of India. All through the election rallies, Modi and top BJP leaders kept lowering the bar of the nation’s political discourse by trying to consolidate the Hindu vote bank. In one of his rallies, Modi deliberately categorized Kerala’s Wayanad (from where Rahul Gandhi was contesting the elections) as a place “where the minority is in a majority”. BJP Party President Amit Shah went lower when he insinuated that Muslims were akin to “termites” and should be deported from the country. However, the lowest moment of the elections came when Pragya Singh Thakur (accused in the Malegaon Blast Case that claimed the lives of Muslims including children) was nominated from the Bhopal constituency. Ever since her nomination was announced, the BJP party strived hard to whitewash her image. It seemed to have worked as Thakur was shockingly elected to Parliament by a substantial voter margin.
Apart from these three reasons, there were several other factors that contributed to Modi’s success in the polls. A compromised Election Commission that persistently ignored the PM’s MCC violations and a weak opposition that could not effectively counter the dangerous narratives established by Modi are a few more electoral elements that often escape the purview of the Indian people.