Agli Baar, No Abki Baar…

It is almost 5 days since the Lok Sabha elections in India came out. The media is still replete with analysis and over-analysis of the verdict that has stunned India to a large extent.  In a repeat of 2004 when all exit polls got it wrong, this time around, not just exit polls but even most of the commentators from the Anti-Modi camp got it wrong. Such was the absence of noise on the ground that any anger or disenchantment was completely camouflaged by an overall positive mahaul. Personally, I didn’t expect such a verdict at all and therefore was completely taken aback by the eventual numbers. My own premise was that the Modi sarkar had not done anything adverse to drop numbers from their last tally. In fact, I thought that the BJP only had space to grow in newer states in the East and South while maintaining its stronghold in the Hindi belt. I was completely wrong.

For a long time to come, analysts will keep peeling this verdict onion to explain what went wrong for the BJP. As a close watcher of Indian politics, here are my takeaways from the verdict:

  • For the BJP, the result is a “loss” and a terrible one at that. No amount of spin can take away from this fact.  The party had enough reasons to believe that they could do better than 2019. Even 400 Paar as an alliance was not a fantasy. So, when it ends up 30 seats below the majority mark after crossing the number twice over, it is an underwhelming performance. If the BJP peppers over this fact and tries to pride itself internally that it has managed to retain power and not lost so much vote share, it will make the same mistake as the Congress did in 2009.
  • For the 1st time in the last 10 years ever since Modi came onto the national scene, “Brand Modi” has taken a hit. In the past, even in state elections, the “Modi factor” was enough to pull weak candidates out of the woods, beat non-performance and take the party ahead. Not this time. Even being a central election, the “Modi factor” did not work in many states.
  • For the Congress, the result is a piece of good news after a long time. For Rahul Gandhi himself, it is a redemption of sorts for the effort he had put in the last few years.  Yet, it is not a “Win” as some of their party members claim or celebrate. They still have to spend time in the opposition benches for another five years.
  • Modi is down, but not out. One can be sure that he will make a strong comeback to cut short the celebration among his detractors.
  • Getting it right in exit polls is luck by chance. When you get it right, it is by luck. This is now confirmed by the series of recent polls (MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and now the Lok Sabha polls)). The “Mood of the Nation” surveys and the tracker etc… bear no semblance to the final result. In a diverse and complex country like India, these exercises are just for momentary entertainment. Making investment calls on the stock market based on these polls is fraught with immense danger.
  • Commentators getting it right is even more of a luck. So even Yogendra Yadav getting it right this time is just that. He got it all wrong in 2019, 2022 UP state elections and more recently in the last round of state elections in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
  • Social media and search algorithms feed into one’s confirmation bias. Pollsters and commentators are not an exception to this.
  • The bogey of North-South divide has been short-lived and is now buried forever. (This is one thing I got it right)
  • The same can’t be said of the false narratives over the functioning of the Election Commission and EVMs. Modi wins one election next and these genies will be out of the bottle.
  • Wild swings are possible from one end to another when voters are angry (Example: AP/Odissa)

It will be interesting to speculate as to what went wrong. I say speculate because as British Economist Joan Robinson said correctly about India, “Whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is equally true”. In this election, what can be said of one state cannot be said of another and vice versa. But it can be safely said that the BJP got B.U.M.’ed on its 400 paar ambition and got “UPstaged” by the opposition on its base target of 272 seats!

  • The Bengal conundrum: Before it was “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. Today it is, “What India thinks today, Bengal thinks 10 years hence”. For the BJP, what is happening in West Bengal is a continuum of what happened in the state elections in 2022. BJP has built a significant base there but beyond that hasn’t done much to break Mamta Banerjee’s citadel. And in Bengal, everything happens with a 10-year lag effect.
  • BJP’s Maha mess: In Maharashtra, the BJP has got a tight slap on its face for its desperation to come to power and cling on to it. In 2019, when the then Shiv Sena ditched the pre-poll alliance and denied a second term for the Devendra Fadnavis-led coalition, the sympathy was with the BJP. But soon it evaporated when it tried to come to power with the support of the NCP.  Joining hands with the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP last year was the last straw. Will this bring an end to the BJP’s Saam-Daam-Dand-Bhed credo of politics remains to be seen. But the incremental votes the party gets has taken a hit because of this.
  • UPsmarted in UP: How the BJP lost UP is now becoming a fascinating case of how the opposition comprising the Samajwadi party and the Congress enacted a silent coup under everyone’s nose to outwit the BJP.  In UP, it was widely acknowledged that the infrastructure in the state has vastly improved since 2014. The law and order situation and women’s safety got a filip after Yogi Adiyanath came to power in 2017.  Welfare schemes of the Modi sarkar were reportedly well implemented by the State government.

The BJP had won 4 straight elections comfortably after getting the social and caste arithmetic right. Varanasi which is represented by Modi himself has got a huge impetus in the last 10 years.  Ram Mandir got constructed in Ayodhya. After all this, the BJP gets fewer seats than the SP. Modi’s margin gets shrunk substantially. In the LS constituency comprising Ayodhya, the party loses its seat. VIP candidates like Smriti Irani, Maneka Gandhi etc lose their seats.   

After all this, if the party has lost vote share and seats big time, something big has happened that was completely under the radar of Modi and Shah.

This is not just disenchantment but gross anger against the Modi sarkar from sections of the society.  Excessive Anti-Muslim rhetoric over the years has completely de-alienated the community to the extent of doing strategic voting seat by seat across the country to defeat the BJP. This is a huge fallout of the constant ‘othering’ of the Muslims. As long as the party was winning, this issue did not surface. But now, this is obvious.

Is there a need to “preach to the converted”? A large section of the Hindu population has already bought into the narrative of the BJP and Modi as flag bearers of the religion. Do you have to continue to rake up Hindu-Muslim topics to convert them further? On the other hand, is the excessive feeding off of religion publicly alienating some of the converted? A huge spike of “NOTA” votes in urban pockets like Mumbai could be a pointer to this.

Now it appears that the declaration that “we will change the constitution if we get 400 seats” was smartly drummed up by the opposition to spin it as “the reservation will be removed”. We are now seeing clips where Congress party workers are going door to door educating voters about this and pushing the Rs 1 lac cash transfer guarantee. What was the famed BJP election machinery doing to counter these narratives on the ground in UP?

It is also possible that a large section of the youth population who are rallying behind Akhilesh Yadav in UP and Tejaswi Yadav in Bihar have not recovered from the job loss and jobless situation post – Covid. For the first time sections of the population in UP, Maharashtra, Bihar etc didn’t feel that Modi was the right person to address issues of unemployment.

There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance. What seems like confidence while winning becomes arrogance while losing. In India, repeatedly in elections, people excuse non-performers, entitled dynasts and corrupt politicians but do not excuse arrogant leaders. Modi is still not seen fully as an arrogant leader. He is still seen as a benevolent leader. But a few actions of his and the party are seen to be born out of hubris.

It is one thing to set ambitious targets internally and another thing to declare that we are winning 400 seats. In 2014, Modi announced Mission 272+ as a target for his team but was not declared to the public at large.  In 2019, Modi did not announce that BJP was going to win 300+. Eventually, it did. What was the need to declare that too on the floor of the House that BJP on its own was going to touch 370 and 400 paar as NDA? On the other hand, if he had said that he was seeking public support to win 400 seats would have been taken kindly.

More questions arise. Was it a good idea to

  • Repeatedly hype “Modi Ki Guarantee” instead of the party’s guarantee?
  • Designate a leader before the polls to just admit people from other parties left, right and centre?
  • Drop cases once they join the BJP?
  • Just remain silent on Manipur and not even visit the state once?
  • Freeze the accounts of the Congress party just before the elections?
  • Give a ticket to Brij Bhushan’s son though he ended up winning the Kaiserganj seat?
  • Get ED only to go after opposition leaders?
  • Symbolically reducing fuel prices just a few days before the announcement of polls?
  • Dish out “Bharat Ratna” awards week after week before the election announcement to placate certain communities?
  • Declare “Ek Akela Sab Pe Bhari”?
  • Continuously engage in Headline management and turn every action into a “Master Stroke” through a friendly mainstream media?

Finally, as observers and commentators, we all got consumed by ‘Modi hai toh mumkin hai’ and ‘Aayega toh Modi hi hai’ rhetoric and began to believe that despite all the above, in the end, people will just vote for Modi. It happened in the past. But did not happen this time. And this is the biggest takeaway from the Lok Sabha polls 2024.

This government under Modi didn’t deserve such an underwhelming result after putting in a lot of effort in the right direction in the past 10 years. Hence it is a disappointment when the BJP ends up short of majority and has to depend on the clutches of coalition parties to remain in power. One hopes that Modi and the party learn the lessons from here and that Modi 3.0 makes history for setting the country towards Viksit Bharat!

Agli Baar, no Abki baar…

Pic credit: NDTV website

13 thoughts on “Agli Baar, No Abki Baar…”

  1. Very objective analysis..not taking any sides… not sounding preachy..at the same time cautioning what is in store if things continue the way in which the are. In short a fantastic write up

  2. Not able to swallow any of what you have written as they are the truth
    My unscientific exit polls have never gone wrong…It was 279 in 2014, they got 283, it was 297 in 2019, they got 303.
    My exit poll figures were 295 (worst case),312 (better case) and 348 (Best case)
    Losing
    30 seats UP
    10 seats Bengal
    20 seats in Maharashtra
    10 seats in Karnataka
    5 in Haryana
    10 In Rajasthan
    85 taking the tally to 325
    That was the biting difference

  3. Very nice In-depth analysis Anand san. It looks to me Rahul’s Yatra and ” khata khat ” jargon for Rs. 8500 did the damage in hindi belt. However, this also exposes the amount of unfinished work my Modi 2.0 in education and employment sectors.

  4. A detailed counter explanation from my friend M.L.Jayant on the results:

    The 2024 Elections———400 Paar was a Brilliant War Cry!

    There were 2 Main points of reference to this Election of 2024

    1) Congress Performance
    2) BJP Performance

    Coming to the first- the Congress won just about a 3rd of its seats on its own in the bigger states – Rajasthan 10, Karnataka -9, Telengana-8, Haryana -5, Assam -3, Gujarat -1= 36. A few seats it has won on its own in the smaller states. Rest, it has ridden on the shoulders of stronger Allies. So the 99 seats as the 52 in 2019, have a major contribution of its Allies. No great traction this time around too on its recovery Road.

    BJP: The performance of BJP gets more interesting to analyze from a holistic perspective. UP, Maharashtra & Bengal…the losses

    Before I start with UP, a Classmate friend who has helped me in this exercise is from the family that owns an old daily in Hyderabad, circulated nationally.

    He did draw a very lucid example from Old City & Owiasi Family which I shall reproduce. We know that they have been dominating the Old City for 40+ years starting from Salahuddin Owiasi to the 2 brothers & other family members. They can, if they wish fix everything in the Old City. No one will go against them. So why didn’t they clean up the act –Fix Law & Order, make the residents respect the Law, remove encroachments, get the hawkers off the Roads to designated areas, fix garbage, drainage, sewage & water pipelines, Improve Electricity distribution- cabling, transformers, billing, Road building, Metro anything ??

    It’s a no-brainer- the moment they do that, while there may not be physical resistance while setting the infra right, the resentment of those moved, despite compensation where eligible & given, will fester & show up silently during the next election cycle. He humorously remarked …” ayse hote bhi tumhari Madhavi Latha nahi jeetege, hamara MBT jeetega …” ( Majlis Bachao Tehreek- the only opposition to AIMM in Old City of any kind)

    His analogy was clear- UP which was seeing an unprecedented emphasis on Law & Order, Development Focus on all fronts Industry, Infra- Roads, Tourism, Clean up acts –rivers, water bodies, and pollution control was going to experience a pushback from entrenched interests from caste & business groups who have thus far thrived in the backwaters of chaos. This despite the monetary compensation for those displaced for the Development works, the resentment would prevail,as it is human nature to resent medicine & medication.

    Further in UP ( as everywhere in the Country this time), Ram Mandir while a reality, every Muslim considered it a holy duty to vote against the BJP

    Bengal: TMC is a Mafia of many Owiasis as my friend simply put it. The Religious card against BJP & the fear of TMC Goons is difficult to break,as Voters end up voting for TMC for fear of retribution after the elections should they lose was well known to BJP, as well as anyone else too in Bengal.

    Maharashtra: Apart from the coalition of who is with whom was not clear, etc as widely reported, what was obviously not taken note of is that in the erstwhile BJP –ShivSena alliance, the brand was Modi & the cadre was largely Shiv Sena. With the split, the NDA was in a situation of an underwhelming cadre on the ground.

    Further sensing the lack of a narrative, NCP did a DMK in Maharashtra. Fadnavis, the face of BJP was targeted as a Brahmin, saying that Marathas are losing because of him & consequently BJP. It has a narrative set in History & does find takers.

    Plus, the Most Important Factor was that the BJP knew that having tested the Freebie missiles with success in Karnataka & Telangana, a more lethal heavy-duty Freebie Missile capable of striking across the Country was in the works …..

    It would to naïve to think that the BJP Leadership was not aware of the reality in these 3 states which account for 170 seats out of which last time they held 134. They knew the price of Law & Order & resistance by entrenched Groups to Development displacement ( socially & physically) the consolidated Muslim vote against the BJP for Ram Mandir was coming.

    It is with this perspective of prospective losses in the 3 states accounting for 170 seats, that BJP needed to have a strong campaign war cry. Then strategically BJP scouted for Allies ( not the other way round) & got back TDP-JS, and JDU on board. In fact, in AP, it was Purandereshwari –AP BJP President who steered the negotiations back door with co-brother CBN of TDP. In TN too alliances were formed but did not translate into seats

    A strong campaign slogan of “400 Paar” directed the focus-light Winning BJP NDA & steered any narrative away from a possible INDI victory A
    After this there was no looking back- the narrative of the entire election from BJP was 400 paar & that of the Opposition was 400 Paar nahi hone denge………nowhere did the INDI nor the Media talk of winning.
    Thus 400 Paar was not over-confidence, disconnect from Ground, but a campaign that would deflect from possible losses to Victory

    When you look at what happened in the other states- the BJP lost some seats, gained some seats balanced it off. It was in these 3 States that BJP minimised it’s losses by batting from the front foot creating the Perception of a Winner that saved the day

    The Push-back for the Law & Order / Development agenda was a price the BJP was willing to pay for the long-term good of the Country. Like breaking the eggs to make the omelette to be served. It survived in its agenda this time. People will see the fruits of Development & BJP will take measures to communicate that it is necessary to take measures for the same. BJP will emerge stronger

    A Marketing strategy par excellence that would be studied in days to come, once the euphoria of INDI getting 230 seats is over & they realize that they could have actually won had they not fallen for combating 400 Paar

  5. 2024 Elections had its charm and here is what I feel about the entire circus. I agree to some of your views but have a different take to many others.
    UP
    – It had a huge disinformation campaign on Constitution being changed to stop reservations – Dalit votes moved away
    – ⁠The Khatakhat scheme was a freebie carrot of unimaginable proportion that did two things – consolidated Muslim votes and made them come out and vote for Khatakhat in large numbers
    – ⁠The number of candidates who had defected were rejected by the BJP cadre
    – ⁠The BJP cadre did not quickly sense the issue on the ground and plough it back for a counter information offensive
    – ⁠Nadda’s statement of RSS not required bombed among the RSS Karyakartas
    Southern Bharat
    1. The vote share has increased in every State
    2. ⁠Building a cadre is a pain staking exercise and BJP will do that with their eyes on the ground
    3. A cadre based party understands what it takes to build a base of loyal electorate
    West Bengal
    BJP has lost its plot in WB completely.
    You cannot defeat an enemy who has no qualms of using every possible means – to win elections by responding with empty sloganeering and rhetoric.
    “Bengali Pride”, “Bangladeshi voters”, “Schemes for women”, “Army of goons”, “Entrenched corruption” – needs a solid strategy to defeat.
    BJP assuming “Hindutva” can make them win in WB – makes them look like a Under-11 Junior School Cricket Team aspiring to be the World Cup T-20 winners.
    Maharashtra
    Is a complex game with 6 parties in the fray split in the middle. It turned out as expected.
    In Summary
    Forget the losses in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Haryana – they were compensated by Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Prasesh
    UP was the biggest scare and BJP has to wake up and kick ass of multiple MLAs to get its act in place before the next Assembly Elections

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