Off the Record: Where Politics and Economics Meet

How Narendra Modi won: He is India's most loved leader today. And he determinedly wooed one section of the populace

The Modi narrative, of a selfless, disciplined, visionary leader, who's worked his way to the top caught, the imagination of Indians. For the second time. But he didn't just rest on his legend.

 |  Off the Record: Where Politics and Economics Meet  |  6-minute read |   24-05-2019
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Yes, it is safe to conclude that after Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister Modi is the most loved and revered leader in the country now. He represents hope — hope to the millions of Indians who have felt marginalised and cheated with years of a form of governance that was seeped in nepotism, elitism and corruption, and Modi seems to be the only option for a new India.

The old BJP headquarters in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi stood desolate on the day of this victory.

There was only one party stalwart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, plastered on hoardings at the entrance, looking over the institution he and the others had built — the old BJP, which no longer exists.

It is a brand new party under the new leadership in a brand new office, barely two kilometres away, in the not-so-posh part of Delhi.

old-hq_052319093601.jpgAcche but purane din: The old BJP headquarters in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi looks a bit desolate now. (Photo: Twitter)

The new BJP office on Deen Dyal Upadhyaya Marg is a massive structure covered with sandstone, with cubicles and offices for party employees, long, winding corridors, sleek flooring — and a big pond in the shape of a blooming lotus.

The party office is nothing like what Indians have seen of political party offices — usually housed in the bungalows of Lutyens' Delhi with small offices, makeshift sheds and insipid canteens serving sub-standard food. Some even have party merchandise parked on the footpaths — an obvious violation of city laws, but when it comes to the powerful and their parties, laws are just an aside.

The brand new office building, which is just one of the many things that Modi changed in the last five years, stands for all that he believes in and stands for. It is impersonal and stark, business-like, practical and has been designed with the vision of the expansion of the BJP — the office space, in many ways, is a direct extension of brand Modi.

new-hq_052319093611.jpgThe new BJP HQ represents brand Modi: Vibrant and corporate. (Photo: Twitter)

Decoding Brand Modi

From a 56-inch chest to 'naamdaar nahin, kaamdaar' to 'chowkidar Modi' to 'chaiwala', Modi has been consistent in his messaging — the underdog who rose to the top; the ascetic who has no distractions but wants to serve the nation; the decision-maker brave enough to take tough calls; a protector who will not compromise on his self-respect and the integrity of Indians; a do-gooder who will go after the corrupt. The promise of someone who emerges as an antidote to all that has been wrong with the Indian polity — dynasty, cronyism, corruption, elitism.

He stands as an alternative that had seemed impossible. He represented an embodiment of hope to the 13 million first-time voters who want to thrive in an India that rewards merit and hard work.

Targeting his constituents

Modi was also the first to recognise the power of women voters — a historic shift this election has seen is the number of women voters who have come out to vote.

From a 55% female voter turnout in 1967 to women surpassing men in voting in 2019, it has been phenomenal.

In the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, the female voter turnout was at 68.63% while the male voter turnout was at 68.02%.

In the second phase, female voter turnout was at 69.47% and male voter turnout was at 69.40%.

In 2014, the male turnout was 67.09%, while the female turnout was 65.63%.

PM Modi saw the emergence of women as an independent vote bank — and designed all his signature schemes around women.

From building toilets to gas connections, Swachh Bharat and Ujjwala were specifically targeted towards making the lives of women easier. That was coupled with direct benefits transfer, which was expanded from 27 schemes to 439 schemes, taking the coverage from three crore people to 55 crore. Apart from that, there have been schemes like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Stand Up India and Mission Indradhanush, which have targeted the empowerment of women. Because women are most likely to vote on tangibles — and vote beyond issues of caste and identity.

Modi, true to his style, campaigned relentlessly, reaching out to the last person.

He travelled across 27 states and the Union Territories during the election campaign, with a cumulative turnout of a crore across all rallies. He addressed 142 rallies in 142 districts in 27 states of India. He covered 344 constituencies in 27 states. He slept for barely four hours, ate frugally, was fasting for nine days during the campaign and ended the campaign with a powerful image of him meditating in a cave in Kedarnath.

He fired all his cylinders even as he made the most audacious policy move: demonetisation that apparently had a debilitating effect on the Indian economy.

He made people believe in him, even as their incomes and savings were sliding.

There were farmer protests and a huge uproar over the GST.

Yet, they voted for Modi.

Why?

narendra-m-inside_052319093750.jpgCall him a dream merchant, a miracle man, magical Modi — his rise has been awe-inspiring. (Photo: Reuters)

The Modi narrative of a selfless, disciplined, visionary leader who has worked his way to the top — who started out as a chaiwala and became Prime Minister — caught the imagination of Indians. His tenure was marked with dark phases — Indians standing in queues for their money; lynchings; the anti-Dalit and anti-minority narrative  — but Indians forgot that as they voted for Modi like never before.

The last India voted so decisively was for Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

The Congress won 364 of the 489 seats during the 1951-52 election. Nehru won 371 seats in the 1957 elections. In 1962, the Nehru government won 361 of the 494 seats in Lok Sabha. In 1967, Indira Gandhi won 282 seats out of total 520 seats and in 1971, she increased her tally to 352 for her second term.

Prime Minister Modi is the third such leader to be voted back into power with an overwhelming majority.

Call him a dream merchant; a miracle man; magical Modi; his rise has been awe-inspiring.

From a leader who was once denied a visa to the United States to the world betting on India because Modi is at the helm, it has been quite a journey of a leader who belongs to the ‘other backward caste’, was born to a tea seller, was written off by the national and international media — and has been voted to power and back to it in a way only two other leaders have been in the history of Independent India.

Also Read: Why Hindutva's Lotus Bloomed: The sheer scale of Narendra Modi's victory shows this election is extraordinary

Writer

Shweta Punj Shweta Punj @shwwetapunj

Senior Editor, India Today. Has been writing on policy for more than a decade.

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