Is Narendra Modi really like Nehru and Indira Gandhi?

The three occupants of the prime ministerial chair have their fair share of electoral successes and failures.

 |  5-minute read |   14-03-2017
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After a gigantic win for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah advised the opposition to forget 2019 and instead start planning for the 2024 general elections.

He said there is no leader with pan-India acceptability who can take on Modi and no party that can challenge the BJP in 2019.

Addressing a press conference, BJP's national president Amit Shah claimed, "Even opposition will have to accept Narendra Modi, who has emerged as the most popular leader post independence."

After the March 11 Assembly results, more than 58 per cent of India's population is ruled by NDA-run state governments.

Around 53 per cent of India's population is governed by BJP chief ministers.

More than five per cent of the population is governed by NDA allies.

Before this round of Assembly elections, NDA was in power in states that had around 43 per cent of the population.

Wielding power at the Centre with absolute majority and ruling state governments where more than 58 per cent of India lives, is phenomenal for any political party in India.

And one man who ensured this is accomplished is Narendra Modi.

BJP-ruled states after the March Assembly results:




BJP-ruled states (52.81 per cent) + NDA STATES (5.41 per cent) = 58.22 per cent

Narendra Modi has already surpassed BJP's biggest leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the electoral front.

Despite all his charisma and oratory, Vajpayee could never ensure BJP's majority at the Centre.

Narendra Modi's win delivered majority to BJP in 2014.

He entered the league of all-time popular leaders who delivered electoral dividends to their party on their own.

People have already started comparing Narendra Modi to Indira Gandhi and Jawarhal Nehru, who delivered successive victories for their party.

But is Narendra Modi like Nehru or Indira when getting votes for his party?

All three figures grew bigger than their party. They ensured several victories for their parties in numerous elections.

A charismatic personality, brilliant oratory and instant connect with the masses are their common traits.

Pedigree is one aspect that separates the father-daughter duo of Nehru-Indira from Narendra Modi.

The son of Motilal Nehru, a high-flying lawyer and prominent leader, Nehru was a graduate of Cambridge. Indira was his heir. But Modi is the son of a tea seller.

This aspect makes his success bigger.

To judge their vote-winning abilities, let's have a look at best electoral performances in the Lok Sabha election.

In the 1957 Lok Sabha election, the Congress had won 371 out of 494 seats under Nehru and got 47.8 per cent votes.

modi_031417035336.jpg In 2014, Modi entered the league of all-time popular leaders who delivered electoral dividends to their party on their own. Photo: PTI

The best-ever performance in terms of votes was Indira Gandhi's in the 1971 Lok Sabha election.

The Congress won 352 out of 518 seats and its vote share was 43.7 per cent.

In 2014, Narendra Modi won majority for the BJP with 31 per cent votes.

The best of Nehru, Indira and Modi in the Lok Sabha polls


What makes Modi's achievement significant is that the BJP single-handedly won majority in the Lok Sabha in the age of coalitions — a feat no party had achieved after 1984.

But when compared with Nehru or Indira's electoral performance, Modi's grand show pales.

No party has ever won more than half the seats with a vote share of just 31 per cent.

The previous lowest vote share for a single majority was in 1967, when the Congress got 283 out of 520 seats with 40.8 per cent vote share.

It was fragmented polity that helped BJP win 282 seats with just 31 per cent of the votes.

The worst of Nehru, Indira and Modi in the Lok Sabha polls

All three may be considered successful politicians, but they have had their fair share of electoral debacles.

In 1957, when the Congress got its best performance under Jawaharlal Nehru, it has also lost Kerala.

The first Non-Congress government was formed in the state under the leadership of Communist leader EMS Namboodiripad.


For the first time, the Congress lost the Lok Sabha elections in 1977.

It was the worst-ever electoral debacle for Indira Gandhi.

People's anger against Indira government for imposing Emergency lead to Congress rout.


Prime minister Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi lost their own seats in this election.

Despite her worst performance, the Congress party got 34.52 percent vote that is almost five percent above the best ever performance of the BJP under Narendra Modi.


Like Jawaharlal Nehru, Narendra Modi personally hasn't lost his own election, but the BJP has lost many elections under him after its resounding 2014 victory.

Two defeats stand out are of Bihar and Delhi Assembly elections. Despite winning majority of the seats in Lok Sabha elections at both places, the BJP lost miserably.

Under Modi's leadership, the BJP suffered its worst-ever defeat in Delhi.


But they were different individuals, born in different times and dominated Indian politics in three different eras.

The circumstances and challenges for Nehru were quite different from what Indira faced and what Modi faces today.

Hence, comparing them would be as good as comparing apple and oranges.

Also read: Modi is back to dirty trick by trying to divide Hindus and Muslims in UP


Ashok Upadhyay Ashok Upadhyay @ashoupadhyay

Editor, India Today Television.

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