December 24, 2007

What worked for Narendra Modi?

Call him “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of death) or “vote ka saudagar” (merchant of vote), he is back with a near two-third majority. Following are my reasons, why Narendra Modi clicked in the 2007 Gujarat elections.

1) The Modi magic: Nobody in Gujarat doubts that he is the tallest leader in the state at present. They have not seen their state producing such a strong leader in the last two decades. He is perceived as brash, authoritative, divisive and much more. But, above all he means business and has a no-nonsense attitude. Add to that, he is a leader with a mass appeal. The ordinary Gujaratis think that he has done a good job and the state has progressed in the last five years under his regime. They view him as someone who is aggressively promoting “Brand Gujarat” and wooing investors.

2) The BJP factor: National media thinks that it’s just because of Modi, BJP has won this election. That’s not true. Since the Ayodhya issue in the late nineties, the party has consistently won elections in the state. It has a very strong organization in the state. Even the RSS affiliates like VHP and Bajarang Dal wield enormous clout. There are at least 30-40 seats in Gujarat, where candidates don’t matter. Anybody on the BJP symbol can win elections in those seats.

3) Weak opposition: Unlike many other Indian states, there is not a single regional party in Gujarat. It’s a direct fight between BJP and Congress. The later ruled the state for many years before 1990. But, now it has lost the last five elections. It’s a party with weak organization and without any significant leader. Its secular credentials are extremely doubtful. Increasingly, it’s perceived as a B team of the BJP. Its populist agenda also puts off many young voters.

4) The electorate: The composition of Gujarat electorate favors BJP’s Hindutva ideology. The state has only around 10 percent of Muslims. The cast factor is not working as the BJP has managed to consolidate the Hindu votes. The party has even managed to make a dent in the tribal vote-bank, traditional Congress supporters.