2019: It’s far from over
2019 elections is far from over and BJP would do well not to be complacent. To understand this, we have to filter out the noise and focus on specifics to understand what Congress is trying to do. Here are my reasons to believe this is still going to be very close:
- Booth level preparation: Congress booth level organisation is way better than 2014. This started from Gujarat 2017 when they got an IPS officer to lead booth level mobilization for them. We saw the same in 2018 in Karnataka and then repeated in MP in late 2018. This has continued through to 2019 through apps and other constituency level connections. Vote share to seat share ratio is improving as we saw in Dec’18 results. I am surprised this is not being talked about but then the MSM being hand in gloves with Congress is knowingly hiding this.
2. Cambridge Analytica: Thanks to Cambridge Analytica, Congress has been targeting constituency level voters through specific messages. Their social media platform which was non-existent in 2014 is potentially ahead of BJP. When combined with MSM and left leaning news aggregators, they are spreading targeted messages through whats app groups and tapping in discontent which may not even have made it to MSM. In MP 2018 this likely played a key role in their victory. BJP IT cell appears to be a shadow of its 2014 self and most Right Wing Social Media handles are non BJP workers trying to mobilize support for BJP.
3. UP strategy: Congress objective is not to win UP but get enough votes to weaken BJP and enable a SP – BSP sweep. By not aligning with the SP-BSP, Congress has avoided Hindu vote consolidation. J. Scindia is hardly campaigning in UP and P Vadra has reportedly asked workers to prepare for 2022. Rahul’s move to Wayanad is probably another piece of the puzzle to make BJP complacent in UP.
4. BJP core voter unhappy: Ram Mandir / Article 370 / Article 35A / Uniform Civil Code / RTE / etc. etc. I can go on – here is a link to a comprehensive article on this. In 2014 each and every core voter came out and voted for Modi while in 2019 that may not be the case. The only thing not covered is why Rahul Gandhi or Chidambaram or Robert Vadra are still not in jail. Arnab had asked this during the interview, the response of- law takes time will hardly fly. Different government but same principle of not going after opposition and demolishing them aka NDA-I may come back to haunt BJP.
5. NYAY impact: There are two things that do impact Indian voters – doles and corruption. Nationalism as far as data is concerned does not play a major role. BJP lost seats even after winning Kargil and Pokhran in 1999. UPA – II lost due to corruption (Indians hate their leaders and use vote as a ‘punishment’ tool aka Bofors) and allure of Acche Din despite getting many times over doles and subsidies from UPA I and UPA II. And that’s because they have a ‘dil maange more’ attitude which is not wrong. Now they see NYAY as a golden beacon from Congress which will make them choose Congress in close fights such as MP/ Karnataka. Worst case, they can always vote BJP next time. ‘Humko Kya Mila?’ is the only thing that matters when the voter is at the booth deciding the fate of Modi. This is potentially why of late, the drive against corruption, Arun Jaitley’s press conferences in tandem with Republic TV debates around Rahul Gandhi / Robert Vadra corruption charges fall in place. Voters have forgotten about corruption of UPA I and UPA II and BJP in a last minute desperate attempt has probably realized this.
6. Noise of Balakot: Pre-Balakot NDA was struggling to get past majority – forget BJP getting it on its own. Balakot raised emotions but only for a short period of time. By April -May, things will be back to what it was pre Balakot. Even the market is jumping the gun just like during Brexit vote in 2016 when the murder of a MP had an impact on the next opinion poll taking Pound / FTSE high but reality showed its face in during day of counting in line with polls conducted earlier.
7. Overall Congress objective: Their objective is to reduce NDA such that even with TRS and Jagan they won’t be able to form Government. Second objective is to get close to a number where they can stake claim to PM seat. In states like Punjab, Chattishgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka Congress is definitely stronger than BJP thanks to recent performance / alliances.
Amit Shah and BJP would be wise not to be complacent and work on their manifesto to come up with a message to counter Congress. Just shouting the Congress manifesto is not implementable won’t work. In a way 2014 was where BJP won every close contest and every swing vote potentially went in its favour. Come 2019, that may change and unfortunately that may change the country’s fortune.