Modi Challenged By Silent Strategy of Indian Voters?

India Election 2024 Voting Vote

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a master-strategist in the art of electoral maneuvering to stay ahead in political drama seems at a loss about which strategies will spell his electoral success at a grand scale. Certainly, he has always been an expert at convincing crowds of “credibility” of his words. But now, it seems, the world-reputed politician himself isn’t too convinced by impact of his words upon the voters, he is trying to reach out to. And pray, the obvious question is that if he doesn’t seem satisfied by his own communication strategy, how and why should the people he is trying to reach out to be expected to be satisfied by the same? His command at this skill played the crucial role in not just winning parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2019 but also in ensuring his command within and outside his camp. In addition to propagating his image as that of Modi-wave at national level, internationally, he succeeded in promoting the “belief” of there being no other leader of his caliber/class in India. To a degree, international media still seems quite convinced about this; this is at least suggested in general by their coverage accorded to Modi. In contrast, national media has of late started displaying a tacit withdrawal from giving extensive and exclusive coverage only to him.

Of course, it is too early and would also be hasty to link this with possible electoral results, though this has already begun being speculated at certain levels. Nevertheless, certain ground realities cannot be ignored. One is that which has perhaps been taken strong note of by Modi himself. Notwithstanding his “success” on the Ayodhya-front, people at large don’t appear to be giving it much importance. Chants of Modi-wave, hailing him for his accomplishments, don’t seem to be echoing around as loudly and frequently as they earlier did. Of course, the heat-wave could be partly responsible for this. Or would it be fair to assume that people are not as convinced by Modi’s claims, rhetoric and his anti-Congress addresses as they earlier seemed to be? This is possible. He has been in command for ten years, which for young voters as well as economically weak sections and others was sufficient time for him to accomplish his promises, which certainly were not confined to Ayodhya-issue, which is display and use of his “religious” card.

Modi’s ten-year stay in power apparently now being judged more strongly by voters than it has probably been earlier.  He is being judged by voters across the country, who are not limited to his home-state, Gujarat. Besides, earlier, voters struck by Modi-wave hardly exercised any deliberation while choosing to go by whatever he said. In essence, BJP’s electoral-fate was decided by a considerable number of voters being andhbhakts (blind devotees) of Modi. Of course, the fact that these did not help BJP gain even fifty percent of the votes cannot be ignored. But yet the party won. Now, the hard-reality that a considerable number of even andhbhakts don’t seem to be as enamored by Modi-wave as they earlier were cannot be ignored. This is certainly contributing to quite a notable dip in Modi-wave. True, to a degree, the hype earlier raised about Modi-wave was manipulated/manufactured. Now, reservations as well as restraint seem to be exercised on this front too. It is possible, Modi-wave matters little or has little appeal in context of grievances faced by common Indians. Manipulated image probably bears no importance against hard grass-root realities being faced by people.  Perhaps. Not surprisingly, even religious along with anti-Congress addresses of Modi and other BJP-stalwarts are not being of much help in enhancing their electoral appeal.  

The preceding points suggest notable shifts in voting trend in several ways. Statistically, chances of Modi and his party being supported by as many votes as earlier are hardly strong. This may also be stated as vote-bank favoring BJP appears to be weaker in comparison to 2014 and 2019. But, prospects of BJP not faring as well as it did earlier and/or the number of seats it wins/loses cannot be delinked from few other factors. Of these, one is, in whose favor do votes choosing not to support BJP turn to? Division in these votes may still help BJP win. If these voters’ decision is primarily decided by their anti-BJP attitude, then a lot is likely to be dependent on who do they vote for, whether there is unity/division in this decision of theirs or not. This trend may strongly be dependent on nature of unity and electoral strength displayed by BJP’s rivals. Electoral strength of BJP’s rivals would be primarily decided by voters’ move for/against them.

Clearly, the campaigning of Congress and other rivals of BJP as well as seat-sharing deal of I.N.D.I.A. – bloc cannot be ignored. However, the results are not going to be simply decided by positive/negative impact of those campaigning for/against Modi (BJP). A lot is dependent on how serious as well as united their electoral power – to defeat Modi proves to be. The key role in deciding the results is dependent on how voters exercise their power. The final decision rests on not simply whether they are more strongly moved by Modi’s rivals or not. But on whether they want Modi to return for the third term or not. If they want, the question of their voting for none else but BJP’s election symbol- the lotus needs no deliberation. But if they are strongly against his returning to power, chances of their taking a determined and decisive stand on this front matters a lot. Rift within BJP over Modi’s return may also turn tables against him. However, not much noise is being made about this. The same may be said about strong sections of voters having chosen silently to oppose his return by voting against BJP. It is not simply the question of their voting against BJP but that for the candidate as one bloc to ensure his/her victory against the former (BJP). Though statistically, these elections are a game of numbers but this gamble is proving challenging for master strategist(s) too, apparently because of strategies being exercised silently by voters at the very grass-roots. From this angle, 2024 elections may be viewed as display of democratic strategy being exercised strongly and silently by voters to ensure the command of their electoral prowess in ensuring success/defeat of the party in power. Or more explicitly, the key question rests on how many votes are specifically cast for Modi or against him!

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:– Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).  

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