By Rajiv Shah
Elections were over, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already won a landslide, yet the poll fever seemed to continue unabated among the middle classes of Ahmedabad. Ordinary citizens of Ahmedabad, called Amdavadis, are quite sparing when it comes to bets. They ensure that they do not splurge. One of the bets that I came across on the D-day, May 23, was to tell the most correct number of seats the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would win.
The person who guessed near about the most correct number was to serve ice cream, preferably candies, to his friends. Candies served, all of them started congratulating each other over Modi’s huge win. One of them decided to shout the slogan “Bharat mata ki jay”, and others followed, amidst a lone voice, which few heard, “Begani shaadi me Abdullah diwana”.
In a group of 20, they sat comfortably in an open space outside a middle class society, late in the evening on May 23, with smiles on their faces, seeking to analyze on what made the BJP win “such a huge number.” A more enthusiastic Modi supporter declared, “This time it was 350 seats, the next time Modi would ensure more than 400 seats”, praising him for retaliatory action at Balakot following the terror attack at Pulwama on February 14.
Why 400? Why didn’t he say Modi would win more seats than what Rajiv Gandhi had post Indira Gandhi murder in 1984, a record – 404 in a 514 Lok Sabha? Perhaps it hadn’t occurred to him, lest he would have surely tried to predict that the record would be broken. Someone remarked, “Congress can now forget 2024; it should instead aim 2029.”
Indeed, the shift to BJP, especially Modi, was across the board, and not just confined to the middle classes. If middle classes have been traditional BJP voters, other sections took an almost identical view. Young Dalit girls, for instance, who had come from relatively poor background, all of them first time voters, believed that there was nobody except Modi who could deliver.
“All they have heard of Modi was his surgical strike at Balakot, nothing else”, said a social activist who interacted with them after the polling took place in Gujarat in April third week. “They had not heard of anyone else, nor about achievements of the Modi government. All that they said was, they voted for Modi.”
Added a human rights activist, “The saffron brigade has done one big job: To ensure that Dalits and Adivasis consider themselves Hindus.” Suggesting that these two major communities, on whom the opposition, especially the Congress, considered this as part of their upward social mobility, an assimilation which they had aspired for long, this activist added, “You go to any poor Dalit household in Ahmedabad, and you would find the photographs of Lord Ram and other Hindu deities hanging on the wall, which wasn’t the case, say, a decade ago. All of them voted Modi.”
Modi support post-Balakot
The Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) survey suggests how things went in favour of Modi after Balakot across India. The percentage of those preferring Modi as Prime Minister was 44% in May 2017, it came down to 37% in January 2018, and further to 34% in May 2018. However, after Balakot, in March 2019, he was preferred by 43%.
While the percentage of those who said the Modi government should get another chance reached 46% in March 2019, as against 39% a year earlier, and those who said the Modi government shouldn’t get another chance came down to 36% from 47% during the one year period.
What is also significant is that while in March 2019 the Lokniti-CSDS survey suggested that BJP would bag 35% vote, this percentage increased by a whopping four per cent, reaching about 39% when the final results came out on May 23. The percentage of those who would vote BJP was 39 in May 2017, it came down to 34 in January 2018, and further to 32 in May 2018, after which it began showing a sharp rise. On the other hand, the voter support to the Congress, which was 21% in May 2017, and increased to 25% in January 2018, remaining constant at 25% in May 2018, went down to 23% after Balakot, in March 2019. In May 2019, it could garner even less, 22%, of votes.
What is equally interesting is, even middle classes didn’t want to call it a BJP victory. “No, it isn’t that”, said an Amdavadi talking over on May 23 evening. “It’s essentially a Modi victory. What is BJP without Modi? It would, at best be an equal competitor of the Congress, which has no leader to match Modi.” Another chipped in with a comment on BJP chief Amit Shah, who had won with a huge eight lakh plus margin in the Gandhinagar constituency. “I can tell you, boss! Even Amit Shah is nobody without Modi. It’s just ‘har har Modi’.”
And, pray, what did they like about Modi, after all he had supported likes of Pragya Thakur, a terror accused, when he said her candidature was a “reply to those who seek to undermine the great Hindu culture and civilization”? She had even called Nathuram Godse a patriot, even though Modi dissociated himself and condemned her statement immediately.
“Of course, Godse was a patriot. I agree with Pragya Thakur”, pat came a reply during the discussion. “As for Modi dissociating with her remark, it had to happen. After all, he is the Prime Minister. He had to do it.” And what patriotic deeds did he do? “He didn’t live for long, he was sent to the gallows.” So should one justify murdering Gandhi?
“Posterity would record the truth. Facts would soon be made known as facts are unearned. Gandhi did more harm than good to the nation. He was rightly shot dead”, said someone sitting a little away. There was also the view that there “can’t be any Hindu terrorist. Only Muslims can be terrorists”, a view shared by others