In less than 100 days, India will be facing one of its most important elections in recent times. Not for nothing has it often been alluded to as the Battle of Panipat. The stakes for both sides are very high and the long-term implications of 2019 outcome are for all to see.
With that in mind, we undertook a SWOT analysis exercise for BJP with respect to its chances in Elections 2019.
For the uninitiated, SWOT stands for Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat – it is an analytical tool used to examine the strategic and competitive position of an organisation.
So here is how BJP stacks up:
1. Brand Modi
It is an undisputable fact that Brand Modi is still at a high, though media may try and push their “Rahul catching up with Modi” narrative for the umpteenth time. His strongest points have been personal integrity and selfless dedication to the nation. These have withstood the allegations of Rafale and beyond media noise, the man on the road still believes he is incorruptible. In fact, baseless allegations flung around without following up with concrete evidence have convinced many that this is akin to a witch-hunt. The opposition has managed to create a Presidential format of election for 2019. With no clear opponent in sight, this does seem to make it Advantage Modi.
2. Schemes like Ujala, Ujjwala, PMJay, Ayushman Bharat
The transformation brought about in rural lives will probably be the hallmark of the last 4 years. From ensuring 95% basic sanitation to almost 100% electrification, millions of lives have changed drastically. In addition to re-enforcing the image of BJP in governance matters, it has also brought forward in contrast, the utter failure of 60 years of Congress rule. The fact that they did not have the will to provide even the most basic necessities to millions of rural folk when they could have, makes every promise they make now sound hollow and insincere.
3. Macroeconomic indicators
India has already entered the top 5 economies in the world and is predicted to overtake China in terms of growth. Most macro growth indicators that had been in the red pre-2014 have seen considerable improvement. Demonetisation and GST are largely seen as bitter pills to set the house in order, and inflation has been under control.
4. Dedicated support base
BJP has the most dedicated voter base in the country. 2014 saw thousands of volunteers take a break from their careers and give it their all to see Modi get elected. This time around, the enthusiasm was a tad lower but a rejuvenated cadre seems to have sprung into action of late. Also, BJP is the only party that has supporters express grievances upwards, which are often addressed and course correction initiated. A real strength in a scenario where other political parties are filled with sycophants and Yes-Men unable to point out where they are going wrong.
5. Terror-free rule
Even the harshest critics of Modi agree that the last 4 years have seen a peaceful, terror-free existence. Nobody has forgotten the frequent blasts and the callousness with which concerns were addressed by the UPA government. In cities and Metros, this is a huge motivator for people to vote in this government once again.
1. The real pliant media
Among the funniest and phoniest criticism to have come from anti-Modi camp is that the Indian media is soft on Modi. It is a fact that for the last 4 years the Congress fed ecosystem, which includes the media, has been setting the narrative – such as hate crime or lynching that is not based on verifiable data and in fact have often been falsified with data and logic – while BJP has been playing on the backfoot. Rather than talking about achievements, the government seems to be caught in a perpetual fire fighting mode. No efforts have been made to address false and malicious news on a daily basis, which has emboldened peddlers even more.
From corruption cases to RJB to constant attacks on Hindu culture, the deviancy of the SC has been one of the gnawing features of the last 4 years. This in fact also puts a spanner into the arrests of Christian Michel, Rajeev Saxena and Deepak Talwar. With less than 3 months left, will any of these arrests bear results? “Modiji ne kisko jail bheja?” is a common refrain heard among the dissatisfied.
3. Motormouths in Hindu Pariwar
There were many first-time BJP voters in 2014, who were fed up of Congress corruption and were willing to give the “Hindutva party” a chance. Many of them have been successfully swayed by the Gaurakshak and Hindutva narrative spread by media. Will this category vote for Modi or will choose NOTA?
4. Middle-class discontent
Although the supporters of the government have pointed out various ways in which the middle class has benefited, many of these benefits are indirect and not easily appreciated by an average person running his or her household. Despite inflation being under control, an apparent lack of direct benefits to the middle class such as any tax cuts or other concessions from the finance ministry is one of the weak spots of the Modi government. Could the interim budget change that?
5. Lack of ecosystem
In the last 60 years, Congress has governed less and ruled more. They have successfully created a devoted and easily co-opted support base which does their bidding each time they are called into doing so. Little wonder that the Padma Awardees “gifted” by them are often called into for service. From the award wapsi gang to the op-eds crying intolerance, these people have managed to create an atmosphere of a seemingly chaotic and intolerant rule. The fact that they have been able to do it with such ease, is not a contradiction lost to many. However, they succeed in affecting the impressionable minds.
1. Brand Pappu
This requires an article in itself but to keep it short and simple, Brand Pappu is today as big a motivator to elect Modi as he was in 2104, if not bigger. The narrative peddled by Pidi media (the real pliant media) notwithstanding, the last 2 years have brought to fore, a deranged, manic kind of a personality who can go to any extent to grab power. In addition to that, his winking and hugging and other unpredictable gestures validate Wikileaks expose made about him in 2014. The country at large does not seem to be in the mood to put this kind of a person at the helm of affairs.
2. Disillusionment with Congress in MP, Rajasthan and Karnataka
Kamalnath and company have hit the ground running with their version of governance in their respective states. MP almost immediately saw BJP cadre get killed, there were riots for urea procurement in MP and Rajasthan, the loan waivers have already been proved as a fake promise. One can only wonder at the sheer audacity of these people who will have to face voters in less than 3 months. Will this send the voters back into BJP arms in 2019?
3. Gains in North East
BJP has made impressive strides in the North East through ground connect and infrastructure development. The party is hoping to improve upon its 2014 seat share there. (However, the Citizenship Amendment Bill is already creating problems for BJP in Assam and other states in the region. Some believe this has the potential to harm BJP prospects in North East.)
4. Individual aspirations of Mahathugbandhan
There is no clarity of a hierarchy in the MGB. It is a collection of individuals who have got together to topple Modi but are big leaders in their own states and more importantly in their own minds. This is going to lead to an interesting scenario of leadership claims in the unfortunate situation that BJP does not manage a simple majority. The assertiveness of this type has already been displayed by Mayawati, Yashwant Sinha, Akhilesh Yadav among others. And it is highly unlikely that Congress will be ready to play second fiddle to any of these. This khichdi scenario is reason enough for many sane minds to vote for Modi solely for the sake of stability.
5. Ram Mandir
On the heels of repeated dilly-dallying by the SC, the government has filed a petition for the return of undisputed land at the RJB. This has led to a flutter of excitement among the RW who see it as a hope towards construction. Whether the SC dithers or not, the government has made its stand clear that they are not willing to wait any longer. Will this be able to placate voters who voted for this government with RJB as the sole motive?
6. Return of Nirav Modi, Choksi, Mallya etc.
Having built up the Chowkidaar Chor hai narrative to a crescendo, it remains to be seen how the public will react IF any or all of these are brought back to India before the elections. Will it be a huge setback to the agenda that was peddled all along? Getting any of them to sing in custody can bring huge benefits to the anti-corruption plank of Modi government.
1. Caste-based mobilisation
Electoral mathematics will go a long way in determining the outcome of 2109. Having tasted victory in Bihar Assembly elections and to some extent in Gujarat and Karnataka, it is very likely that caste-based calculations by ‘secular’ parties can tilt the balances away from BJP’s favour. Can Amit Shah’s famed candidate selection offset losses due to caste arithmetic by the other side?
2. Instigation of large scale caste/religion based riots
Congress is already scraping the bottom of the barrel with their power grabbing agenda. From beseeching Pakistan to help in removing Modi to Rahul Gandhi secretly meeting Chinese officials, they have consistently displayed that no step is too low when it comes to power. Bhima Koregaon happened in not a too distant past and it is not unexpected that if push comes to shove, they will not shy away from employing every possible avenue. Recently Shashi Tharoor quoted an American Spymaster predicting that BJP may organise riots in the country before elections. Is there more to it than meets the eye? Are they setting the stage for something sinister? No one has forgotten Mallikarjun Kharge’s Rakhtpaat threat nor Rahul Gandhi’s famed “22000 people will be killed if BJP comes to power” dialogue.
3. The rise of the “Group 140” aspirants within BJP
The secular cabal has found a sudden fondness for Mr Gadkari. Each of his statement is being twisted around and projected as anti-Modi. To what extent this will be successful and whether they will be able to create dissonance in BJP cadre by projecting more power centres is something to watch out for.
4. NOTA warriors
There are two main sets of NOTA warriors currently. Firstly those who voted for BJP for the first time in 2014, and are currently dissatisfied due to various causes like Economy, Hindutva, Demonetization etc. The second lot is the pro-Hindutva brigade which had expected a Hindu Rashtra at the end of 2019 and are sorely disappointed. Whether the coming 100 days will see a situation that can bring back some of these disgruntled supporters is of utmost importance. NOTA will play a big role in 2019. As some say, this election is not about coming to power, but about keeping Modi out of power.
The above lists are obviously not exhaustive and are in fact quite dynamic. The next 3 months will see a roller coaster ride in politics, of a magnitude rarely witnessed before. Hopefully, at the end of the individual ups and downs, there will be only one victory and that will be of INDIA.