Results of Karnataka Assembly polls have, yet again, proved that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and connect with ordinary voters continues to soar. He is only leader today who can swing electoral outcome in his party’s favour and has capability to outmaneuver all his political rivals. The laddoos distributed at BJP headquarters and elsewhere as Karnataka results came in would be even sweeter for Modi and party workers and supporters as it comes just days ahead of the party and the government celebrating four years in power at the Centre.
It was Modi’s charisma that convinced Karnataka voters to defy the decades old norm — having different governments at the Centre and state — and to align state and Centre. A loud and clear victory in Karnataka makes Modi and BJP go into the next round of elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.
A victory as emphatic as the one in Karnataka makes two things very clear: First, Modi reigns supreme, he does not have a real rival worth a name. Rahul Gandhi is a leader only at All India Congress Committee headquarters in Delhi or in state capitals, not or perhaps never among public.
The Congress president loses no opportunity to prove that he has become a spent force much before showing any spark. Modi will thus have an unchallenged position when he goes forth to seek votes for 2019 elections. Second, Modi is biggest vote catcher of modern times. He can swing outcome of an election in any part of India, be it North East, down south, west or north.
Indira Gandhi was last Indian leader who could win elections for her party on her own. But then there is a great deal of difference between Modi and Indira Gandhi. She inherited the legacy of her father Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, his post and social support base. Then there was a sympathy factor: Not just because she lost her father and had a rather uneasy personal life but also because a large number of people thought that the lonely lady was being wronged by her own party veterans. After riding high on power, it was during Indira’s era that regional parties started coming to the fore.
Modi, by contrast, is a self-made man, a man of most humble origin, a man without any caste support base, a man who remained to be most vilified political personality for around a decade and half, someone who rose to the top not because he was handpicked by a patron but because ordinary BJP workers believed he was the only one who could steer party in turbulent times and turn the tide. And finally, because people of India overwhelmingly believed in him and placed their trust in him. When he became prime minister in 2014, BJP on its own or with allies ruled six states. Today, it rules 21 states and Karnataka is BJP's gateway to the south.
This result also proves that Modi has actually been prophetic on two counts: "Congress-mukt Bharat" and Congress turning into a "PPP party": Puducherry, Punjab and Parivar. After facing defeat in Karnataka, Congress presence is now limited only to Puducherry and Punjab.
Karnataka was only large state the Congress had. It was also the state — as some party leaders privately concede — where most of the party's resources came from. Punjab, under Captain Amarinder Singh, is in any case an autonomous entity. Amarinder is part of Congress but not beholden to the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty.
Puducherry is a Union Territory, a half-state where Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and not Chief Minister Narayanasamy is ruler. The defeat in Karnataka is thus yet another step forward in Modi’s Congress-mukt Bharat slogan. That leaves the parivar, Congress first family or Gandhi-Nehru dynasty in a rather precarious position. In these elections, the narrative the Congress tried to set: Karnataka would set the tone for 2019 parliamentary polls and Rahul’s unilateral proclamation that he'd be “prime minister in 2019” proved to be beneficial for Modi and BJP and detrimental to himself and Congress.
The central message of Karnataka results and Modi’s campaign — during this election and other state elections in past four years — is that the prime minister is positioning himself as the messiah of underprivileged sections of society and highlighting schemes that concerns common men and women: Toilets, rural electrification, free cooking or LPG gas connections, Mudra bank loans, Ayushman Bharat or health insurance of up to Rs five lakh to poor people. His core support base (the middle class) may be disappointed with him for not doing enough despite the fact that they solidly backed him.
But Modi has opened up new frontiers in both rural and urban areas. As for pockets of disappointed supporters in urban areas, the key question is: Will their disenchantment with some policies of Modi government influence their voting pattern? Emerging trends in Karnataka and results in Gujarat suggest a section of people might have some grievances against Modi government, but when it comes to voting they still trust Modi and no one else. Once again, Modi has proved “political pundits”, who endlessly talked of a hung House in Karnataka with clear edge to the Congress, wrong.
For his part, Modi yet again displayed his capacity to take his tough calls for the BJP and the government. He was not guided by the perception of certain sections of the media: His decision to name Yedyurappa as chief ministerial candidate and give additional charge of finance ministry to Piyush Goel besides his regular charge of rail and coal. By shunting Smriti Irani from Information and Broadcasting ministry, Modi sent a clear message that perception of closeness is not a factor in a decision making process which impacts governance.
Modi has placed himself in such a position where "Modi versus the rest" scenario in 2019 may make BJP workers and supporters more aggressive than ever.
Updated Date: May 15, 2018 17:13 PM