Bengaluru: Rahul Gandhi could not match the oratory skill of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath and that's why the Congress lost, said Prakash Naik, the Congress party Uttara Kannada district president. But was it really the blitzkrieg of rallies these two BJP leaders addressed in the last ten days of campaigning that propelled the BJP to 104 seats?
The BJP had released a list of 40 star campaigners including Union ministers Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani, Rajnath Singh, Prakash Javadekar and Piyush Goyal. However, in the end, the campaign was mostly led by Modi and Adityanath.
Modi in most of his speeches raised issues of underdevelopment, corruption and dynastic politics to target the Karnataka Congress leadership. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who was most active in the last leg of campaigning, stridently championed Hindutva politics. He called on Hindus to unite to fight anti-Hindu forces, a discourse which found ready acceptance in the already communally sensitive region.
The prime minister addressed 21 rallies across the state, up from the 15 originally planned, in nine days starting from 1 May. He laid particular emphasis on northern and coastal Karnataka. Adityanath's 17 rallies were largely in the coastal belt. The question remains as to what impact these rallies actually had on the final voting pattern.
To try and answer this, we analysed all the constituencies where Modi and Adityanath campaigned to see how the BJP had fared in that particular seat. To simplify this, we have only considered the constituencies where the rallies took place and not the surrounding ones, even though the tour plan shared by the party media cell said that the public meetings were meant to cover nearby constituencies too.
An analysis of Election Commission data shows an increased voter turnout in 28 out of 36 seats where Modi and Adityanath addressed rallies. The average increase was 1.5 percent over the 2013 Assembly vote percentage in these constituencies. Some constituencies like Bijapur city, Bhatkal and Sirsi witnessed an increase in voter turnout by five percent.
In terms of seats won, while the data suggests that these rallies helped the BJP gain ground, the extent of the gain was not as high as projected in the media. Out of the 36 constituencies the two leaders visited, BJP gained 11 seats, retained six and lost two. So the net gain is nine seats out of 36 seats. The average winning margin in these seats was around 12,000 votes, as compared to the state average margin of victory, which was about 18,000 votes.
It is important to note that seven of the 11 new seats were in the coastal belt, where the party was able to polarise Hindu votes. Adityanath repeatedly raked up the issue of communal riots and terror links to Bhatkal, which pushed the majority community voters towards the BJP.
However, there was no similar impact of rallies by the two leaders in a number of other constituencies. In 18 such seats, the BJP’s loss margin was around 15,000 votes.
In some cases, the margin of defeat was huge. In Belgaum Rural, for instance, where both Modi and Adityanath held rallies, two-time BJP MLA Sanjay Patil lost by 50,316 votes. Patil had made headlines with the controversial remark — “This election is about Hindus versus Muslims".
Modi’s rallies covering the twin districts of Kolar and Chikkaballapur too had no impact as the BJP lost all 11 seats there. Modi had addressed a huge gathering near Beerandahalli on 9 May. But the party finished a poor third in Bangarpet, and lost the KGF seat by over 40,000 votes.
It would probably be unfair to compare Modi’s rallies with the kind of public meetings that Congress organised for Rahul Gandhi. His interactions were more in the nature of Corner and Swagat meetings (road shows) instead of big public rallies, according to the tour plan shared by the Congress media cell. However, an analysis of 15 constituencies where Rahul campaigned between 1 May and 9 May shows that the Congress was able to win only one new seat, losing three and retaining six.
The analysis suggests that such public rallies by national leaders are more a show of strength than a method for swinging votes.
“I doubt if there is a correlation between the rallies by national leaders in certain areas and who the population there eventually ended up voting for,” says Muzaffar Assadi, professor of political science at University of Mysore. “It is the result of no anti-incumbency coupled with the lack of any particular ‘Modi wave.’”
(With inputs from Deepak Kumar Shenvi)
(Prince Singhal and Gangadhar S Patil are members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)
Updated Date: May 16, 2018 21:34 PM