New Delhi: If 2014 was the year of Bharatiya Janata Party's resurgence, 2019 has become a year of absolute dominance for the saffron party in India. Building on its gains from five years ago, the BJP stormed back to power by crossing the majority mark on its own, and even more easily than it had in 2014. Along with partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), BJP has gone where it had never before - beyond the 350-seat mark.
BJPs resounding success in Lok Sabha election 2019 may, therefore, be attributed to a number of factors. Some of these are:
Modi's persona and leadership:
Narendra Damodardas Modi's leadership dawned on India in 2014 with fresh hopes. After years and years of politics dominated by coalition compulsions, here was a figure who connected with the masses as very few had before him. That appeal, that connect of being one of their own made voters once again feel that PM Modi is the right choice to lead the nation.
In addition, PM Modi has managed to keep his corruption-free, hard-working image absolutely intact which also reverberated with his supporters and people at large.
PM Modi is also renowned for his oratory skills and he once again appealed to people across the country during numerous rallies. That he had stayed in touch with fellow citizens through his monthly radio address during his first five years as PM, Modi managed to build on the feeling of him being more of a 'Pradhaan Sewak' than a PM. "This election was the first election in India in which the Opposition was unable to put a single charge of corruption on the government," PM Modi had said in his victory speech on Thursday.
Common matters that matter to people may often appear small but can play a significant role in deciding where political affinities go. The Modi government had given importance to bringing LPG cylinders to the poor, building toilets to improve personal sanitation, construction of houses, Swachh Bharat and electrification were some of the steps taken which connected with the masses. These, coupled with schemes like Ayushman Bharat - for quality healthcare to everyone at affordable rates, impetus to LED bulbs, push to Digital India and Jan Dhan accounts worked like a charm.
PM Modi worked overtime in ensuring that India's global stature rose in the first five years of his government. He not only projected India as a responsible force to reckon with but acted on his assurance of not tolerating any threat to national security. The government had maintained the pressure on Pakistan for its nefarious ways and in retaliation to the dastardly attack in Pulwama in May, gave the signal to the Indian Air Force to carry out retaliatory strikes on terrorist bases in Balakot.
The NDA government has repeatedly shown its commitment towards maintaining India's territorial integrity and internal security, and has increased defence spendings while putting a special focus on modernising the forces. Almost every BJP leader campaigning this year had put the focus on this and underlined the need for strong leadership in the country. PM Modi himself had said on more than one occasion that he remains committed to tackling the menace of terrorism. "Parties like Congress have always been soft on terror. Terrorists across the border are waiting for another government to come to India because they are scared they won't be able to do anything till we are here. Strong leadership will continue to act as a big deterrent to those who see India in the wrong light," he had said.
A major factor behind BJP's success is also the fact that Congress remains in absolute shambles under a leader who has always appeared rather clueless and inept in attracting mass appeal. Even as Rahul Gandhi said in the immediate aftermath of Lok Sabha election 2019 results that it won't be prudent to analyse the reasons for Congress' failings but the party's shortcomings may have played into the hands of the BJP.
Elevation of Rahul Gandhi to the post of party president has hardly worked for Congress in the last several years even as party workers and leaders have largely constructed a defence shield over him. Rahul has been unable to project himself as a worthy rival to PM Modi, often becoming the most favourite political subject for memes online. BJP often highlighted the inabilities of Rahul and said that sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's official entry in politics in January showed Congress had no faith left in Rahul to inspire people on his own.
In addition, Congress' campaign in Lok Sabha election 2019 appeared jagged, one-minded and rather negative. The relentless attack on PM Modi and calling him chor (thief), harping on allegations of corruption in Rafale deal and inability to pin the government for its supposedly controversial decisions like demonetisation and GST hurt the Congress.
Another significant factor may be Congress' failure in giving out a clear and comprehensive roadmap for India if it was voted to power. The NYAY scheme - monthly income for India's poorest of poor - appeared promising but was labelled as too idealistic by BJP. The Congress was unable to comprehensively counter that charge and take its manifesto to the masses with conviction.
Failure of regional, non-NDA parties
The biggest challenge to Narendra Modi and the BJP was mounted not by Congress but by regional parties, especially Trinamool Congress. West Bengal became the epicentre of poll-related violence even as Mamata Banerjee's attack against BJP devolved into deplorable standards. Both TMC and BJP accused each other of having undermined democracy but Mamata's personal attacks against PM Modi clearly failed to project her as a strong leader - even in her own state. BJP, a party that never won a seat in West Bengal till Lok Sabha election 2014, almost brought down TMC's supremacy here. While Mamata is learnt to have harboured Prime Ministerial ambitions, she will now have to face up to the prospect of possibly being ousted in the assembly elections scheduled for 2020.
Another massive jolt was dealt to the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Uttar Pradesh. While SP had been reduced to five seats in Lok Sabha election 2014, BSP had been bowled out completely. This necessitated the two arch-rivals in UP to keep their differences aside and embark on a 'Stop Modi' endeavour this year. It would come to a nought as BJP once again took most of UP. What would come of the Mahagathbandhan now is a curious question doing the rounds of Indian political circles.
Others like Telegu-Desam Party under Chandrababu Naidu, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Aam Aadmi Party are facing an existential crisis.
Most of these parties - including Congress - had attempted at getting together to form a formidable alliance against BJP. It is reported that the personal ambitions of many of the leaders eventually resulted in nothing concrete ever materialising.