Unfolding A Success Mantra
In the days since May 16th when Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stormed to victory in India’s general election much commentary has wrestled with the idea of history. Most commentators seem to agree that May 2014 marks an historic moment. One reason is the scale of Narendra Modi’s landslide victory, which scooped up 282 seats for the BJP and thus an absolute majority in parliament. That is first time since 1984 that any party has won a majority for itself. It is also the first time ever that a party other than Congress has done so. Conversely, the defeat for Congress is far worse than anything in its long history of dominating Indian politics: it won fewer than a sixth the seats of its rival, getting just 44. Yet the size of Mr Modi’s victory, and Congress’s defeat, tells only part of the dramatic story. The immense dissatisfaction with Congress was undeniable. Voters were unhappy with high inflation, slowing growth, weak leadership, corruption and much more. Such voter grumpiness, usually summed up as “anti-incumbency”, is all but inevitable for a party that had been in power for a decade. That suggests an important shift in Indian politics. The BJP did extraordinarily well because it approached the election in a far more professional, strategic and efficient way than its rivals. The methods it employed were modern, and the skill at which Mr Modi and his fellow leaders conducted their campaigns rivalled the sort of performances put in by American presidential contenders. The BJP’s roadshows and rallies, the door-knocking by volunteers, the influence on India’s press and television channels, the ability to set the agenda of discussion, all went to making the election a remarkably one-sided affair.
This book is a personal, partisan and superbly perceptive narrative of now the dice rolled in the four months leading up to 16 May 2014. Harish Khare—journalist, columnist, scholar and former media advisor to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—provides an honest, impassioned record of India’s greatest democratic exercise.
Through a meticulous account of what he saw, heard and read during this time, Khare elucidates now the different political stakeholders kneaded into their day-to-day campaign rhetoric the latent cultural angst, economic anxieties and political expectations of a nation that has changed irrevocably over the past decade, to persuade the Indian voter to cast a decisive vote. From the brilliant and flexible campaign pitch made by the BIP to the jaded and outdated Congress rhetoric, from openly expressed middle-class aspirations to rural India’s resurgent hopes, and from communal polarization to shifting caste equations, How Modi Won It provides brilliant insight into and an incisive assessment of one of the most memorable elections in the country’s history.
By Nilabh Krishna