The BJP won more seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election than anyone expected, and over the next five years, the world will see “Narendra Modi’s India,” experts say.
Figures from India’s Election Commission show the BJP alone had won 303 seats and the Indian National Congress won 52, again failing to make even 10 percent recognized as the leader of the opposition in the Indian parliament, though their performance improved compared to 2014 when it won 44 seats.
Dinsha Mistree, a research fellow and lecturer in the Rule of Law Program at Stanford Law School, California, said Modi possesses good but not great skills as an orator compared to other world leaders, but the party structure and its operatives deserve credit for the victory as well.
“It’s his strength and BJP’s strength and how party organization can get the people to the rally,” said Mistree, adding, “Look, (Indian National Congress President) Rahul Gandhi is a bad speaker, and I don’t think I am wrong here.”
Mistree, who was surprised with the numbers and strength of BJP’s victory, rules out that it was Modi’s charisma alone that won him 303 seats but the party worked hard in helping to obtain victory, compared to the Congress’s failings.
“And Congress is not well organized,” Mistree said. “The problem is at the top.”
Mistree, who visits India every three months for his work, said he was in India in March this year and came across front-page news about the Congress party choosing a social media company, with Sam Pitroda, in charge of the Indian Overseas Congress, heading up that effort.
[Indian Express reported: Congress party has recently hired the data-powered advertising firm SilverPush, which has never done political marketing work before. The BJP works with the firm Association of Billion Minds(ABM) for its digital marketing work, along with several other smaller vendors]
Referring to how slow the Congress party was in adopting social media campaigning, Mistree said, “In 2014 many said Congress lost because they did not engage media properly. And Congress could not decide six weeks before the major election, that tells you they did not learn their lesson from 2014.”
“They waited too long, and Pitroda, it seems like Pitroda does not know much about social media,” said Mistree.“Again, if Congress didn’t know about Twitter until 2014 and again did not take it seriously so again, I would say it was the management structure.”
The report after the election shows that the Twitter India conversations around the 2019 Lok Sabha elections grew 600 percent from 2014 to reach 396 million tweets between January 1 and May 23. During the course of the six weeks of the election from April 11 till May 19.
Also, BJP’s message across the board was constant compared to Congress’s promises of 22 lakh government jobs and more.
On the other hand, BJP focused more on underground messaging and knew what message to deliver to the people in Uttar Pradesh as well as in South India.
“We know in terms of political communications it is a valuable message, and all 600 million voters do not want to hear the same thing,” Mistree said, but added, you have to be consistent at the national level, and BJP was talking “Hindutva” at a national level. And they have Amit Shah, BJP Party President, who knows the underground situations.
Further referring to Congress’s problems on why it failed again, he said, “If you want to be a national party, especially in this age, you have to able to strategize and be able to listen to your local party people, and even if they have not been a dynastic leader. But for some of the people, it’s kind of hard for them to give up that power to local level.”
When asked if Congress’s dynastic approach should be blamed as well, Mistree replied, “Yes, certainly that is one of the reasons, and the way it’s structured is problematic. They’ve been given a lot of power, and he (Rahul Gandhi) in the speech made a joke himself at UC Berkeley.”
Gandhi’s weakness is that he’s not as good an orator as Modi, but again the party matters. At the top the level there is a lot of discourse. They need a top-level shake-up, not sure who would make the party better but they need to do something.
The point here again the Congress like 2014 has no leadership. You need 10 percent Lok Sabha seats to be a leader of the opposition. And right now there is no leader in the opposition.
When asked how Modi will govern in a different manner, more inclined to RSS, more robust as he was when the chief minister of Gujarat.
Mistree said that if you look at what Modi did in Gujarat in his second and third terms as chief minister, one was in term of governance and other was he changed some of the governance protocol, a little bit.
“He did big projects as chief minister. He does come back with a mandate. He does all kind of big, flasher projects. He thinks himself as a bigger person,” said Mistree.
So that is the second thing, he tried to control the BJP a lot. His strength is everybody thinks he can win elections, so with that strength in a democracy that’s arguably the biggest sorts of power, and he can sideline a lot of people who might not share his ambition and sideline lot of people who might be a potential political rival, Mistree said.
“If I am a BJP person trying to get a cabinet, I would exactly do what you (Modi) wants me to. I am going to execute your vision, and Smriti Irani, who won the Amethi seat defeating Rahul Gandhi, is the perfect example. She won’t be doing anything that goes against Modi,” he said.
Concerned about the misuse of power, Mistree believes now Modi can put the people he wants in the cabinet and that tends not to be very good and could problematic. “I would like to see BJP in coalition and leaders in the coalition I can say run the ship much better,” he said.
“Now we would see Modi’s BJP,” said Mistree. “Now it is going to be centralized and one leader.”
Modi is a kind of leader who surrounds himself with people loyal to him. And that is smart but could also be dangerous for economic growth and governance, Mistree said.