India voted overwhelmingly for Narendra Modi-led government in 2019. The BJP has often been tagged as a majoritarian and a polarizing political party, a tag which the BJP party hasn’t shied away from. However, do all of its voters share the same view? In the 2019 General Elections, the ruling National Democratic Alliance or NDA got around 27 crore votes, while the BJP itself won a total of 22.9 crore votes.
BJP is known for its diverging politics. Moreover, it has time and again reiterated their communal stance on politics. This stance is further cemented by the fact that BJP, despite being the largest party, only has a single Muslim MP (Saumitra Khan from West Bengal) out of its 303 elected MPs. But can all the 27 crore voters or 45% of all Indian voters who voted for the BJP-led NDA be labelled as communal and ignorant?
Even though, for many, it might seem effortless and even veracious to label all the BJP voters as their hardcore supporters and subscribers of their ideology or simple ‘bhakts’. Still, in a nation like India, things are never so straightforward.
Talking to various people who had voted for the Narendra Modi-led NDA in the 2019 elections, I could see two broad categories. The first was the people who thought that Narendra Modi was a good leader for India and he was doing his best.
The second category was fully aware that this government, like the previous ones, wasn’t perfect and had its share of serious shortcomings. This group voted for the Narendra Modi government as they simply did not have a good alternative.
It is these two groups that make all the difference. The first one is ready to defend Narendra Modi and his ministers in all of their decisions, good or bad. Moreover, the BJP itself banks on this support heavily. These are the people who are ‘Modi Supporters’. On the other hand, the second group does not seek to defend but rather understand the laws and policies of the government. They question the government freely and, at times, even feel that the divisive politics of the BJP is not always in the nation’s best interest. These are the people who do not wholly subscribe to BJP’s ideology, but for them, Narendra Modi isn’t the best but the only viable choice available. Which is why they are ‘Modi Voters‘.
These Modi Voters don’t shy away from changing their votes wherever they get better choices and vote for the best candidates. For instance, in the Bihar assembly elections, the people of Bihar saw a good leader in Tejasvi Yadav and thus voted in strong numbers for him. Even though he lost to the NDA, he made considerable gains and put together a strong opposition against the BJP-led government, something even national parties like the Congress haven’t been able to do.
Despite various policies and decisions like demonetization that resulted in mass discontent among the people, BJP still seems to find its way somehow. Even after the massive migrant labour distress movement across the nation post the March lockdown, which drew ire from all sides of the nation against the central government, BJP’s support never dwindles down. Numerous migrants, who decided to walk home in lieu of lack of transportation, walked thousands of kilometres across the length and breadth of India. Unofficial sources stated that close to 950 people died of this frantic movement.
Even the government itself – via various statements and compensations – indirectly admitted that it committed a catastrophic mistake. However, during such times when the opposition relentlessly was attacking the government, the labourers themselves were of a different view. Many were still in favour of the BJP and intended to vote from them.
The reason for this rooting; Modi’s policies. While many policies continue to have numerous loopholes, the government’s policies and laws have affected many in numerous ways.
India being a patriarchal society, witnesses most of the household work done by women. As a host of PM Modi’s flagship policies are focused on household and female needs like toilets (Swachh Bharat Abhiyan), LPG Gas (Ujjwala Yojana), pucca houses (PM Awas Yojana), health (Ayushman Bharat) and the triple talaq act, an overwhelming majority of women voted for Narendra Modi.
We need to understand here that this vote is not because these women support the BJP and their divisive politics but because they have benefitted from PM Modi’s leadership.
Apart from the women, the markets have favoured PM Modi due to his pro-business image. Various facts have substantiated this pro-business image – be it India’s improved position on the ease of doing business index, the notable improvement in electronic goods manufacturing, various privatization bids or policies, like Make in India or Atma Nirbhar Bharat. Even though all of these policies continue to have various loopholes, they still are very much visible to the people.
For many business persons, their operations under this government haven’t been the smoothest, but they were at least partly free from the nation’s long socialistic nature and had a fragrance of a free market. These voters, too, do not vote for the BJP because they are majoritarian and full of hatred, but it makes good sense for them.
If the Narendra Modi government had not delivered on any of its promises, then it wouldn’t have been able to be at the throne it is at now. The Modi government has focussed on infrastructure development and used eye-catching mega projects as vote banks – be it the Atal Tunnel, numerous metro projects, Mumbai-Hyderabad bullet train, J&K and Arunachal Pradesh railway projects (highlighted by the Chenab river and Bogibeel bridges), etc. and the government has made sure that these projects do not go unnoticed.
Narendra Modi and the central government were and continue to be far ahead of their opponents in one key area, publicity. Whatever be the event or policy or scheme, the central government goes all out on publicizing the event. Be it the repealing of Article 370 or evacuation activities during CoVID like Vande Bharat or Ram Mandir issue, the government’s publicity record is impeccable.
This massive publicity has helped BJP catapult all national issues as the driving force for even local elections. Presently, where ever an election – be it a local, centre or state – is being fought, it isn’t based on local or regional importance issues but on national issues like the India-China standoff, CAA protests in Delhi, the Balakot Airstrikes, the surgical strikes etc. Even though these issues are, without a doubt, extremely important but when such issues start outweighing regional issues, then parties do not get votes on their work and development but on the faces of their national leaders. And to BJP’s comfort, at the national level, Narendra Modi doesn’t have a serious contender even their opponents have fallen for this publicity campaign.
Because of this reason, from municipal elections in Hyderabad to assembly elections in Bihar, these elections aren’t being fought on civic issues of Hyderabad, or regional distresses of Bihar but on Narendra Modi’s face. This is why we see Nitish Kumar winning in Bihar on Modi’s name even though the larger population had anti-incumbency feelings running high against the latter.
Now, as voters see a benefit in Narendra Modi at the centre, they feel that in giving a vote to the BJP at local elections, they are voting for the Prime Minister himself. Here, a BJP supporter votes for BJP because he/she blindly believes in Modi while the other voters are left confused. As for them, the issues they wanted to talk about were never raised, and the ones that were raised had nothing to do with their constituency. Thus, without much viable options left, they end up voting for their local BJP leaders on the face of Narendra Modi. Here too, the voter isn’t a subscriber to BJP’s or RSS’s ideology, but they simply go for the best alternative.
And when these voters are labelled as majoritarian, insensitive, conservative, etc. and teased with terms like bhakts by a host of media and political outfits, they are further alienated from opposition parties and keep getting closer to the Narendra Modi-led BJP government. Therefore, we have to understand this crucial difference between a Modi Voter and a Modi Supporter. Because, for a vibrant and democratic India, we need way more voters than supporters!