In 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed the government for the second term, winning even more seats than they did in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Since then, a new buzzword has made its way into the political discourse of India, “Modi wave”— indicating a ‘tsunami’ of support for the Prime Minister and his party across the nation that washes away all other opposition.
This idea has now become even more common for primarily two reasons. Firstly, the BJP’s electoral victories including the 2019 General elections where it increased its seat share in the Parliament from 282 in 2014 to 303. Secondly, it has been intentionally injected into the minds of the people through consistent media coverage of the ruling party’s rallies and presence (which includes the IT Cell’s mammoth presence in the social media platforms).
Due to the large-scale institutional support that the ruling party has today from the largest corporations and multinationals funding their campaigns to sitting judges of the Supreme Court hailing the Prime Minister as a ‘visionary’, everyone seems to have become a bhakt of the bearded fakir called Narendra Modi.
But is this so-called ‘Modi wave’ a reality? Is it true that the majority want this government, or even subscribe to its Hindu nationalist ideology? We must find out the truth in this regard because false, exaggerated ideas about the ruling class is a tool used by it to make itself appear invincible and inevitable, thus making the masses believe in it as the norm and injecting pessimism in those who are oppressed and in those who fight for the liberation of the people.
We have 29 states at present, out of which the BJP rules only 12. Recent election results in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala further show that the BJP does not hold much power against regional parties at the state level and has to get into alliances to even remain in power like they are in six states. In Assam, the difference of vote share between BJP and the largest opposition party, the Indian National Congress, is only 3.5%.
Out of the states that BJP governs, in Madhya Pradesh, they could not win electorally and then had to topple the popularly elected government by buying off sitting MLAs of the ruling party, thus explicitly disrespecting the people’s verdict. They attempted the same in Rajasthan. Further, in Karnataka, BJP did not even get the majority of vote shares! They got 36% of the votes which was second to the Indian National Congress’s 38%. It thus becomes clearer how failures of the electoral mechanism have paved the way for the BJP to hold power.
There is another widely held belief that even if BJP does not perform well in State elections, nationally Narendra Modi and the BJP are hailed as the only reliable ones to be in power by the ‘people’ or the ‘majority’. In India, 900 million people, or approximately 60% of the population are eligible to vote. Out of that, the voter turnout was 67.1% in 2019, so only 67.1% of those 900 million people, that is approximately 600 million people take part in electing the government into power. Now, the BJP in 2019 got around 220 million or 37% of the votes.
This means that not only did over 60% of the people who came to vote did not want the party in power, but a more revealing fact is, the ruling party is in power with merely the votes of 220 million people, which is in a country of over 1.5 billion only about 15% of the population. Considering the state of affairs in this country, even out of that 15% we must account for people whose votes are bought, and the ones who vote under coercion and interests other than subscribing to BJP’s ideology.
Another fact that should be taken note of here is that the BJP is the world’s largest party with around 180 million members and that if we merely add the Sangh Parivar, the BJP’s backbone, which has around 6 million members, we can see that neither the masses nor the ‘majority’ wants them in power.
Failure of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system is one of the major structural issues. The electoral system has failed to reflect in Parliament the popular support awarded to competing parties other than the victorious party. It creates false majorities by over-representing the party that did not receive a majority of the votes while under-representing the others. Why is it that a party that was elected by only about 15% of the population gets to have around 60% seats in the parliament, ‘represent’, and make decisions about the entire population? This is in itself undemocratic.
The second reason is the large-scale institutional support that the BJP enjoys. It is public knowledge that all public institutions like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Election Commission (ECI), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and even the Supreme Court have acted in certain ways that only further the agenda of the ruling class. Multinational corporations (MNCs) and the biggest company owners have funded and even openly come out in support of the BJP. The rich and the most powerful are disproportionately on their side.
BJP’s performance in West Bengal and other elections prove they are not as strong as those espousing the Modi wave suggest.
The third reason is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its ground-level organizations which have grown all over the country over the last few years, which the opposition leaders and leaders have failed, or refused to put an end to. The growth of reactionary organizations like Bajrang Dal and self-proclaimed ‘Gau Rakshaks’ are used to strike terror in the hearts of minorities and the marginalized.
RSS shakhas and schools have sprung up even in the most remote areas of the country, and this, unfortunately, has happened even under the watch of apparently anti-BJP state governments like Kerala and West Bengal. The BJP is what it is today, because of the RSS. It is nothing without the RSS and its other ground organizations and NGOs.
Lastly, why BJP still performs better at the national level is because of the lack of a strong opposition leader or even a strong opposition candidate. Hence, the votes against BJP get divided up and they come out as the largest party. A significant number of BJP voters simply vote for them because they see strength and stability in the BJP. This false perception must end.
Let there be no doubt: it is no ‘majority that is supporting the ruling party. Neither is it true that they are invincible, and it is not a mere overly optimistic statement that they are not at all inevitable and will eventually succumb to defeat— electorally and otherwise.
There is no ‘Modi wave’, there is only a Modi myth.