PM Narendra Modi | Suraj Singh Bisht/ThePrint
PM Narendra Modi | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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In his opening statement at his joint press conference with BJP president Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pretty much declared victory in the elections. He also added that it will be that rare occurrence in Indian politics when an incumbent with a majority wins a second term again with a full majority.

Exit polls might give us some indications, but we have to wait until 23 May to fact-check this claim. Given the state of our economy, massive, visible joblessness and farm distress, his adversaries had reasons to expect overwhelming anti-incumbency. There has been very little evidence of that as yet.

This may look counter-intuitive to those schooled in classical, old-fashioned analysis of the political mood. But in extensive travels tracking the campaign across the country, four points stand out. Whatever the BJP/NDA numbers finally, these four would have greatly contributed to dulling the economic pain and anti-incumbency.

1) A formidable new vote-bank: A new, pan-national caste-based vote-bank has risen. It consists of the upper castes. Since 1989, these had leaned increasingly towards the BJP, but there were always divisions. Some Brahmins continued voting for the Congress for nostalgic reasons. Individual Thakur leaders swung some vote in the heartland, especially Uttar Pradesh. The Jana Sangh/BJP always attracted the upper castes, but the only caste really committed to them were the Banias. That’s why Indira Gandhi always called them a “Bania party”, never a Hindu party.

Now all upper castes have consolidated behind Modi. They see in Modi’s BJP a force not just for Hindutva, but for what they see as “merit”, which they fear the minorities and the “less meritorious” lower castes will take away because of their voting power.


Also read: 6 factors that will determine who will be India’s next PM & who won’t


This new vote bank is as cohesive as, say, the Muslims when it comes to voting against the BJP. In so much travel through these three months, I rarely found an upper caste voter who wasn’t with the BJP. This helps Modi counter Muslims and other castes like Yadavs who usually align with them. The last caste census was in 1931, but at anything between 22-25 per cent, upper castes form the largest single vote bank in India, bigger than Muslims, Dalits or any cohesive OBC group.

2) Trumping disastrous macroeconomics with effective microeconomics: At the BJP press conference, Shah claimed his party’s government had focused on the last-mile delivery of its schemes. He is right. We found that toilets, LPG (Ujjwala), housing (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana), Mudra and rural electrification are schemes whose benefits have by and large reached the recipients.

Nothing is perfect, of course. Toilets are often short of water, many LPG recipients can’t afford refills and Mudra loans haven’t always created employment. But, across the country, you can see that these have reached people. As have the first instalments of the farmers’ direct benefit subsidy. For the really poor and far-out, this is a big change. So much that is visible and tangible has reached their hands, mostly without having to pay bribes. ThePrint’s Remya Nair and Manasi Phadke reported recently that 4.81 crore people had received Mudra loans totalling Rs 2.4 lakh crore. These schemes have touched far too many people in quick time to not matter to them.

They neither understand nor bother about whether the GDP is up or down, reliable or fudged. They are too poor to yet be in the organised job market. Getting a few things from the government in quick succession matters to them. I have chatted with several such people in these travels, and recorded these conversations on my phone. Some of these I’ve been sharing on my Instagram page and ThePrint’s. Do check out.

3) Building what UPA planned and abandoned: The Modi government has a much better record in building hard infrastructure — highways, ports, metros, bridges, other urban infrastructure — than UPA-2, and it is visible to the naked eye. The Congress can say with justification that it did well in UPA-1, and that many of these projects were imagined, planned and even initiated by it. But it will have to look within to see why these were abandoned `midway, or blocked/banned for one reason or the other. The most visible case study is the big infrastructure projects in Mumbai. The north-south metro, trans-harbour link, Navi Mumbai Airport and the coastal road were all planned by the UPA. All were denied one clearance or the other and blocked. Sad were the big, landmark bridges across the country, especially Assam. The BJP simply blew away the cobwebs, picked up the baton, and ran. This is working for it.


Also read: Modi has been smarter & braver on political economy in his 5 years than Manmohan’s UPA-2


4) A new ‘Bhakti Cult’ of those under 22: Anybody born between 1997 and 2001 became a voter for the first time in this Lok Sabha election. Rich or poor, these are all digital natives. They’ve known only one leader, heard just one message, have no reference to the pre-Google context. Most important: They mostly haven’t yet gone out in the job market. They’ve risen as an unprecedented support base for Modi. They like his extroverted style, aggression, hugging foreign leaders, and are more likely to buy into the “after (and even before) Modi, the deluge” idea.

Another important insight into their minds is they detest the entitlement of the dynastic elites. Unlike in 2014, they no longer snigger at the mention of Rahul Gandhi’s name. But they ask what he has done so far, what is his experience. The line we heard most often in this campaign was: Rahul needs to work hard for some more time, get some experience. Modi is self-made and experienced, so why look for an alternative?

As a writer and editor, I eschew the description “bhakt” for Modi loyalists, or any such labels for others. In this case, I am consciously describing this young cohort as Modi’s ‘Bhakti Cult’ because that is how strong their devotion is, often traversing caste and clan loyalties. Again, you can find these views on my Instagram page and ThePrint’s. Caveat: We found this doesn’t apply to Muslims, Yadavs and Jatavs in Uttar Pradesh.


Also read: Modi’s 2019 mantra: Forget achhe din, fear terror, Pakistan, Muslim


Finally, a health warning. Remember, I told you the four factors that worked for the BJP, and without which its fortunes would have certainly been sunk by its dismal performance on the economy, on the jobs front and the recklessness exemplified by ‘Alice in Blunderland’ demonetisation. How many seats will these win Modi, don’t ask me. You have a choice of exit pollsters. All I’d stick my neck out to say is that but for these four big factors, he would’ve struggled to go past 150, making a second term almost impossible.

I must stop here. In an epoch when the world’s best psephologists have been bested by voters in America (Trump, 2016), Brexit, Israel and now the Australian elections, it would be nuts to venture any further.

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46 Comments Share Your Views

46 COMMENTS

  1. For me, Shekhar Gupta is for the ‘liberal elite (sick)’ what Vajpai was for the BJP – a mask or ‘the right man at the wrong place’ for their opponents. 😉

  2. A very balanced analysis. Besides the factors recounted here, the leadership was able to distract the general narrative and put the real & performance based issues behind the artificial opacity of frivolsties & non-issues, given that crowds have limited capacity to see through the artificial clouds. But a term regained shouldn’t be wasted and the old & new manifestos translated into action.

  3. I still fail to understand why an article pro or otherwise can’t be read with open mind instead of willifying the writer.

  4. Instead of looking at the positive i.e. people cutting across caste lines are voting for the PM, you are giving a mischievous slant of upper castes forming a bloc. I am a BC from Tamil Nadu. I am a firm supporter of Modi going by one simple yardstick. He announced demo. It affected the banias the most, several of them, I personally know, changed tack, started opposing BJP, more so when GST followed. I support him because he did not take a policy decision based on vote bank.
    You yourself toured UP along with Prannoy Roy. Several of them openly advocated for BJP and Modi much to the discomfort of Roy. Yet you conclude that upper castes have consolidated.
    I suppose, inflation is a key macro indicator. Farmers may be in distress. But they also need to consume food. So I guess, 50% of their concerns have been addressed. You yourself, in your earlier article, have admitted that there is no easy solution to managing inflation and addressing farmer distress.
    Emphasis on lower end manufacturing exports should have been laid more than a decade back. Yet that opportunity was lost. Who was in power then. Instead they pass the land acquisition act to make it difficult for the next incumbent in 2014. This is almost like treason in the garb of protecting the vulnerable sections.
    Yes I agree that large chunk of Hindi heartland was with BJP for past 5 years, yet they too did not try.
    But I disagree with your analysis, a bit too clever, i feel.

  5. Shekhar…what kind of conclusion is – but for these 4 great factors he wouldn’t have crossed 150!!!
    But for rahul’s misplaced ideas and entitlement and poor organization and bad candidates Congress would have got 300
    But for mayawati and akhilesh appealing to absolutely nothing except cast they would have swept UP….
    and one can go on and on
    Almost everything could be concluded like this…where is the analysis then? Where is the sticking the neck out here?

    I am sorry to say but looking at past several of your articles you do look borderline desperate for opposition’s revival whether they deserve it or not….and that does leave u susceptible to people questioning slant…

  6. What a rubbish analysis?.
    This kind of article can be written by a non-professional also.

    You must Mr Shekhar Gupta understand that
    1. there are no corruption scandals in this government.
    2. This government has guts to take bold decisions.
    3. This government is Non communal.
    4. What evidence you have to say demonetisation was failure?
    5. Improved national security.
    6. No riots in 5 yrs.
    7. Modi is everybody’s favourite.

  7. Very intriguing that, IF Congress wins, there is ONLY ONE REASON: “What a GREAT leader, future STAR, and master strategist Rahul( Sonia/ Priyanka Vadra) is and how he has inspired the youth and all to vote for Congress. (Irony: the youth are going to the BJP- says Shekhar Gupta). But if the BJP wins, even as resoundingly as these exit polls say, not a word about what Modi achieved all by himself, assisted splendidly by Shah , going up and down the country while also attending to his work, straining with several speeches, each speech lasting an hour or so, sleeping little, and, looking as fresh at the end of the gruelling campaign as he did at its beginning. Contrast with Mamata, PGV and RG himself, who looked as haggard as the members of a fielding side that has just been treated to a two day leather hunt by the batting side making a near 700 runs. The media is as contemptuous of Modi as is the Nehru family.

  8. I get the impression that you seem to miss the old casteism and feel nostalgic about it. We all need to digest the fact that Modi and by association, the BJP today has an appeal cutting across caste lines.

    Also it was foolish for Rahul Gandhi to attack Modi as a ‘chor’. It hardly gained traction with people. Modi gave back as good as he got and everyone in the Congress and it’s cheerleading journalist supporters. started screaming that we should not associate Bofors with Rajiv Gandhi for some unknown reason. (Death is not a valid ruse to gloss over facts about the Bofors-Italian corruption connexions.)

    As for the bhakt idea, most ardent followers of any leader like Nehru, Gandhiji etc, all had similar characteristics. Are you suggesting that those devoted to Rahul-Sonia-Priyanka are any different? Their ishta-devata (chosen diety whom they worship) is different. Others in effect worship Marx or Lenin or Stalin (even though these fellows are responsible for killing millions of innocent people). All these worshippers are all quite similar. But somehow the Lutyens club cannot come to terms with the rapport Modi has struck with large numbers of people. Too bad for the Modi-dislikers….!!

    It was really nice to see how the Kedarnath visit was communicated so well on TV screens. Modi knows how to connect with the people of India. It was a masterstroke in campaigning without actually campaigning.

    But if Modi does not achieve significant success by 2024 and Rahul Gandhi does not settle down in Italy or Colombia with his partner, by then, we may still have a match on then … for now Modi is the colossus

  9. Bhakts already out in numbers. If Modi wins again, we, non-bhakts will have to work harder to resit and build the alternative narrative.

  10. The article opens with visible joblessness. If more and more journos from main stream media are jobless, it could be due to the advent of social media. Govt cannot do anything here. Similarly, automation is eating into jobs in tech sector. Minimum governance is eating into govt jobs. It is high time common man stops believing that govt action will lead to job creation. It is upto the entrepreneurs to create jobs.

  11. I request Shekhar Gupta to explain the fundamental traits of Modi that allows him the following.
    1) Not just image but in reality an honest and clean person i.e. why he hasn’t been allured by the glitter of money
    2) Strong belief in KARMA i.e. do the hard work, results will follow
    3) Lead from the front and take hard decisions i.e. from where the risk taking capacity of Modi comes
    4) Belief in coexistanse of Dharma and culture with the science and technology
    Modi must be seriously studied and analyzed by intectuals. However, it’s painful to not that many intellectuals hate Modi without valid reasons.
    Shekhar Gupta should also explain why opposition is not able to create a leader like Modi. To me the reason seems to the opposition’s false belief that Modi is an evil and should not be emulated.

  12. This hsd to come after the opinion poll results. This media house cant digest what the majority wants. Bogus article. Butvits goid that you all are being exposed

  13. The more these journos get out of shell and move without their identity at rails sleeper or unreserved class buses strictly public transport, small tea joints and public spaces like rhis. More they will understand real story. It simply cant be written at five star lawns aircrafts or hifi places.

  14. Shekhar Gupta is a bitter man. He can’t stomach Modi’s impending victory, so Mr. Gupta is already sowing seeds of poison to denigrate Modi’s triumph. It must be dreadful to be Shekhar Gupta, who can not have an honest journalistic career because of what he owes to his political masters for past favours.

  15. Sir, I have interacted with a few people from villages in North, East and South India. As per them Pre 2014 they use to get electricity for only 8-10 hours and now they get it for nearly 20 hours. They have good roads and rail services have improved tremendously. Swatch Bharat has worked and poor are spending less on disease. Food prices have remained stable Most importantly people in rural India are now better educated and more aware. People are experiencing less corruption in day to day things. People required small amount of money which they were unable to get, they are taking and returning Loans.

  16. Shekhar Gupta Ji, just like Congress party, you too are failing to acknowledge what lies right in front of you.
    BJP is coming back because it’s simply more popular not by 4 tricks or factors you outline.

  17. Six months back it was about Jobs, Weakening Economy, Farmers distress, Social disharmony etc… then just months before elections Major Terror attack and a botched up cross border operation with dramatic capture and release of Indian pilot which turns election fortunes in favor of BJP. This shows how emotionally weak the Indian voters are, they can be easily fooled enmass on “Fight and Flight” reaction and to BJP learned the art of keeping it sustained till elections by carefully crafted propaganda. Strongest weapon in the kitty of BJP religious polarization which is readily used by them when ever they feel weakened. Only difference between Atal era BJP and Modi era BJP is now they don’t shy away to use stae sponsored voilance for suppressing dissent and Army and Media for political propaganda…. On the other hand strong weapon in the hands of opposition is Cast… Cast based politics unfortunately remains only alternative currently as most of the opposition political parties stiod up on cast equation. THESE ARE THE FAULT LINES OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY WITH REAL CULPRITS ARE BEING IGNORANT VOTERS AND THEIR FEUDAL MENTALITY

  18. Few brief comments, though I must congratulate Shekhar that he sounds sincere and persuasive in his arguments:

    1) LPG and toilets etc did cause an “event” in poor people’s life. Did they cause a “change”? If not, then these events are going to be swamped by a uniform surge in prices of daily need items including food and vegetables, loss of earnings due to slowdown due to demo and GST, which together made the poor sections more poor under Modi rule.

    2) the 1997-2001 generation, only 22% of them who are offsprings of upper caste are going to look at Modi with starry eyes BECAUSE their elders in the family are looking at Modi in a similar fashion. (figure of 22% is given in the article). 78% are going to be less mesmerized by Modi charm and likely to see his achievements with a cold eye.

    3) Mudra figures boil down to ₹50,000/- per beneficiary. A barber’s chair, you know the swiveling one with heavy base and adjustable height costs ₹20,000/-. I am only trying to say, what kind of business anyone could have setup with 50,000? At the risk of sounding unfair and cynical, I’ll say this: there’s a great chance this disbursement might have occurred to reward the bhaktas and the faithful. In that case, we have a brand new source of NPAs germinating right in front of our eyes. But I will quickly take my words back if care has been taken to give loans mostly to women, for their from-the-home ventures like, a sewing machine for altering clothes, a small beauty parlour for neighborhood women, to rent a room to seat 4-5 girls to make buckles and hair bands, or to roll Papads, as a franchise of Lijjat Papad company, etc. (I have great respect for women from deprived sections for their honesty and enterprise.)

    4) I don’t know much about the infrastructure bit, so I will make only a brief comment : not even one of the erstwhile famous infra companies has seen a reversal of its fortunes in last five years.

    23rd is anyway not far. Let’s see what happens!

    • 1. I guess you had toilets and GAS Cylinder from the very beginning of your life. You can never understand the ‘change’ in their life. NEVER. Again not ‘event’ a very formidable ‘change’.

      2. I’m in the same age group and not a upper caste, an OBC to be precise and I have lots of friends across caste ( no upper caste friends ) all know one name MODI.

      3 . However small the amount if one is able to set a business and employed even one person is a big deal.

      4. And about infrastructure as Shekar said it’s there to see with ‘naked eye’. You are just refusing to see that.

      How much you’re disconnected with reality will be visible to your naked eye on 23rd May.

      • Lot of residential buildings have come up in last five years which you can see with “naked eye”. What does that say about the condition of real estate sector? Have you heard of vampires? What caste do they belong to? Warm, fresh, profusely flowing blood of a human being. What does that mean to you and your friends, all of who know one name MODI? Your point 3 – – So, 4.8 crore people have been offered employment in last five years?

        What is “same age group”? When were gas cylinders introduced in our country? Were you even born then? Name “Aryan” has become FASHIONABLE only recently. Young kids can see with naked eye or through colored glasses, they can hardly ever rise above fashion or a fashionable wave on the 23rd of any month or any day of any year, as long as they remain kids and do not develop an original thinking. Monsters survive on blood of such delicious creatures.

        • 1. Not only residential building but bridge road and railways as well. A lot of people in NE saw for the first time what exactly this development is.

          2. Politicians are obviously power hungry mammals but vampires…… No.

          3. These 4.8 crore people not only got self-employed a few of them may have generated at the very least 1 more employment.

          4. Same age group means I was born in 2001.
          ( point no. 4 of this article )

          5. And why on earth my last name ‘Aryan’ is important to this discussion ?

          6. If you and your generation ever tried to rise above the gandi family wave then Modi didn’t have to build so many toilets.

          • My young friend Aryan, Modi-Shah (MS) never, never had to encourage killing of innocent Muslims, toilets or no toilets, gandi family or no gandi family. I have watched a little more of our national history than you, and people like me (non-BJP supporters) never, never felt such repugnance for Atal Bihari as we feel for MS. There were many things unlikable about AB too, every BJP guy hates Muslims, that’s a given, but NOT TO THE EXTENT of wanting to actually kill them in cold blood, as MS do! And what is most shocking, sad, and despicable about some Hindus is that the MS’ murderous hatred is proving to be contagious. That’s why I had invoked the allegory of a Vampire. But let’s give God a chance, dear Aryan, let’s see what He says on 23rd!

          • bro, u say u were born in 2001, if that is true u r being brain washed systematically like only bjp/rss can do…..u r going ona very wrong path…..modi gov is nothing but a hogwash and a make belieive gov…..thats the fact…everything is a lie ….everything is exaggerated and amplified for propaganda purpose and its a pity that naive voter like u fall for that trap….u will need to see another 5 years of this lies to understand ….hopefully…if u r blind bhakt, that too will not be enough

        • Your anger alone is enough to swing the exit polls in Congress favor, and silence all the young voters of the country, Mr Sanjiv Bhatla.

      • Totally agree with you! I’m an OBC too and I support Modi too! He is good for the country. But there is no point in arguing with this person. He lives in his imaginary words and believes in conspiracy theories. He was also arguing that Pulwama was staged by Modi. It’s a pitty that we have many people in India who , like him, claim to have “original thinking” but there is hardly anything original about them. I hope these sort of people on 23.05 will have their mouths shuts for next five years.

        • Where does one get this OBC badge? It seems to be in fashion. I still stand by what I said : “Pulwama happened because security of a 3 km long convoy was ignored, and if an enquiry is held about this shocking lapse I’m sure some BJP sympathizer will be found involved in it.”

          • For the sake of common sense and logic, you please keep your “imaginary theories” to yourself or write a novel! Pulwama wasn’t the first attack that happened in Kashmir. And if you have such a concern for Muslims, then why don’t you ask Kashmiri Musilms to shun violence and integrate fully with India? And better ask all Muslims to give up violence in India and elsewhere. Modi has cross caste support (OBC like me) and not just high casts as Shekhar Gupta was suggesting. Please read carefully since you claim to be a thoughtful observer. And one advise to you, India is full of new generation people who believe in logic and common sense. This is different than Nehru era where you grew up that try to show hollow smartness as it is built on fake principles and imaginary scenarios.

    • Dad that you are not seeing the harm the Gandhi family and Congress has imposed on this nation. And you feel in 5 years Modi shud have waved his magic wand great thot

      • Shiva, my dear but unwanted son, Gandhi family has given blood for this country AND STILL CONTINUED to want to serve it. Even Nehru died only two years after the China war; I’m sure he couldn’t recover from the shock of India’s defeat. They loved this country!

        None of them Splurged poor India’s meagre monies on 100 foreign tours, mugshot in all newspapers for five years, 3000 crore statue of someone, still more 3000 crore statues of other names, FULLY GOVERNMENT PAID 3 MONTH PAN-INDIA CAMPAIGN FOR A POLITICAL PARTY. Shiva, I hope you will think beyond what the loudspeaker says!

      • Well, by someone’s logic here, Abraham Lincoln’s and Kennedy’s family members should be made heads of their respective parties and part of the US government till eternity. To hell with intra-party elections, primaries and explicit expression of desire to lead the country. Only a naive would believe that Rahul Gandhi had any intention of taking on the PM’s role. What would happen to his holidays? Now the country is mature enough to not even tolerate his father’s ways of having fun family time. What will the poor (ultra-rich) Gandhi do?

  19. Mr Gupta good article but it seems you still think in the old way . You keep raising big words joblessness well India always will have issues of jobs because of population but if the economy is growing at high rate , you mention massive infrastructure is built and mudra loan beneficiary have gone up significantly . Above all in all India EFPO date shows massive new joiners & we don’t see agitations on jobs . In short there is no credible data on job in private and in organised sector that’s the reason you can get away of using these words without proof

    But as stated above all the things cannot happen with people getting jobs that’s a fact so your dots don’t connect hence your statement is factually in correct

    On demonitisation the number of tax payers and direct tax base has significantly gone up , inflation and interest rate are low that’s the biggest victory

    The Indian tragedy is that well educated journalist like you can’t think beyond caste . Your reference is shameful it seems you don’t want move with times you want to drag the country in divisions of caste and religion . Journalist like you need to take some blame of 5nis divide in our society .

  20. If Modi wins, it will be huge evidence of second reason offered by Shekhar, which is to say that creating infrastructure and delivering benefits to citizens need not be just Nehruvian (visible, big, tangible – IITs, dams, public sector). It can also be less obvious to general public, and even invisible to biased, agenda driven media.

    As per ‘Bhakti Cult’ – strong leaders have always survived because of this (Churchill, Gandhi, Indira, Putin etc etc). One person’s leader may be another person’s source of detestation.

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