File photo of PM Narendra Modi being presented a memento during an election campaign, Gujarat | PTI
File photo of PM Narendra Modi being presented a memento during an election campaign, Gujarat | PTI
Text Size:

It is difficult to remember an Indian election as boring as this one. People aren’t talking about it. There’s hardly any chatter. It’s a bit strange.

Voters are generally a lot more enthused about state assembly elections because they impact their lives far more directly. Even so, if one were to compare this election with 2014’s, one wonders why this one is so low-key.

Part of the problem is precisely that one is wittingly or unwittingly comparing it to 2014. That was the mother of all elections. The UPA-2 had become so discredited that a desire for change was all-pervasive. There was the backdrop of the Lokpal movement and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party, making Arvind Kejriwal come across as a national phenomenon. And then, there was the challenger from Gujarat taking the country by storm, Narendra Modi.

No chai no charcha

In 2019, however, the Modi campaign isn’t making as much noise as it did in 2014. There are no 3D rallies, no Chai pe Charcha, and no giant promises. A look at how poor the BJP manifesto is, how half-heartedly it has been prepared, and how poor its choice of candidates has been in many places tell you that the BJP isn’t fighting a high-pitched battle.

We’ve got so used to Modi’s non-stop hyper campaigning round the year that Modi’s 2019 campaign doesn’t feel special. It’s what Modi does all the time anyway. Making people wear ‘NaMo Again’ t-shirts and dance on the streets just doesn’t have the traction that it did in 2014. It seems basic.

Also read: What do Modi haters say when confronted with the TINA factor?

A poor BJP campaign

The BJP has also been running an inconsistent campaign. One can’t tell whether the BJP’s pitch this election is development or Pakistan or Hindutva or Congress-bashing. Unlike 2014 when the theme was Vikas, there’s no clarity this time.

If the high point of the BJP campaign was the Balakot air strikes, which took place on 26 February, then it already feels like a long time ago.

Perhaps the BJP’s decision to field Pragya Singh Thakur, who is out on bail in a terrorism case, is helping it galvanise its workers and Hindutva core supporters. Yet even the core workers and supporters are lacking the energy they showed in 2014.

The fact that the BJP’s slogan, ‘Main Bhai Chowkidar’, was meant to negate the Congress’ ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ says a lot. It tells you that the BJP is essentially playing a defensive game. It’s afraid of the anti-incumbency sentiment, as it should be, given its poor performance on the economic front. What could a government possibly say when it’s going to the polls with an economic slowdown? The BJP is also not making big promises on development because it knows they could backfire. They would make people wonder if Modi kept his 2014 promises. The ‘feku’ tag didn’t damage Modi in 2014 but this time it could.

Also read: It’s Modi vs 20 strong state leaders and there is no wave in the air

A weak challenger

The election could have been interesting if it had a serious challenger showing the willingness and the confidence to defeat Modi. Rahul Gandhi and the wider opposition are not giving the impression that they are about to win this election.

The Congress party’s data cruncher, Praveen Chakravarty, said in an interview that his party would triple its 2014 tally. In other words, the Congress party says it is going to win 132 seats, which is not even enough to form a Congress-led coalition. When the lead opposition party doesn’t even say it’s going to win, how can voters be expected to get excited about this election?

After winning three key states on 11 December 2018, the Congress thought it could defeat Modi by raising the Rafale issue. Nobody is talking about Rafale anymore. This was a serious miscalculation on the part of the Congress since the top issue for people was unemployment. Till date, the Congress has not been able to create any buzz on how it would solve the unemployment issue if it came to power.

Over the Rafale issue, Rahul Gandhi coined the slogan ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’. It did gain some traction but it was a poor slogan because it reminded people of how Modi likes to be seen: as a chowkidar, a watchman of the nation. Modi took the opportunity and deflated the slogan with ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’. In any case, corruption is not on the top of people’s minds, and ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ was never going to defeat the BJP.

Can you hear the Congress?

The Congress chose the shuddh Hindi word ‘Nyay’ to promise a minimum income support scheme. It promises to make sure that no Indian family has less than Rs 12,000 a month. Yet this promise has failed to create a Congress wave among the poor, not least because it came so late and the Congress doesn’t have the ability to take it to the masses. People are unwilling to trust the Congress on this.

In any case, what they really need is employment and the Congress has failed to tell them how it would create jobs. Neither ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ nor ‘Nyay’ captures the main public issue — jobs. So poor is the Congress at reaching out to the people that in Uttar Pradesh some voters felt it was a campaign promise of the Bahujan Samaj Party!

The party came up with an imaginative manifesto but the average voter doesn’t know what it promises. Farmers don’t know, for instance, that the Congress is promising a nation-wide loan waiver to them. It doesn’t help that the media gives Modi, and not the Congress, a wall-to-wall coverage. And the latter hardly has any money to campaign.

Also read: BJP’s strategy for 2019 is the ‘There is no Alternative’ factor

A dull match

Regional parties are anyway on the backfoot as they face another presidential campaign being waged in Modi’s name. The answer to ‘If not Modi then who?’ is not KCR or Arvind Kejriwal or Mamata Banerjee. As regional parties worry more about this election’s repercussions on state politics, they are unable to make the national election interesting.

The SP-BSP alliance in UP has made it somewhat interesting. The BJP’s push in Bengal and Odisha has made these two states worthy of national attention. Apart from these, the election is largely boring.

A defensive incumbent who does not deserve to win, and a rag-tag opposition that does not want to win make for a dull election season.

Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

10 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Interesting or not, voters are voting almost in similar turnout numbers as in 2014! What it means, we will know only after 23 May!

  2. Are you sure on Congi scheme … no Indian family has less than Rs 12,000 a month…. and it’s not 6000 a month. Twisting facts is your game, but you are getting caught…pants down…all the time.

    By large, elections are designed not to provoke, to be peaceful. EC is succeeding in ensuring that. The government is succeeding in providing appropriate law & order. People are participating in this incredible celebration of democracy. The problem lies in media’s expectation that all / some of them will fail so that they get a bait for 24 hour blah blah – that’s not happening. Also, the action has moved to social media. Nobody in so called mainstream media noticed that journalism died a silent death.

  3. no humility. sanctimony characterizes the present crop of so called journalists. Electronic media horrible. in the print media also mediocrity is creeping in. how easy to sit in ac rooms and go on sermonizing on what parties should do or not. media should criticize and analyse but should not be so arrogant. every tom dick and harry has advice for Modi bjp congress Rahul and other parties and leaders. these journalists while people sweat it out , facing ridicule criticism and condemnation all around , play demi Gods.

  4. I am shocked how sanguine anyone can be like Shivam Vij. Narendra Modi government has destroyed virtually every institution in five years. Democracy remains to be destroyed or terminated, which can be easily done with help from a pliable army. People by and large haven’t really understood Narendra Modi.

  5. Whether these are dull or not, but one for certain, this time the voting class is faced with making a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. The number of undecided voters are likely to be much less that earlier times. These elections are also as important as the 1977 general elections, except that this time BJP has replaced Congress as the key protagonist and the incumbent. India is likely to mature as a democracy in the next few years unless major events reshape the socio-political landscape.

  6. Even after election 2019 the same trend continues. If BJP comes to power once again in majority and Sri Narendra Modiji becomes prime minister for another five years the people who were wishing to happen that may have the satisfaction that what they wished had happened nothing more. Another Five years would pass through like past five years of BJP rule with a difference of faceing the vanquished united opposition which gave a united fight to pull down Sri Narendra Modiji. Let us wait and see what happens after 23rd May 2019 which is not far off.

  7. Seriously thoughtless article. Its not modis fault the election is not full of adventure. Hr has performed ok to decent. The problem is thr opposition hasmt been able to fight him. With rahuls gaffes. Thr mahagathbandhans anti india politics and policies. Thr people have lost interest in the politics and its not modis fault. 2014 he highlighted the corruption and failures of UPA. but 2019 opposition has nothing to show against modi. This election shows the bankruptcy and anti india mindset of thr oppositio

  8. No talk about free market capitalism. The same old shit freebies subsidies reservation loan waivers. Damn boring election, boring politics, boring country.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here