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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The message of the 2014 and 2019 elections

After a 10-year stint of a Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule, there was a mood for people wanting a change in the central government in Delhi in Bharat. It was not just the extensive high-level corruption that caused the mood change, but also the performance of the economy, etc. Although there is today a chatter that things were not as bad as is made out to be, and some saying that things actually are worse, they have not explained why the people voted for a supposedly bad option twice. The message of 2014 was a message of hope, and the message of 2019 was a message of reasonable satisfaction.

While the number of seats by itself is very important in terms of being able to form a government, the votes received gives a better indication of the mood of the nation. In this respect please see Table 1:

Table 1

Prior to 2014, the Election Commission of India made a special effort to get people to register to vote, particularly the first-time voters. In addition, many civil organisations also pitched in to supplement the effort, particularly at the ground level. The success of the effort of all also reflects the desire of the people to work towards a change through the ballot. Thus, the total electorate increased by a significant 16%, while in the past the increase at the time of each elections was about 10%.

Such was the mood for change in the 2014 elections, people made special efforts to come out and vote, and the percentage polled increased from 58% to 66%. While this increase would have meant a 14% increase in votes polled, the votes polled increase by a significant 33% riding on top of the increase in the electorate.

To put it in perspective, the increase in votes of 137 mn in Bharat compares favourably to the total votes cast for the presidential elections of 2020 amounting to about 160mn votes. The total votes cast in Bharat shows the vibrancy of the democracy.

BJP, on its own, more than doubled its total votes – from 78 million votes in 2009 to 172 million in 2014. The increase forms about 68% of the increase in the votes polled. Where did this increase come from, in terms of the class and caste composition of this increase?

It would be beyond imagination that this would be from the base that is traditionally attributed to the party – namely the Bramins and the Baniyas. All the castes and class participated in the increase in votes.

The vote was a vote for a hope that there will be a change for the better. Did the new government understand it and worked to fulfil the hope? For this, one needs to look at the voting numbers for the 2019 elections in Table 2.

Table 2

The increase in electorate went back to the normal percentage. However, the votes polled did not fall in 2019 over 2014, but actually increased in terms of percent polled. Which party did the increase go to? The votes to the BJP increased by 33% on an already larger base. And this increase formed 95% of the total vote increase in the country. Again, it can be said that the composition has to be the full spectrum of social and economic class as it exists in Bharat. This is truly a secular behaviour amongst the voters.

The vote share of the BJP increased from 31% to37%, indicating a high approval rating. And that of the NDA from 36% to 44%.

It must be said here that nearly the whole of the intellectual class did not see it coming, just as they did not see the results of the 2014 elections coming. On the day of the counting, Pranoy Roy opened his NDTV programme around 8:00 am with the following words: “Good Morning. This is finally the moment of truth. And the one truth we all pray for today, no matter who wins, may our wonderful country, may all of us be in a better place. A place our forefathers would be proud of. May their idea of Bharat prevail. Today the time of speculation, the forecast, the opinion polls and the exit polls, is all over.

The people of Bharat have spoken and today their voice will be heard. The people of Bharat did indeed speak, and they said that our hopes have been fulfilled and now we want to see the country go forward even further. To understand this desire, it is necessary to look at the number of votes over the two elections of 2014 and 2019.

Table 3

The BJP has nearly tripled its vote base, and the voting percentage doubled. It secured 76% of the increased number of votes. Again, it is clear that the party attracted votes from the whole spectrum of the voters in Bharat.

Are the hopes of the people fulfilled? Taking all the elections as a whole, I think one can say that by and large yes. The intellectual class will pick holes on the issues that concern them within the area of the Khan Market. Just as they did between 2014 and 2019 and predicted that Modi will not remain as the prime minister. They are now trying to say. For example, that Hindutva is not based on the pristine Hindu Dharma as our ancestors envisaged. They will say that the response to the pandemic was terrible, and that there should not have been so much misery as was experienced.

While there were doubts about Bharat’s strategy when the pandemic was actually happening, and there was real suffering during the second wave, by now it is clear that the strategy did work, particularly when compared with other nations, big and small. Not only in terms of the handling of the pandemic itself but also of the economy.

I would like to suggest that the most important message of the two elections is that the voters, and not just the new ones, are no longer voting on the basis of caste, but as a unified nation. Though every party talks about managing the caste equation as a strategy to fight elections, those who can take the steps beyond will succeed. This is the real change in Bharat.

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Ashok Chowgule
Ashok Chowgule
Working President (External), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharat.

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