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In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi became the first Prime Minister of a BJP government with a majority of its own. (PTI)
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi became the first Prime Minister of a BJP government with a majority of its own. (PTI)

How the Modi wave swept the nation and revived BJP

  • Modi’s popularity pushed BJP to electoral prominence nationally as well as across states
  • 2014 saw BJP become the first non-Congress party to get absolute majority in Lok Sabha

New Delhi: Ten years after its worst electoral performance in the Lok Sabha elections in two decades in 2009, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made history by returning to power for a consecutive term with a greater majority. The BJP, which won 116 seats in the 2009 general elections, now has 303 seats in the Lower House, the highest number of seats the party has won in national polls.

The BJP rode on an anti-Congress wave and returned to power after 10 years in the 2014 general elections to become the first non-Congress party to get absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, and the first to do so in national elections after 30 years. Narendra Modi became the first Prime Minister of a BJP government with majority of its own.

The rise of the BJP at the national level also reverberated in states as the ruling party, along with members of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), came to power in at least 16 states between 2014 and 2018. The rise of the NDA was largely because of the popularity of Modi.

“It was after a gap of 30 years that a political party had got full majority in national elections. In a way, the rise of the BJP under the leadership of Modi ended the era of coalition politics at the national level," said a senior BJP leader who was part of Modi’s election campaign.

The impact of the BJP’s rise under Modi can also be gauged from the fact that the party not only returned to power in politically significant Uttar Pradesh after 15 years, but also formed alliances in the North-East to edge the Congress out from all the eight states of the region. The BJP’s growth is important because the party was traditionally a marginal player in the politics of the North-East and it was Modi’s popularity that helped it win Assam on its own in the assembly elections in June 2016.

After making electoral history, the BJP carried out a generational change in the party’s leadership by giving prominence to state leaders and the youth. It was for the first time since 1996 that neither former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee or former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani played a decisive role in the election campaign.

The BJP’s next step was to transform the party’s electoral and social base in the country. The tag of being a political party restricted to urban centres also changed after it inducted more leaders, some from rival political parties, to change its social base by including members of scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and other backward classes (OBCs).

In less than a year after coming to power at the Centre, the BJP went on a massive nationwide membership drive. Modi’s popularity helped it grow from 30 million members to more than 100 million by April 2015.

However, even as the BJP’s surge remains unchallenged nationally, there are some states in the southern and eastern parts where it has not been able to gain electorally. It continues to be a marginal player in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhar Pradesh, and Telangana. It has improved its tally in Odisha and West Bengal, but is yet to beat the regional leader.

“The emergence of the BJP at the national level brought back single party dominance in India politics, which was earlier only present during the Congress rule. The BJP replaced Congress nationally to become the most dominant party with a pan-India presence except in some pockets and states. It is now the most important national party and it has become the party to beat in elections," said Yatindra Singh Sisodia, professor and director, Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research, Ujjain.

Senior BJP leaders argue that the party’s rise demonstrates that a political party can grow on its own and create a niche place in the minds of voters.

“The popularity of the BJP is not confined to any specific social group or region. It has grown in every sphere and social group, including women, youth, rural, and urban, and also among financially and socially weaker sections. It has supporters among OBCs, SCs, and STs," Sisodia said.

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