Voter is happy; BJP worried

There is pretty little that can rouse passions in 2024

Team Modi has been warming up for this election, claiming “jo kaha, wo kiya”—what was promised has been delivered. Jolly good.

What did they promise, and what did they deliver?

A shrine for Lord Ram in Ayodhya; built. Scrap Kashmir’s special status; done. Citizenship to non-Muslim migrants; yes. A common civil code; kicked off in Uttarakhand. A scheme to hold polls to all legislative bodies in one go; ready. Quota for women in law-making forums; legislation done, execution next. The last two may not have been ‘fulfilled’, but the BJP can claim they are ‘half-filled’. Pardon my bad English, but the score card is not bad.

Then there were those humdrum governance guarantees that are given by every party. Terror has been combated, the Pakistanis have been quietened, China is staying put, riots have been contained, the corrupt are being caught, the economy is doing well, farmers aren’t protesting, the poor are being fed, more roads built, more trains running, more money in pockets, more grain in warehouses, more gains from stocks, more homes with light bulbs, more kitchens with gas cylinders (though they cost a lot more), and so on.

In short, the gods are in heaven, the deities in shrines, and all’s well with the Indians’ world. There may be more jobless in Modi’s India than there were in Manmohan Singh’s, but patience! There’ll be more jobs in the richer India that Modi is building in the amrit kaal.

Imaging: Deni Lal Imaging: Deni Lal

The opposition may cry—what about crony capitalism? What about raid raj? Suppression of dissent? Abuse of poll bonds? Petrol price? Hate crimes? Chinese still on the border? Minorities? Manipur? Well, that’s their habit—to carp about everything. Carping is the pastime of the opposition everywhere. They would come out with black papers (a Congress innovation made during the last budget session) to shoot holes into the BJP’s white or saffron papers.

On the whole, thus, Modi and company would have us believe that there is a feel-good and a feel-big about India. Therein lies the problem. Feel-good or feel-big doesn’t fetch votes. Didn’t we see how A.B. Vajpayee went to town with a “feel good”, went to the polls saying “India shining”, and went down not knowing what had hit him? Much like Harold Wilson who claimed “we never had it so good”, and lost the next polls.

The truth is—the voters are an ungrateful lot. As Canadian thinker William B. Munro, often discredited for his support of eugenics, said, “The average man does not vote for anything, but against something.” He won’t vote for what you have done for him. He doesn’t vote with his mind; he votes with his heart. So, don’t appeal to his reason; appeal to his emotion.

Don’t we know? It was voter anger that brought down Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime in 1977. Anger and sympathy over the murder of Indira helped Rajiv win a brute majority in 1984. Hindu anger over a post-Shah Bano law, and Muslim anger over shilanyas at Ayodhya combined to bring down Rajiv in 1989.

Or look at Modi’s own two elections. He worked the voters’ fear of terror and their revulsion with corruption to kick out the Manmohan regime in 2014. In 2019, he absorbed the voter anger over Pulwama, hit back at Balakot and made the voter walk with a swagger to the polls. Passions were roused; passions were channelled.

In 2024? There is pretty little that can rouse passions. So we hear—why did you boycott the Ayodhya shrine consecration? Why are you mocking at Shakti? Why did you sell out Katchatheevu? Why is your manifesto reading like the Muslim League’s?

Are these enough?