His success in managing the image of a leader who can take Gujarat’s economy to a new high, a faceless opposition and the continuing appeal of Hindutva among a large section of voters helped Narendra Modi win a record third term.
Modi reinforced that he remains one of the country’s best when it comes to winning state elections.
“It is a mixture of good leadership, good governance and good organisation,” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said, listing the reasons for the success.
Modi succeeded in not letting the opposition campaign dent his image, even if the achievements on the development front did not always match his claims. He did so by not only marketing himself well but also getting his administration to quickly intervene and make up for lapses.
As a result, voters ignored freebies such as affordable housing, free plots and laptops offered by the Congress.
“By creating a brand around himself, Modi has depoliticised Gujarat, where the opposition or his own party doesn’t matter,” said Shiv Viswanathan, a New Delhi-based social scientist.
Although Modi didn’t play the Hindutva card as much as he had in previous elections, “his development model is based on majoritarian Hindutva” that ignores the interest of Muslims and low-caste Hindus, who make up about a quarter of the state’s population, Viswanathan added.
Modi also cashed in on technology, using three-dimensional holographic projections during campaigning to create an image of omnipresence for bonding with voters. No other leader in Gujarat could forge this bond.
That the Congress did not project a chief ministerial candidate made it easier for the saffron party in this election, which eventually turned into a Modi versus the rest show.