How the BJP stole Congress' thunder

  • Sanjay Kumar, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 17, 2014 15:45 IST

The impressive victory of the BJP, not only the party’s best performance but an overwhelming mandate, should bring to an end the long debate on whether there was a Modi wave. What else can be termed a wave, if not this, when a party more than doubles its tally between two Lok Sabha elections?

The results clearly indicate the BJP is no more an urban party or one confined to the Hindi heartland. It has been able to make its national presence felt. I am sure the BJP must have surpassed a vote share of 35%. If a man projected as the prime-ministerial candidate takes charge of the campaign, addresses more than 540 rallies and over 5,000 meetings across the country, is it not fair to say that through his massive campaigns, Narendra Modi managed to create a wave?

The reason for the success is largely because, the BJP, which till recently was referred to as a party of urban upper-caste voters, was able to make inroads amongst sections that traditionally voted for the Congress or regional parties. The results indicate a massive surge for the BJP in rural seats, complemented by its existing popularity among urban voters. The BJP seemed to have polled more or less equal votes in both urban and rural constituencies.

The surge in rural India was possible due to sizeable shift amongst the voters belonging to the Other Backward Castes (OBC) and the Dalits. Though sections of OBC voters did vote for regional parties, like the Yadavs of the RJD in Bihar and Samajwadi Party in UP, their share has been much lower compared to past elections.

These elections witnessed a shift in Yadav votes both in UP and Bihar. In many other states, OBC voters went for the BJP. Estimates suggest, at the national level, 45% of lower OBCs voted for the BJP, while 33% upper OBCs voted for the party. The party that hardly got Dalit votes managed to make good inroads into their vote bank. At the national level, the BJP, with more than 26% Dalit votes polled, received more support amongst the Dalits as compared to any other party, more than the BSP, which got less than 20% votes amongst the Dalits at the national level.

Young voters (18-22 years of age) also decisively voted in favour of the BJP, more due to party’s PM candidate.

Apart from a rural surge, a shift among the OBCs, Dalits and young voters, what helped the BJP hugely was its big consolidation amongst its traditional voters. It got nearly 60% of the upper castes votes, an unprecedented consolidation, as even during the 1998 and 1999 elections, less than 50% of the upper castes had voted for it.

Sanjay Kumar is director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

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