Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had great electoral years in 2002 (Gujarat), 2007 (Gujarat), 2012 (Gujarat), 2013 (State elections), 2014 (Lok Sabha and State elections) and 2017. In fact 2017 was one of the best years when BJP won a whopping six States, a feat not seen in Indian politics for decades.
In 2009, Congress got more Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat. In 2015, Modi lost key ego battles with Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad Yadav (Bihar) and Arvind Kejriwal (New Delhi). But by the end of 2017, a second Modi term seemed a foregone conclusion.
However Modi probably got his worst year ever in 2018, his Annus Horribilis. First despite being the single largest party in Karnataka, the BJP totally messed up the trust vote and ceded ground to a JDS-Congress government. Then the NDA government in Jammu & Kashmir fell.
Finally at the end of the year, BJP won 0/5 State elections while the ailing Congress got a real shot in the arm and formed governments in the key states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Congress supporters and Modi haters finally smelt blood at the end of 2018.
But that is distant memory now and 2019 is firmly The Year of Modi (so far). Here’s why…
1. Spectacular surgical strikes.
While the 2016 surgical strike in Uri was great, the 2019 one was simply spectacular. For the first time in history, an Air Force conducted air strikes on a nuclear power. Jaish-e-Mohammed was decimated in Balakot (Pakistan proper), while Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen terror camps were hit in Muzaffarabad and Chakothi (PoK).
Then Wing Commander Abhinandan shot down an F-16, the first MiG-21 to do so in history. Abhinandan became a POW, but was released in quick time. India looked decisive and Pakistan was caught firmly on the back foot.
2. Great annual budget. GST-DeMo shocks absorbed. GDP growth up.
Usually when a budget is presented, there are many pros and cons in the media and sometimes consensus is elusive whether it is god or bad. But Budget 2019 was an unqualified success and critically acclaimed by all.
It had something for everyone: The farmers, the middle class, the industry… While many ruling governments don’t go in for a full-fledged budget in election year, Modi presented a bold one which pleased all and helped his 2019 electoral cause.
Then, remember the total disruption that GST and demonetization caused? Well they are distant memories now and the economy has totally absorbed those shocks. Among large economies, India now has the highest GDP growth rate in the world. The good budget complemented this.
This was another unexpected sixer out of the park. Nobody saw it coming. Nobody could really criticize it. While most such moves are based solely on caste and religious lines, this one was solely targeted for the poor.
4. The NDAgatbandhan.
Everyone was talking of the Mahagatbandhan, but the NDAgatbandhan has taken over. The BJP has strong allies in the form of JDU-LJP (Bihar), Shiv Sena (Maharashtra), ADMK+ (Tamil Nadu) and SAD (Punjab). Then there’s their surprise North-East Democratic Alliance which has a dozen odd members. Even if the BJP gets 250, it will be a stable 5-year government and more allies will be looking to jumping on the NDA ship.
5. Looks like Bollywood is totally with him!
The film industry is severely Left-leaning. That way you could say that 99% of Hollywood is against US President Donald Trump. When Modi finally made his intentions to run for Prime Minister in 2012 crystal clear, Bollywood was by and large against him. But not anymore!
In 2019 it seems that Bollywood is almost campaigning for Modi. At the beginning of the year Uri: The Surgical Strike became 2019’s biggest hit. It reminded people of the 2016 strike and even as it was playing in the theatres more happened.
On the same day the nationalistic Battalion 609 was released along with The Accidental Prime Minister, which showed Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in bad light. This was followed by movies like 72 Hours: Martyr Who Never Died, Thackeray and Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi.
Then we had Mere Pyare Prime Minister, based on the Swachh Bharat Mission, the patriotic and jingoistic Kesari and the controversial Ram Ki Janmbhoomi. Romeo Akber Walter also brought back the India-Pak focus.
Finally we had The Tashkent Files, which showed Indira Gandhi in really bad light. The release of PM Narendra Modi got delayed but now Modi can claim the EC is neutral. That movie will be released after polling and may be a superhit if it forms part of the victory celebrations.
6. Solid development and governance credentials.
Modi is campaigning in 2019 with great confidence. That’s because he has solid development and governance credentials. He has pulled up the bureaucracy and ministries. India has seen a record number of toilets, power connections, LPG cylinders, roads and bank accounts. Modi has become a foreign policy superstar and he received a further boost during electioneering when he got Russia’s highest award.
Pappu keeps hammering on Rafale a million times and nobody cares. Rural India still doesn’t what the hell it’s all about and urban India laughs at him. Even the courts dismissed it in December last year. Just for a review petition to be accepted made Pappu declare that “Chowkidar is chor” for which he had to eat crow in front of the Supreme Court. This is key, because Pappu thought this was the ace in the hole.
8. Main bhi chowkidar/media interview blitz.
Continuing with Rafale, in 2014, Modi turned the chaiwallah jibe into a brilliant #ChaiPeCharcha campaign. This time when Pappu thought that his “Chowkidar Chor hain” won the day, Modi again turned it around with the widespread and immensely popular “Main bhi Chowkidar” campaign.
If #AbkiBaarModiSarkaar ruled 2014, then its #AayegaToModiHi in 2019. While during the December 2018 elections it seemed that the BJP was totally losing it on social media, Modi got his mojo back by the time of the general elections.
All the channels can’t get enough of Modi. They keep showing his speeches, rallies, road shows and programmes like the one at the Varanasi Ghat. He also went on to do many media interviews and the biggest hit of the year was probably the one with Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar.
9. Opposition unity totally in tatters.
There is no real UPA and there is no Third Front. Everyone wants to be Prime Minister. Congress has no tie-ups in UP while their ones in Maharashtra and Karnataka seem to be ineffective. They had a win with the DMK in Tamil Nadu; however BJP is already sitting at nearly nothing there and moreover tied up with the ADMK. Chandrababu Naidu also broke it off with Congress realizing it was going nowhere.
Everyone is celebrating the SP-BSP tie-up in UP without mentioning that they got 5 + 0 seats last time as against NDA’s 75. Also the Yadav and Dalit vote banks are not additive, but at loggerheads with each other.
The main problem is that everybody hates Pappu and everybody wants to be PM. Sharad Pawar, Mayawati and Mrs Vadra are not even contesting the elections. HD Deve Gowda may lose as may Pappu in Amethi. There’s a chance that both Naidu and Naveen Patnaik may lose their CMship. It’s been ages since the opposition has been so weak.
10. UAE award and temple inauguration during voting.
Modi haters have tried to spread the “Muslims under siege” narrative multiple times and failed. One thing that has blunted this is his excellent relationship with Muslim heads of state and perhaps he has surpassed all his predecessors in that regard.
Before this new year started, he had got the highest award of three countries: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Palestine—all Muslim countries. Then in 2019, during electioneering, he was conferred with the highest award of the UAE. That Muslim country also inaugurated a temple there.
Pro-incumbency is the norm at the Centre. Nehru won all the elections in his life. His daughter Indira also won all the elections save one where she had imposed the dreaded dictatorial Emergency. The Janata Party and Janata Dal disintegrated and only a slew of scandals sunk Rajiv in 1989. Vajpayee in 2004 was not expected to complete his term had he been elected and he was scandal-ridden and overshadowed by LK Advani. Manmohan got re-elected in 2009 even though he was mediocre in UPA1.
That means a youngish Prime Minister who even gives a mediocre performance without any major scandal has a near cent per cent chance of winning re-election. Modi is in his prime and young enough to complete two more terms so it is unlikely that India will vote against him in 2019.