Is ‘Modi Magic’ Fading Away?

The 2024 elections marked a significant shift in Indian politics, indicating a departure from the narratives that dominated the 2014 and 2019 elections. The results have forced Modi and the BJP to introspect. Here are some key takeaways from the political dynamics observed.
By Tridib Raman

Modi Trapped in Rahul-Akhilesh’s Narrative :

Unlike the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and 2019, for the first time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi found himself on the defensive, retreating from his established narratives such as the ‘Ram Mandir’ and ‘Modi ki Guarantees’. Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav, ‘two boys of UP’, effectively shifted the focus to pressing issues like youth employment, the abolition of the Agniveer scheme, caste census, reservation, and the protection of the Constitution. These issues strongly connected with voters in the Hindi heartland, pushing Modi to respond to their agenda rather than setting his own.

Shifting Voter Priorities : Voters in the Hindi heartland prioritised substantial issues over communal or superficial narratives. Phrases like “Mangalsutra,” “Meat,” and “Muslim,” did not resonate well with the public, indicating a preference for addressing fundamental concerns such as employment and social justice.

Factionalism within BJP : Internal divisions within the BJP became evident, particularly in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. Yogi Adityanath’s supporters in UP feared a potential replacement by Amit Shah, while Rajasthan witnessed fragmentation where the party was divided into many factions. Prominent leaders like Bhajanlal Sharma, Diya Kumari, and Vasundhara Raje had formed their own camps.

RSS-BJP Tension : The relationship between the RSS and the BJP showed visible strain. BJP President JP Nadda’s comments about the party’s independence from RSS support highlighted this tension. In an interview with Indian Express Nadda said that “the party has grown from the time it needed the RSS and is now “saksham” (capable) and runs its own affairs.” It is said that in the middle of elections, PM Modi himself had to visit the Sangh headquarters in Nagpur to convince the RSS.

The RSS’s discomfort with Modi-centric politics, as opposed to the broader organisational approach, further complicated matters.

Defeats of Key Modi Ministers : This time 20 ministers of the Modi government, including Smriti Irani, Rajeev Chandrashekhar and R K Singh, who were serving as ministers during the elections, have lost their seats. This reflected a perception among the public that these politicians were out of touch with grassroots concerns, which was attributed to their arrogance.

Dissenters got Massive Majority : Despite Modi’s dislike for Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Chauhan won the Vidisha Lok Sabha seat this time by 8 lakh 20 thousand votes margin, whereas Modi won Varanasi by just 1 lakh 52 thousand votes, indicating a shift in voters’ sentiments.

Ayodhya’s Symbolic Defeat : The BJP’s loss in Ayodhya, despite the high-profile Ram Mandir issue, was particularly telling. The seasoned SP politician Awadhesh Prasad, a nine-time MLa from the Faizabad constituency and a member of the Dalit community, triumphed over BJP’s Lallu Singh. The electoral success of Awadhesh Prasad in Ayodhya indicates a shift in the electorate’s focus towards fundamental concerns such as joblessness and the cost of living, moving away from communal and religious topics.

Vote-Spoilers Could Not Help BJP : The role of ‘Vote- Katua’ (vote-cutter) parties like Mayawati’s BSP, Owaisi’s aIMIM and Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi (VBA) was reduced, with core voter bases realigning with the opposition. Mayawati’s core vote bank shifted to the SP, Muslims united and did not fall into Owaisi’s trap, and backward castes also moved away from the BJP and towards the opposition. This was the first election in which most BSP candidates received only a few votes.

Media and Social Media Dynamics : Mainstream media, often criticised for its perceived bias towards Modi, lost credibility among people. They turned to social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram where Rahul Gandhi’s candid and relatable communication style garnered more traction than Modi’s traditional media presence.

Youth Resentment : The essential issues of young voters, particularly unemployment, paper leaks and the Agniveer scheme, which Rahul and Akhilesh touched upon, fueled considerable disenchantment with the BJP. The large-scale migration of young voters to the SP-Congress alliance was evident in their enthusiastic participation in their rallies.

Modi had Nothing New to Say : This time Modi’s speeches failed to strike a chord with the public as they used to in previous elections. Repetitive themes and controversial statements led to dwindling attendance at his rallies, signalling a disconnect with the voters’ issues and priorities.

Overall, the 2024 elections demonstrated a significant shift in the political discourse, with voters demanding substantive engagement on issues directly affecting their lives, moving away from the personality-centric and communal narratives that had previously dominated.

Tridib Raman

TRIDIB RAMAN is a senior journalist with over 35 years of experience in Print, Broadcast and Digital Media. As a political journalist, he has closely tracked politicians and politics of every kind, educating readers to nuances. He has founded Parliamentarian magazine with the sole objective to encourage pro-people politics.

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