NEW DELHI: Proving exit polls right, the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday appeared set to retain power as its candidates alone led in 294 of the 541 Lok Sabha seats with its allies faring equally well across the country, stunning the opposition.
The BJP also made stunning inroads in West Bengal where its candidates were ahead in 15 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats while the ruling Trinamool Congress was on the top in 25 places. The BJP had won only two seats in 2014.
Reasons behind the BJP retaining power for the second straight time
1. After five years, Modi’s rule helped turn ‘wave’ into ‘tsunami’.
Gandhi, 48, tried several lines of attack against Modi, in particular over alleged corruption in a French defence deal and over the desperate plight of farmers and the lacklustre economy. Notwithstanding with farmer distress, allegations about Rafael jets, criticism on demonetization and growing unemployment, the Prime Minister is BJP’s trump card and stood tall on the campaign trail.
2. The TINA syndrome.
Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance could easily managed to convince the voters that ‘There Is No Alternative’ to it on the national scene.
3. National Security
Modi, 68, managed deftly to turn the election into a referendum on his rule while depicting himself, often in the third person, as the only one able to defend India. Taking a muscular approach to national security and with Pulwama attack and the Balakot anti-terror strike, the saffron clearly drive home the idea that it’s the only party that can ensure national security.
Doubts abound about the efficacy of India’s subsequent air strikes on Pakistan, but the action enabled Modi to style himself the “chowkidar” (“watchman”).
Unemployment is reported to be at a four-decade high with Asia’s third-biggest economy growing too slowly to create jobs for the million Indians entering the labour market every month.
Modi, a former cadre in the militaristic hardline Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and chief minister of Gujurat in 2002 when riots killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, is also seen as divisive.
Lynchings of Muslims and low-caste Dalits for eating beef and slaughtering and trading in cattle have risen, adding to anxiety among India’s 170-million-strong Muslim population.
Under Modi several cities with names rooted in India’s Islamic Mughal past have been re-named, while some school textbooks have been changed to downplay Muslims’ contributions to India.
With agency inputs