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How Narendra Modi surge swept aside all predictions

File photo. Photograph:( PTI )

New Delhi, Delhi, India May 25, 2019, 12.25 PM (IST) Makarand R Paranjape

It would seem that watephors, especially billowy ones, dominate election predictions and analyses in India. But this time no one got it right. Not a single person, commentator, columnist, psephologist, soothsayer, or gossipy socialite even once predicted that there would be a staggering tsunami in favour of the Narendra Modi-led BJP. The usual comment, uttered with unshakeable confidence, was that 2019 was unlike 2014 for one simple reason. There was no NaMo wave. Nobody contested this hydrous assumption.

As we progressed through the campaign season, even completing the first couple of phases of the actual voting, this overwhelmingly accepted trope did get a wee watered down. Ah! the wise wags said, almost in a hushed whisper, sometimes cocking an eye or shaking a finger conspiratorially, "There is no wave, but perhaps there is an undercurrent." I myself, I must confess, was rather taken by the seductive appeal of this breaker. It was as if unbeknownst to the vast armies of Indian electoral observers, there was a definite shift in the leitmotif. This notion or should I say the tension between no-wave and undeniable undercurrent afforded some intellectual refreshment if not libation.

Soon, to continue with our aqueous discernments, the undercurrent actually turned into a groundswell. When did this happen? By most counts, the Balakot surgical strikes did it. Our jets swooped deep into Pakistani territory, crossing not just the current LoC, but the international border. Some cynics immediately dismissed this as another war-mongering political stunt. But, when our fighter pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was taken captive, the whole nation not only turned serious, but furious. His return, calmly walking across from Pakistan to Hindustan, was the most riveting and watched event on live TV. Modi was hailed not only as a decisive Prime Minister, but also an effective commander-in-chief. In his hands, the safety, security, and self-respect of India would be intact.

Yet, no Modi wave. 

Instead, all of us calculated the losses in UP and where they would be made-up. No one knew that the “Mahagathbandhan” would flop, getting a measly 15 out of 80 seats. Or that the shortfall for the BJP would only be 9 seats, down from 71 in 2014, to 62 in 2019. No one had noticed the hard work of UP’s much maligned-by-the-LeftLiberals Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, who addressed 137 rallies, 28 in his own home turf of Gorakhpur. It was here, we might remember, that the "gathbandhan" model of defeating the BJP had been hatched in the by-elections. 

Then we saw the daily reports of violence in West Bengal, which was the arena of BJP’s impressive eastward push. Only Mamata, it would seem, stood between Modi and the saffron march all the way from Delhi to Arunachal Pradesh. There were pitched battles in Kolkata, the original homeland of Hindu, where stalwart after stalwart of India’s renaissance had emerged. Rammohan Roy, Sri Ramakrishna, Rabindranath Tagore, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar (he whose bust was destroyed), Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Syama Prasad Mukherji — to name only a few. It was only when Amit Shah pulled off a spectacular roadshow near College Street that the rest of India realised what was really going on.

But, not one person said that whatever was going on was now tantamount to a genuine Modi wave. Rather, the phrase used was somewhat more earthy than soggy—BJP was making inroads in Bengal.

In the meanwhile, the elections themselves, all seven phases of them, were over. Polling had taken place in fairly high numbers in all parts of the country, despite the heat and dust. This was the largest election in human history, and it had been completed without too many unsavoury or untoward events. Even the violence, regrettable as it was, was infrequent and exceptional. Now, came the exit polls and so much loose-talk about EVM tampering and EC-favouritism. 

But still no Modi wave.

It was only with the tabulation of the results, with the BJP improving its tally from 282 in 2014 to 303 in 2019 and the NDA matching its previous record by notching up 353 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha that, almost overnight, we have finally admitted to a NaMo wave this time around too. But, hey, now it’s no longer a wave; it’s a TsuNaMo. All of us were caught sleeping. No amount of catch-up or I-told-you-so can cover-up our metaphorical miscalculation. 

Well, what if we did not predict let alone ride this wave? In an act of figurative damage-control if not penitence, we may as well enjoy being swept off our feet as it surges across and inundates the entire length and breadth of the country.

(This article was originally published on The DNA. Read the original article)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.) 

Makarand R Paranjape

The author is Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

Story highlights

We have finally admitted to a NaMo wave this time around too. But, hey, now it’s no longer a wave; it’s a TsuNaMo