2014 Elections: A Landmark in The Indian Politics
Since independence, Indian politics has undergone various changes starting from Congress' dominance, transition to coalition politics and then the most significant turn came in 2014 elections when BJP got a humongous mandate which was an unprecedented event in the Indian political history. There were various factors which contributed to the huge victory of the BJP in the 2014 elections and then subsequently in the 2019 elections which are of great importance for the future elections as well and which have and will shape the future of Indian elections.
Initial Phase - Congress Dominance
Since the 1952 elections, the only party which had been dominant at the centre and in the states was the Indian National Congress and this dominance of the Indian National Congress was termed as the 'Congress System' by the eminent theorist Rajni Kothari. The Congress owed a great part of its success to its substantial and most prominent role in the Indian National Movement. Many Congress members were the leaders during the nationalist movement and also contested in the first Lok Sabha elections. In Jawaharlal Nehru, the party had a charismatic leader who had an influential impact on the populace. The Congress accommodated leaders from different ideological dispensations and exhibited a broad spectrum of views and ideas in different issues. Hence, the Congress was termed as a 'rainbow like coalition' . No party was able to challenge the dominance of the Congress as what the opposition parties wanted to say already found a place in the policies of the Congress owing to the broad range of ideas the party was able to accommodate. All these factors contributed to the uncontested dominance of the Congress. However, after the 1967 elections, the Congress lost its former glory and the 'Congress System' was reduced to 'Congress Dominance'.
This trend underwent a change from 1989 elections when no single party got a majority in the Lok Sabha and many parties came together to form coalition governments. This phase included Prime Ministers like P.V. Narasimha Rao, V.P. Singh and many more stalwarts.
There were broadly two phases of 'post congress polity'. The first phase was characterised by instability when there were frequent downfalls of the governments owing to the fragile nature of coalition governments and the second phase was a coalition phase when NDA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee completed its term, which was characterised by stability and continuity.
Return of the Congress and the Rise of Bhartiya Janta Party
The 2004 elections saw the return of the Congress to power leading an alliance of parties termed as UPA, though the former glory of Congress was missing. Dr. Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister under the UPA 1 from 2004 and the UPA 2 government from 2009.
The respite that the Congress got by winning the elections in 2004 and 2009 was short-lived as the BJP got a humongous mandate and came to power in 2014 Lok Sabha elections winning more than 350 seats which was a 'Surplus Majority Coalition'. This marked the rise of hard core Hindutva politics in India.
There were various reasons for the defeat of the Congress which can be broadly divided into three categories:
(i) There was a lack of policy direction, decision making and strong leadership in the party which played a significant role in its downfall.
(ii) There was dissatisfaction among the people due to the economic slowdown marked by high inflation, poor policies and unemployment.
(iii) Rampant corruption and scams in the UPA government were numerous which turned people's perception against the Congress, which led to dissatisfaction against the Congress at centre and even greater dissatisfaction against the Congress in the states which was also the reason for the satisfaction for BJP in the states.
How did the BJP Come to Power?
The BJP weaved an elaborate strategy and was thus successful in capturing the power. Major factors responsible for this massive electoral change are:
Projection of an Alternative
The BJP successfully projected itself as the only and the most strong alternative to the Congress party. It successfully exposed the loopholes and the errors committed by the Congress and banked on the shortcomings of the government.
BJP projected a very strong candidate in Narendra Modi who had already won the Gujarat C.M. elections thrice in a row and had initiated many development works in the form of infrastructure and rapid industrialization . People were of the opinion that the same Gujarat model would be replicated at the centre also which will bring prosperity to the general public.
The BJP started off as a party which enjoyed its support base mainly among the upper caste, middle class and Hindi speaking people. But it constructed a marvellous social engineering which expanded its base and helped it to capture political power.
In the 2014 elections the BJP gained the largest share of OBC votes (which is the largest group in the population). Approximately, two- thirds of the OBCs voted for BJP. Not only the OBCs, but a sizeable number of SCs and STs also voted for the BJP which was not the case before.
In the name of mobilising people across the agenda of Hindutva, the BJP made the Ram Mandir issue as its biggest electoral plank and even took out a rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. In a rally in the 2014 elections Narendra Modi said, "The next decade belongs to the backwards", which was the clearest manifestation of the BJP's strategy of mobilising the backward castes in the name of Hindutva. The BJP mobilised the backward castes on the plank of social justice and empowerment, which benefited it tremendously.
Economic Policies and Promises
The BJP has been known as ‘the party of capitalists’. It projected its free- market policies explicitly in the 2014 elections. It made various economic promises focusing on rapid industrialization like it did in Gujarat, quality infrastructure including roads, highways, water, electricity, setting up of industrial plants etc.
BJP also promised to make India a global manufacturing hub rather than a market hub for the world, focusing on free market reforms. It also promised to make a business-friendly environment by giving various economic incentives to the businesses including those from the foreign countries. It promised to bridge the demand - supply gap to build a strong manufacturing sector in India and also promised to generate lakhs of employment opportunities.
The use of slogans like 'Bahut hui mehangai ki maar, abki baar Modi Sarkar' and 'Achhe din aane wale hain' appealed to a populace who was fed up with the lagging economy, persistent inflation of the essentials like gas cylinder, petrol, diesel etc. and rising unemployment. All these created an impression on the mind of people that this is the time for change and the change will usher them into an era of prosperity.
Supporters of Narendra Modi, BJP's prime ministerial candidate, celebrate atop a bus in Ahmedabad.
I am of the opinion that the 2014 elections were a significant landmark in the history of Indian politics which changed the dynamics of Indian politics totally. The party which steered the Indian National Movement and had enjoyed power for a long time was uprooted by the BJP which made use of various strategies including the economic promises, social empowerment promises, communal mobilisation and so on. This marked a significant change in the Indian elections, the repercussions of which were seen in the subsequent elections including the 2019 elections, 2022 UP elections and so on.
It is pertinent to note that the BJP has not been able to fulfil the extravagant promises it had made, even after coming to power again in 2019. The economy has seen a new low in the recent years , the problems which were present in the Congress rule like inflation and unemployment have all the more degraded and it has only made lives of the millions of Indians worse who are struggling to fulfil their basic needs. The youth are struggling to get employment, scams in the competitive examinations have increased which is a clear failure of our education system, farmers have been forced to leave their fields and come to the roads to struggle against the oppressive farm laws, students and journalists speaking against the injustices and oppressive policies are termed as anti-nationals.
All these incidences indicate a very dangerous trend for the country which needs to be resolved at the earliest in order to make the country a better and a safer place.
To sum up, the 2014 elections marked a turning point in Indian politics which had significant consequences for the future of Indian politics. It turned the tide from the favour of a party who was synonymous with India at one point of time to the favour of a party who barely had a chance to come to the centre a few years ago.
The victory of BJP can be attributed to many factors including the popularity of Modi, religious appeal in the name of Hindutva, corruption and lack of proper functioning of the Congress and so on.
The 2014 elections have already impacted Indian politics on a large scale which is evident in the increasing victories of BJP in various states including the most recent 2022 state elections and this will surely impact the future of Indian politics as well.
By Milind Shekhar Singh