The exit polls have got it right. In a historic win that has surpassed even the 2014 victory, the Bharatiya Janata Party has won a second consecutive term with the leads clearly showing that the Narendra Modi led party may win 300 seats on its own. The party has also swept the three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which they lost to the Congress in the assembly elections in December last year.
The state of Uttar Pradesh, where the party was expected to face a tough fight due to a strong alliance by the Samajwadi party and Bahujan Samajwadi party also failed to make a serious dent in their overall numbers. While BJP is leading in about 57 seats out of a total of 80, the Akhilesh Yadav-Mayawati alliance failed in its efforts to reduce the party's tally by a significant number.
But the big victory for the party is likely to be West Bengal where the party is leading in more than 15 seats. In 2014, the party had won 2 seats. The party is reaping the benefits of taking on Mamata Banerjee in her citadel and running a sustained campaign which included several well attended rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
Modi took to Twitter to express his happiness on winning the elections.
Meanwhile for the Congress, it is a bitter end to a long campaign with little to show apart from an impressive showing in the state of Kerala. The party is likely to show marginal improvement from its all time low of 44 seats in 2014. Adding insult to injury, Congress President Rahul Gandhi who chose to fight from two seats - traditional family seat of Amethi and Wayanad in Kerala - is facing the prospect of losing Amethi to BJP's Smriti Irani. Another shocker for the Congress came in the form of Jyotiraditya Scindia who is also trailing by over 1 lakh votes in his family bastion seat of Guna in Madhya Pradesh.
Another big winner this election, both at the parliamentary and state is YS Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. Jagan Reddy's YSRCP decimated Chandrababu Naidu's Telegu Desam Party winning all 25 seats while also winning the assembly elections. Reddy will be taking over as the chief minister soon.
The elections which started on April 11 was divided into seven phases with the last phase polling ending on May 19. Exit polls results had predicted a resounding victory for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The Times Now-VMR exit poll had predicted 306 seats for the BJP-led NDA with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) getting only 132 seats, and other parties getting 104 seats. The Republic – CVOTER survey preducted 287 seats for the NDA and only 128 seats for the UPA.
542 constituencies went to polls and witnessed the highest ever turnout in Indian history at 67.1%, beating the previous record of 66.4% in the 2014 polls.
National security, Hindutva and Modi -- BJP's Three Pronged Victory Mantra
BJP won the 2014 elections by riding on the wave of development with 'Sabka saath, sabka vikas' -- promises to rid the country of corruption, breathe life into the economy, bringing back black money and building world class infrastructure. The 2019 elections was all about national security interspersed with nationalism, Pakistan and Hindutva. The only common denominator : Narendra Modi.
With questions being raised over BJP not having fulfilled their promises, Congress used this alleged failure of the BJP in their social media and on-ground campaigns. The party coined the slogan 'Chowkidaar chor hai' post the controversy around the multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet purchase, but it failed to make a connect with the voters.
But the February 14 attack in Pulwama on a convoy of CRPF personnel appears to have turned the tide for the BJP. The attack that led to atleast 40 CRPF jawans dead and many more injured left the country shaken and BJP led by Modi promised the only thing that would make sense to a grieving populace : revenge.
A day after the attack, Modi speaking at an event gave a "warning" to terror outfits and "those abetting them". He said, " We have given full freedom to the security forces. We have full faith in the bravery and valour of our security forces (sic) 130 crore Indian will give a befitting reply to any such act or attack."
In March, less than a month after the Pulwama attack, at another event of an inauguration of a hospital in Gujarat, Modi said, "Humara siddhant hai, hum ghar me ghus ke maarenge". This became the sentiment across the nation, with citizens hailing Modi.
On February 26, just 12 days after the Pulwama attack, the Indian Air Force launched an air strike against Pakistan. IAF fighter jets hit terrorist training facilities in Pakistan's Balakot district. While the success and number of casualties of this attack is still being questioned, the BJP had succesfully given citizens the sense that death of its CRPF jawans had been avenged.
The release of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was captured by Pakistani forces after his plane was shot down also added to the sentiment that Modi and BJP could get things done. Varthaman was released after two days of his capture. While international media and community hailed Imran Khan, Pakistan Prime Minister, Indians gave the full credit to Modi and his leadership.
BJP and Modi invoked the feeling of 'nationalism' in all their speeches. In one of his speeches in Maharashtra, Modi also said, "I wish to ask you, my first-time voter, can you dedicate your first vote to the valiant soldiers who carried out the air strike in Pakistan’s Balakot? I wish to ask my first-time voters, can you dedicate your first vote to the brave martyrs of Pulwama?”
From Chowkidar Chor Hai to Main Bhi Chowkidar
The Modi led BJP government saw the potential of social media in its 2014 campaign, taking Congress and opposition leaders by surprise at this new style of campaigning. But BJP now had a worthy opponent in Congress. Congress brought in news hashtags from #VikasGandhoThayoChe (Development has gone crazy) ahead of the state assembly elections in Gujarat to the recent slogan of Chowkidar Chor Hai. But the social media battle saw Modi being a step ahead, always.
In March, after Chowkidar Chor Hai was trending on social media, Modi suddenly added the word, 'Chowkidar' as a prefix to his name on Twitter. Soon, all BJP leaders followed his step - prefixing Chowkidar to their names. BJP and Modi followers joined the bandwagon -- calling themselves Chowkidars -- the real watchmen of the country.
Modi was more than active on Twitter, posting selfies, updates, replying to certain followers to their videos supporting him.
BJP's election campaign for 2019 was less about its own achivements and more about Modi. Every billboard, hoarding or a Twitter post about a BJP scheme or the success of a BJP initiative sported Modi's face.
Modi himself made no pretences about this. In repeated campaign speeches, Modi was heard asking people to "vote for Modi". In a campaign in Maharashtra, Modi said, "If you press the lotus button or the bow and arrow (the election symbol of ally Shiv Sena), your vote will go straight to the account of Modi". In a speech in Bihar, Modi, said, "Remember, whether you press the button next to lotus, arrow or house (symbols of the three NDA constituents) your vote shall go to Modi," the prime minister said. "
THE ROAD AHEAD
With BJP returning to power with Modi as the Prime Minister for a second term in the Centre, the party has a lot of work ahead. While its schemes like Ayushman Bharat - the health insurance scheme, Free LPG cylinder and rural electrifications have made an impact, media reports says analysts remain skeptical.
According to the performance dashboard available on the website of 48months - a government website to highlight achivements of the BJP government, the government passes with flying colours.
According to the data listed on the site till May 22, the Jan Dhan Yojana has benefitted atleast 356,500, 000 people (Thirty Five Crore Sixty Five Lakh) One Crore Fifty Three Lakh houses (1,53,00000) have been completed under the PM Awas Yojana and Two Crore Sixty Two Lakh Eighty Four Thousand Three Hundred Fifty (2,62,84350) households have been electrified under the Saubhagya scheme.