Will Narendra Modi Win 2019? - Vivek Kaul's Diary
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Will Narendra Modi Win 2019?

Nov 1, 2017


I am writing this on Sunday, October 22, 2017. The prime minister Narendra Modi will visit Gujarat the third time this month. In the run-up to the state assembly elections, he will inaugurate and lay the foundation stones to a number of projects.

The prime minister's multiple visits to Gujarat have led to the question-is the BJP on a weak wicket in Gujarat? A strong anti- Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) front seems to be emerging in the state. The leader of the other backward classes (OBCs) Alpesh Thakor is expected to join the Congress on October 23, 2017.

Hardik Patel, the leader of the Patidar Patels, through his tweets seems to have indicated his preference for the Congress, though some of his aides have joined the BJP. Also, Patel currently is not old enough to fight elections.

On the flip side, Gujarat (unlike many other Indian states) has always been a two-horse race between the BJP and the Congress. And in this race, the Congress has gone nowhere in the recent decades. Its vote share has moved between 33-38 per cent of the votes polled and hence, India's grand old party has not managed to displace the BJP. The extra 5 per cent votes that the Congress needs to give tough competition to the BJP, has never really come.

How will things turn out this time around? Honestly, I am not a political analyst and don't know the answer to this. But what I do know is that the BJP has built a formidable election management system under its president, Amit Shah.

Prashant Jha in his new book How the BJP Wins-Inside India's Greatest Election Machine describes this election management system in detail. And after reading this book I can say with reasonable confidence that displacing BJP at the state level (in the various assembly elections scheduled up to 2019) and in the Lok Sabha elections scheduled in 2019, will be no cakewalk.

This, despite the fact, that the Modi government has managed to screw up the economy big time through the disastrous decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, and a terrible implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.

I will not get into the details of the election management system of the BJP that Jha writes about in his book, given that a single Letter cannot do justice to it. Hence, dear reader, if you do have the time and the inclination, do check out the book.

Nevertheless, in this Letter I will talk about the factors that go in favour of the BJP and Modi, and the factors that go against them, when they fight an election in the days to come and this includes the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. Let's look at these factors one by one.

Let's start with the performance on the economic front. The promised acche din are nowhere in sight. In fact, the informal part of the economy which forms around 40 per cent of the GDP and employs more than three-fourths of the labour force, has collapsed. Economic growth has collapsed from more than 9 per cent to now less than six per cent. As far as the non-government part of the economy is concerned, which forms close to 90 per cent of the economy, it is now growing at just 4.3 per cent. So, there clearly are issues on the economic front. Having said that the government has time up until 2019 to set it right.

Also, more importantly does economic performance of the nation, really matter to the core supporters of Modi and the BJP. Or are they simply happy with the stand that the government is taking on the Ram temple in Ayodhya and all the rhetoric that surrounds the protection of the cow.

This will be a really important factor in any election. It remains difficult to figure out to what portion of the voters are these issues important. Not surprisingly, a narrative is already being built around these issues, for the core support base. And as May 2019 approaches, things could get murkier on this front.

As Evan Davis writes in Post Truth-Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It: "Like-minded groups of individuals share a narrative about many things... These narratives are sometimes true, sometimes not, but they are often like stereotypes... Once embedded in our minds though, they can easily gain excessive traction and trample over truth as willing believers put too much weight on propositions that conform to their narrative without looking for evidence in support of them."

Further, it is worth asking whether voters vote based on the economic policy being practiced by the government. As Davis writes: [The] argument that who you are matters more than the substantive point you are making is especially true about politicians. Voters focus on character rather than policy partly because they are better able to judge character and are relatively uninformed on policy... So, for a politician, having a good reputation is worth a hundred quick victories in specific arguments.

Modi's personal brand still remains strong, though it may have been battered a bit. Over and above this, his brand will always be compared to those he is competing against and on that Modi wins hands down.

Expanding on the third point, the question is who will be the leader of the opposition parties. Will it be Rahul Gandhi? Or will it be a leader like Mamata Banerjee? As Jha writes in How the BJP Wins: "Will Rahul Gandhi accept a regional leader? Will a powerful regional leader like Mamata Banerjee accept a Rahul Gandhi?"

It will be imperative for the united opposition (if anything like that emerges) to have a consensus candidate and fight their elections under him, because a presidential style contest is likely to emerge, in the fight against Modi.

Other than choosing the right candidate, the opposition parties will have to build a credible narrative around him and what they have to offer. The narrative will be necessary to expand the core base. Just saying that we are there to displace Modi is unlikely to work. As Jha writes: "If 'remove Modi' is the only message, and the glue that binds them together, then they have a problem. Modi will project it, much like Indira Gandhi did, as a battle between him - a man committed to removing India's poverty, man committed to India's vikas - against a conglomeration of small, scattered, disparate units - united only by their hatred for him."

Also, do these parties have the organisational muscle to take on the organisational muscle of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS). The BJP always had access to the organisational muscle of the RSS, but the Sangh in the past, has not always deployed those resources totally, to help the BJP. That has changed now because of the personal relationship that Modi shares with the Sangh boss Mohan Bhagwat.

Narendra Modi was practically brought up in the RSS. And as Jha writes: "To top it all, Modi's mentor in the Sangh happened to be Bhagwat's father." How do you tackle an equation like this?

In many states, like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, any election will be a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP. Does the Congress have the organisational strength to take on BJP and the RSS?

The bigger problem for the Congress is that it does not have full time politicians at the top. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are full time politicians. They don't have any other interests in life. The same cannot be said about the Congress leadership. Whatever people might say about the recent revival of Rahul Gandhi, he just doesn't inspire enough confidence. I am just waiting for him to take his next holiday at a point of time, when he should be in the country.

The Congress Party for the last many years has always been led by a Gandhi. The Gandhis brought in the votes. But now that is no longer the case. So, the question that is being asked can a non-Gandhi lead the Congress. For a moment, let's assume that the Gandhis take a backseat. Will the other leaders of the Congress be ready to work under the leadership of a non-Gandhi? I don't think so. Without, the Gandhis at the top, the glue that holds the party together, the party is likely to break up and if not that the factionalism is bound to increase dramatically.

A big advantage that the Modi government has, and which the opposition doesn't, is that it can use the official machinery in its favour. Recently, the Election Commission announced the election dates for the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, but did not do so for the assembly elections in Gujarat and offered a very flimsy reason for it. This gave Modi and the BJP more time to launch more new projects in the state and offer more sops to the voters, something they wouldn't have been able to do, if the election dates would have been announced.

Over and above this, the government (like the previous governments) can continue using taxpayers' money to keep building their brand. They can also announce waive offs closer to the election date. I have a feeling that sometime in late 2018, early 2019, a big Mudra loan waive off is on its way. More than 9 crore Mudra loans have been distributed till date. And any waive off of these loans, will give a huge push to the electoral chances of the BJP in 2010, given that it will impact 45 crore individuals in total (assuming a family of 5 per household).

Up until now, I have offered reasons which go for the BJP. Now that doesn't mean that all is well with the BJP. The section of the population is clearly not happy with the economy not doing well. A million youth are entering the workforce every month and the job scene continues to remain bad. The trouble is that the government is simply unwilling to recognise this problem and keeps talking about self-employment opportunities that it has created. These claims are rarely based on any data. The problem with trying to be too clever all the time is that ultimately you get found out. This something that the BJP leaders need to seriously think about.

So, it remains to be seen whether this issue emerges as a strong political issue. It further remains to be seen whether the opposition parties are able to tap into the frustration of the youth who are entering the workforce and not been able to find decent jobs.

Many land owning communities like Marathas, Jats, Patidar Patels and Kapus, have launched protests in the recent past, demanding reservations in government jobs. This remains a tricky issue to handle.

In states like Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP has done well, it has built a broad coalition of castes. In Uttar Pradesh, along with the support of upper castes, the BJP was able to reach out to backwards particularly those who did not like the rise of the Yadavs under the previous regime, and the Dalits, particularly those who did not like the rise of the Jatavs under Mayawati. The trouble is that the any government has only so many resources to share and distribute.

As Jha writes: "Caste groups end up competing with each other for state patronage, resources, access to power. There are limited opportunities available and so certain caste groups and, within the caste groups, certain individuals end up cornering more than their share of positions... A road is constructed or schemes are more effectively implemented depending on whether the constituents of that village are supporters of the regime in power. Given weak institutions, access to political power often determines if a person of a specific caste has access to the local police station."

If sabka saath sabka vikaas has to become a reality, then the current governance structures will have to be changed. Local police officials need to respond to various complaints, irrespective of the caste of the individual making the complaint. This remains very difficult to implement.

Already, in Uttar Pradesh there are accusations of Thakurs, the caste to which chief minister Yogi Adityanath belongs to, taking over the police administration.

For a very long time, the BJP was a party supported by the upper castes and the business castes. Under Modi and Shah, the support base of the party has expanded and includes a large section of the poor as well.

While, this has benefitted the party tremendously, the party organisation hasn't changed to reflect this new reality. As a top BJP leader told Jha: "The party organisation has still not transformed itself. At the moment the party's character and the PM's support base may slowly diverge. You cannot have an SUV driving rich contractor as your district president if your target is the poor voter."

This can lead to a situation where the party's political messaging is neither here nor there.

To conclude, these are the factors which will matter in the runup to the 2019 elections. While, BJP is on weaker wicket in comparison to 2014, a small industry seems to have emerged in writing off the electoral chances of Modi and the BJP in 2019, on the basis of a few recent losses in assembly, Lok Sabha, and a few other smallish elections. But they are really jumping the gun, on the basis of very little evidence.

The BJP's election machinery is very strong, and it can take on these defeats in its stride.

Vivek Kaul is the Editor of the Diary. He is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. The books were bestsellers on Amazon. His latest book is India's Big Government - The Intrusive State and How It is Hurting Us.

Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

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16 Responses to "Will Narendra Modi Win 2019?"

Sarat Palat

Nov 4, 2017

Dear Mr. Kaul,

I am having a feeling that you are going beyond the task given to you by the Equity Master. Your article now -a - days seems to be anti Government and to sell your books. We don't need any advise or suggestion from you how the Govt. is functioning or whether Modi is going to win the next election or not. I am writing to mention you that if this is the way you are going to write your article in future, very sorry to say, we will not be spending our time. Moreover, it will affect the reputation of the Equity Master as well.

Like (1)

Vishal Gupta

Nov 4, 2017

This author needs to be positive . What congress has done to India in 50 years, he expects Modi to correct in 5 years. Modi will win for many reasons and simplest reason is India & the world has no leader similar to Modi .

Like (2)

Pradeep Kumar Nair

Nov 3, 2017

Hi Vivek,
Seems to me you have a lot of friendly advisers online :):), telling you what you should be doing!

You seemed to have been hit by the friendly troll army, interesting how they advise you on not doing something, while doing the same thing.

Long live the troll army


Like (2)

Surendiran S

Nov 2, 2017

The topic is totally irrelevant to Share Market Research Company.

This is Equity Master site and not Political Master site.

Govt policies will directly or indirectly affect share market. But too much criticism about the Prme
Minister is totally unwarranted.

Some articles you write as a political research analyst rather than as a stock market research analyst.

You have the freedom of expression but you can avoid irrelevant articles in Equity Master.

This is my humble opinion.

Like (7)

Jugal Kishore Gupta

Nov 2, 2017

Your negative comments on GST is point to a dooms-day mindset. GST is a too huge a reform to show results in months. The government and IT providers have done a commendable job. Revenue collection footprint has increased and tax evaders are switching over to the tax payer group in large numbers. Glitches in implementation and complexity of framing of rules are being resolved as fast as possible. Let us give this huge reform some time to stabilize. Some of the benefits like quicker movement of goods and reduction in rampant tax avoidance are already visible on the ground. Let us all support these reforms. It is not easy to make such huge changes amidst multitude of disruptions. Undue criticism like yours don't help matters at all.

Regarding demonetization, the positive impact will be seen in the long term. With unaccounted cash in banks, a trail now exist for tax authorities to catch the tax evaders. Let us wait for some more time for tax officials to do their work. It is a very massive operation against black money and has happened for the first time in India.

I have seen how the system worked in the past during my 37 years of work life. It is for the first time I have seen steps being taken to attack the corruption issue.

I also write blogs but to send positive tune to my readers. Sorry Mr Kaul, this is not positive approach at all. If you have the solutions, please give them.

Thanks and regards.

Like (4)

Raju Shankar Naik

Nov 2, 2017

The strong anti Modi sentiments and views of the author continues. So, none of his articles surprise us. And if the intent is to create fear psychosis in the investors so that they chose to invest through schemes of Equity Master, then it will not happen. Most of the investors are savy enough to understand the political scenario and the benefits & consequences of the decisions taken by any Govt. So going anti govt policies most of the times on any or every action of the Govt will drive away investor from Equity Master. There are too many PMS companies and individuals who give proper advice. So, the loss will be of Equity Master in continuing to publish articles opposing policies of the Govt all the time. This is my sincere view.

Like (4)

shreeram telang

Nov 1, 2017

Yes. He must be re-elected in 2019. Else, we are heading for a disaster. we must study history and learn from it. Developing a nation is not about helping a select class make lots of money. It is first of all, recognising who we are, what we stand for and reinforcing that identity, those values, being proud of our identity, towards building the nation. People will get involved wholeheartedly in the efforts to develop the nation. We have to learn to pay the price of what we get or what we want. For most of the past 70 years, we have been mostly ruled(and governed - ie. beauracracy) by looters and remaining citizens have been turned in to beggers by our dynastic leadership. This has to change. We, as citizens must take responsibility for ourselves, our success/failure, our economic condition and instead of seeking jobs become enterpreneurs. Mr. Modi is trying to do all this. He will need time. We must give him that time. We have endured a dynasty for 70 years, and found that the only thing it has expertly done is scam after scam, forever increasing in exponential proportion. Let us give Mr. Modi 10 to 15 years to bring in 'achche din' and wholeheartedly support his efforts.

Like (4)


Nov 1, 2017

it will be very difficult to defeat b j p in Gujarat as their main campaigner is p m mr mody.bjp do not have leader in gujarat withmr amit shah at delhi. But it aslo fact that nothing much has been done in last 3 yrs.to day only govt is spending money to revive economy but from where this money is coming from public or create fiscal deficit which will bring inflation next year.Recently i feel mr mody is appearing tired man as he is only working, his team except few are carriage of excess baggage. and unluckily we have finance minister who does have any background of economy , in rajya sabha he was only shouting as opposition leader, he is basically lawyer not finance fellow so makes lot of statement without understanding subsequent consequences. a good bill like g s t in haste he made mess and has to go on changing every day if he had gone thru earlier report of g s t this mess could have been avoided.OPPOSITION less said better there is no national leader they are fragmented leader of each state with their own agenda,i hope mr rahul gandhi will learn to get attention of public as congress survival with out him difficult though i believe they have lot talented people but will they be allowed to come up? He should learn from his grand mother mrs indira gandhi, she acted as second fiddle in beginning and when learn trick of trade set aside every body. THIS IS POLITICS .MR Mody was survived mr l k advani and now where he is, he is now history and mr mody is in charge.

Like (4)

Kamalnathan K

Nov 1, 2017

Mr. Vivek Kaul,
Fantastic article and your points are absolutely hundred per cent correct. The machine BJP will definitely win in 2019. No doubt.
Thanks a lot. Keep it up.
Kamalnathan K

Like (1)

Venkatasamy Subburam

Nov 1, 2017

Your analysis is to be appreciated for the following reasons.1.BJP is an organization where the workers are there to help the people.but the main opposition has amassed enormous wealth at the cost of poor
Doling out something and stealing behind the smoke is the mark of the day.The dynasty has developed over long rule of a single party ( family)in all states.The long pending item of linking rivers should have been done by Nehru who was unquestionable but he has no will to do so because he didn't know the ground reality of India.All NPAS of banks are the handiwork of the previous governments and why don't the so called stalewart ecomists say openly about it?The Demo is bad but the so called politicians who hoared money in large quantity are unable to use it openly now .The poor and middle class believe that at least now they fear for the leader of stubborn action. Will any political party produce or accept an authoratarian leader?We need, the country needs a good leader.Modi is the tallest leader now.Salman's book was banned to appease a few but laments now.The opposition leaders are except a few corrupt to the core if not they their children and family members.This is a statement from my bottom of my heart.The heart aches if we seriously think about our nation.

Like (1)
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