Decoding the 2019 Campaign
While analysing the Election Campaign 2019, one should not forget that the central theme of the entire campaign by opposition ‘alliance’ was creating Hindu-phobia. The Congress hypocrisy and its double standards of Temple Tourism and demonising Hindus all stand exposed. While the people responded to the welfare schemes introduced by the BJP government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerged as the symbol of modern and awakened Bharat on its eternal Hindu identity that believes in acceptability and respect
Dr Ravindra Agrawal
As the polling for the final phase of General Elections-2019 is over, most of the people, like many news channels, are busy in predicting seats for the BJP-NDA alliance, Congress and Mahagathbandhan. This will continue till May 23 morning when the final results are out. However, the general mood of the nation seems to be that Narendra Modi is coming back with a comfortable majority.
Beginning from April 11, the polling for 17th Lok Sabha was held in seven phases with the last phase completing on May 19. The Election Commission of India (ECI) had made elaborate arrangements to conduct free, fair and peaceful elections. Barring West Bengal, the elections, by and large, were peaceful all over the country including terrorism-affected Kashmir Valley. Surely, the credit for it goes to the ECI, security forces, voters and the contesting political parties.
Worldwide Appreciation for EVMs
A number of issues were raised during the entire election campaign. One of them was Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The divided opposition raised this issue untidily. Twenty-one opposition parties questioned the authenticity of EVMs from Election Commission to the Supreme Court of India. However, it was not for the first time that the Opposition parties questioned EVMs, they did it selectively. Whenever the voters rejected any opposition party, it questioned the EVMs, but whenever they were voted to power, they kept mum. However, the ECI tried to clear their doubts every time, they continued to raise the issue selectively.
Despite this calculated game, the Indian EVMs have received worldwide praise. On the eve of the sixth phase of polling, more than 65 representatives from 20 Election Management Bodies across the world witnessed 17th Lok Sabha Elections as part of the Election Commission’s Election Visitors’ Programme, and they all appreciated it. These people were from Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Fiji, Georgia, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Romania, Russia, Sri Lanka, Suriname, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe and International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. On May 11, these delegates visited South Delhi, East Delhi, Chandni Chowk, West Delhi and Gurgaon Parliamentary constituencies to get firsthand information about the poll preparedness, dispatch of polling parties and the massive logistic arrangements put in place to ensure free and fair election. They interacted with the district level poll machinery headed by DEOs/ROs. Thereafter they visited India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management, the new training and research campus of ECI located at Dwarka, New Delhi, which has the capacity to train close to 900 personnel at a time.
National Security
After the terrorist attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama on February 14, 2019, that killed over 40 CRPF personnel, the government was collectively targeted by the opposition parties. But within a fortnight, India retaliated and destroyed the Jaish-e-Mohammed training camps in Balakot (PoK) in an air strike on February 26 morning. On February 27, Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was held captive in Pakistan after his aircraft was shot down in an aerial dogfight. But due to India’s defence and diplomatic pressure, Pakistan was forced to release Abhinandan safely within 60 hours on March 1. Even after this victory, the opposition parties raised questions over the air strike of February 26 which is said to have killed more than 300 terrorists and seriously injured many. Finally, it became a major election issue and the opposition parties went on seeking proofs of the surgical strike.
The Congress party in its Election Manifesto promised to review the deployment of forces in terror affected areas. Since this promise did not go well on the ground, national security became a major election issue. As a result, Congress avoided discussing its own manifesto in the election campaign. Finally, the grand old party tried its best to divert the attention from national security, but in vain.
Strike by Indian IAF at terrorist camps in Balkot Sector of PoK  
Rafale: A non-issue
It needs no elaboration that Congress crafted the fiction of Rafale to dent the image of PM Modi. In an interview to ‘India Today’ (May 2, 2019) Rahul Gandhi said: “Everyone told me Mr Narendra Modi can’t be defeated. I said, Yeah, you really think so? I asked them, Tell me what Mr Narendra Modi’s strength is. They said, His strength is his [incorruptible] image. I said, Okay, I’m going to rip that strength to pieces. I’m going to take it and shred it. And I’ve done it. Persistence, my friend! Keep going and keep going and keep going. And I will keep going until the truth on Rafale is out!” 
In reply to it, Prime Minister Modi, in an interview to ‘The Indian Express’ (May 12, 2019) said, Kehte hain ki baat niklegi toh dur talak jayegi (It’s said that when talk starts, you never know where it will end)… When I read in Jharkhand that he (Rahul Gandhi) said he wanted to dismantle Narendra Modi’s image. Inherent is to demolish my image anyhow. Modi ki chhavi, Delhi ke Khan Market ke gang ne nahin banayi hai, Lutyens Delhi ne nahin banayi hai. 45 saal ki Modi ki tapasya ne chhavi banayi hai. Achchi hai ya buri hai (Modi’s image has not been created by the Khan Market gang or Lutyens Delhi, but 45 years of his toil… good or bad). You cannot dismantle it. But Lutyens and the Khan Market gang created an image for a former Prime Minister, ‘Mr Clean, Mr Clean’; how did it end up? My image? That was the answer. It is your job to investigate and educate the people.”
Rahul Gandhi tried his best to make Rafale an issue at each and every forum but he could not succeed and failed to dent the image of PM Modi. In fact, it backfired, as many issues involving the corrupt practices of Congress leaders including Rajiv Gandhi enjoying holidays at INS Viraat, surfaced. When the Congress objected to naming Rajiv Gandhi, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said the attacks on Rajiv Gandhi were the result of Congress’ campaign, which heaped abuses on the current PM. “Rahul Gandhi calls the PM a ‘chor’ (thief), this is a game of action and reaction... It is time for political parties to increase the standard of the political campaign. I am expecting it from the Congress party,” Shri Gadkari said.
Rahul’s Destructive Attitude
Whatever Rahul Gandhi said to tarnish the image of PM Modi that reflected his destructive attitude only. It is a common belief that if one wants to shorten a given line, one draws a bigger line beside it, instead to rub it. Instead of drawing a bigger line, Rahul tried to shorten Modi’s big line by tarnishing his image. It proved that he wants to become PM by hook or by crook.
Unfortunately, Rahul adopted the surname ‘Gandhi’ but did not follow Mahatma Gandhi’s principles. Mahatma Gandhi stressed that your goal should be pure and sacrosanct and to achieve the goal, your means should also be pure and sacrosanct. Rahul Gandhi’s mindset shows that he is not concerned about means but anyhow wants to get power. Such a mindset is dangerous for democrac country like India.
‘Hua to Hua’
When a journalist asked the chairman of Indian Overseas Congress, Sam Pitroda, about the violence during 1984 anti-Sikh riots, he said “hua to hua (it happened, so what?)” This statement of Rahul’s political guru backfired and the Congress and Rahul disassociated themselves from his statement.
Self-Goals by Congress
There are many other issues which proved to be self-goal by Congress leaders. In a statement, Congress general secretary and Rahul’s sister Priyanka Vadra said in UP the Congress has fielded some candidates just to cut BJP votes. Similarly, Priyanka asked her supporters whether she should contest from Varanasi, but later she refused to contest against PM Modi. This whole episode shows the weakness of Congress.
Equally, Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad (Kerala) with the support of the Muslim League also shows that the Gandhi family is not confident in its family seat. It affects the party prospects in North India. Also, the Congress distanced itself from its veteran leader Mani Shankar’s statement about PM Modi, when he justified his 2017 ‘neech aadmi’ comment against Modi saying his remark was prophetic”.
Who to be against Modi?
From the very first day, Congress tried to show that there will be a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ against Modi as entire opposition wants to defeat him. They also gave a slogan ‘Modi Hatao-Desh Bachao’ (Defeat Modi-Save the Country). But they could not name even a ‘single leader’ against Modi due to their internal differences. In such a situation, public, again and again, asked the opposition ‘who is against Modi, but they said they would decide after the election. Following it, the BJP gave the slogan ‘Mazaboot Sarkar’ (strong government) and ‘Kaam ruke na – Desh jhuke na’ and termed the Mahagathbandan as ‘Mahamilavat’. Overall the election campaign by BJP focused on positive issues while the Congress and many other opposition parties remained negative only.
Power of Social Media
At so many occasions, the mainstream media, both print and electronic, played fabricated stories. But, as such stories surfaced, social media users swang into action and exposed the truth in no time. A news channel showed an edited interview with PM Modi. But when the original interview surfaced on social media, the channel was forced to release the unedited interview.
These elections also witnessed various efforts in which the writers, artists, historians and even economists wrote letters appealing the voters to defeat Modi. Church and Muslim outfits also did not lag behind. Film star turned politician Kamal Haasan used the name of Nathuram Godse to appease the Muslim voters during the bypolls in Tamil Nadu. Amidst the mud-slinging by political parties against each other, the ECI did a good job to awaken the voters and motivate them to join the biggest festival of democracy without fail. And the people celebrated it in a true spirit. In spite of some odds, they voted for development of the country.
(The writer is a senior journalist)