2019: How Modi Won India” by Rajdeep Sardesai – Book Review

“2019: How Modi Won India” by Rajdeep Sardesai provides an in-depth analysis of the Indian general election of 2019, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), secured a historic victory. This book serves as a meticulous chronicle of the election process, the strategies employed, and the broader political context.

Campaign Strategy

Technological Advancements and Data Analytics:

  • Tech-Savvy Campaigning: The BJP’s innovative use of technology was a game-changer. The party employed data analytics to understand voter behavior, preferences, and issues that mattered to them. This data-driven approach allowed the BJP to tailor their messages more effectively.
  • Social Media Dominance: Modi’s campaign capitalized on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp. The BJP’s IT cell played a pivotal role in disseminating content that resonated with different voter segments. The use of memes, videos, and targeted ads helped in creating a ubiquitous online presence.

Ground-Level Mobilization:

  • Booth-Level Management: The BJP’s focus on booth-level management was unprecedented. Sardesai highlights how the party trained and deployed thousands of volunteers to ensure high voter turnout and address local issues.
  • Rallies and Public Meetings: Modi’s extensive travel and rallies across the country, even in remote areas, created a direct connection with the electorate. The meticulously planned rallies and public meetings were not just about numbers but also about the optics and messaging.

Opposition’s Challenges

Lack of Unity:

  • Fragmented Opposition: The opposition’s inability to form a cohesive alliance against the BJP is a recurring theme in Sardesai’s analysis. The Indian National Congress (INC), led by Rahul Gandhi, struggled to unite regional parties under a common agenda.
  • Internal Conflicts: Sardesai points out the internal conflicts within the opposition parties, which led to a lack of coordinated strategy. These divisions were evident in the inconsistent messaging and campaign efforts.

Leadership and Strategy:

  • Rahul Gandhi’s Campaign: The book critically examines Rahul Gandhi’s campaign, noting his efforts to connect with voters through initiatives like the ‘NYAY’ scheme. However, Sardesai argues that Gandhi’s campaign lacked the charisma and strategic depth of Modi’s.
  • Failing to Counter the Narrative: The opposition’s failure to effectively counter the BJP’s narrative on nationalism, security, and development is highlighted. Sardesai details how the opposition’s focus on issues like Rafale deal allegations did not gain the desired traction among voters.

Role of Media

Media Influence:

  • Propaganda and Coverage: Sardesai discusses the media’s role in shaping public perception. The book details how certain media outlets were perceived as biased towards the ruling party, and how this influenced the narrative around key issues.
  • Fake News and Misinformation: The proliferation of fake news and misinformation, particularly on social media, played a significant role in the election. Sardesai explains how these tactics were used to discredit opposition leaders and amplify the BJP’s message.

Government-Media Dynamics:

  • Press Freedom Concerns: The book touches on concerns about press freedom and the government’s influence over media houses. Sardesai provides insights into the pressures faced by journalists and the impact on unbiased reporting.

Key Events and Controversies

Pulwama Attack and Balakot Airstrike:

  • National Security Narrative: The Pulwama attack in February 2019 and the subsequent Balakot airstrike became pivotal moments in the election campaign. Sardesai explains how these events shifted the focus to national security and allowed the BJP to project a strong leadership image.
  • Patriotism and Voter Sentiment: The book details how the BJP leveraged these events to invoke patriotism and garner support. The portrayal of Modi as a decisive leader who could safeguard national interests was a significant factor in the BJP’s campaign.

Election Rallies and Speeches:

  • Modi’s Rhetoric: Modi’s speeches, filled with rhetorical flourishes and evocative imagery, resonated with many voters. Sardesai analyzes key speeches and how they were crafted to address local issues while reinforcing broader national themes.
  • Controversial Statements: The book also covers the controversial statements made by BJP leaders during the campaign and their impact on public sentiment and opposition strategy.

Sociopolitical Context

Economic Policies and Development:

  • Modi’s Development Agenda: The book discusses Modi’s emphasis on development and economic reforms, such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Make in India initiative. Sardesai examines how these policies were perceived by different voter demographics.
  • Rural Distress and Unemployment: Despite economic challenges like rural distress and unemployment, the BJP managed to maintain a narrative of economic progress and stability. Sardesai explores how the party addressed these issues during the campaign.

Caste Dynamics and Regional Politics:

  • Caste-Based Voting: Caste dynamics played a crucial role in the election. Sardesai provides an in-depth analysis of how the BJP navigated complex caste equations to build a broad voter coalition.
  • Regional Strategies: The book delves into the BJP’s regional strategies, highlighting how the party adapted its approach to suit the unique political landscapes of different states.

Implications for Democracy:

  • Democratic Norms: Sardesai reflects on the implications of Modi’s victory for India’s democracy. He discusses concerns about majoritarianism, the centralization of power, and the future of democratic institutions in the country.
  • Future Political Trajectory: The book speculates on the future trajectory of Indian politics, considering the BJP’s dominance and the challenges faced by the opposition in re-establishing their relevance.

Conclusion

“2019: How Modi Won India” is a comprehensive, detailed, and engaging account of one of the most significant elections in India’s history. Rajdeep Sardesai’s expertise as a journalist and political commentator shines through in his meticulous research and balanced analysis. The book is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to understand the complexities of Indian politics and the factors that led to Modi’s resounding victory.

Author

  • kalyan chandra

    Kalyan Chandra is a multi-talented professional specializing in public relations, media and communication strategy, political consulting, election campaign management, psephology, marketing, and digital analytics. He focuses on strategic political consulting, offering services that include competitive research, public opinion collection, and digital media management. Kalyan has significantly contributed to successful campaigns across India with his meticulous approach and deep understanding of the political landscape.

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