Narendra Modi has masterminded the biggest election victory seen in India since Rajiv Gandhi swept to power in 1984. The outcome belies even the expectations of his vociferous enthusiasts.
The BJP has routed parties like Mayawati’s BSP and Lalu Prasad’s RJD that were expected to blunt Modi factor. Congress’s decimation is complete. Its national tally will be less than what the BJP is expected to get in UP and Bihar. Several Congress heavyweights who are familiar faces to voters and television viewers will be missing in Parliament. A new political elite is in town.
The specifics of this victory are yet unknown. The number crunching will follow. There will be competing arguments about factors behind the outcome. One view is that Modi manoeuvred himself into the imagination and expectations of millions of urbanising Indians, undercut traditional calculus of caste and projected strength and decisiveness in contrast to a Congress’ perceived weakness and ineffectiveness. He ran a brilliant, relentless campaign, helped along by seemingly inexhaustible financial resources, a media that couldn’t ignore him and the party machinery none could match, especially in the Hindi heartland.
There is a sobering countering view to this. The first-past-the-post Westminster system exaggerates the scale of victory, in that even a 35% vote share (which has a majority voting against it) hands the winner a lopsided share of seats in Parliament. Modi’s victory can largely be attributed to consolidation in BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and decisive victories in UP, Bihar and Maharashtra, which made all the difference. Modi’s win in the latter three states, where the NDA is expected to get around 135 seats, will in time be attributed to a divided opposition, anti-incumbency against the local governments and implosion of the Congress. There has been no Modi wave in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra, Orissa and Punjab.
But there is no doubt that this is a breakthrough election for BJP’s national reach and prospects. As analysts note, the party is expected to win seats in 21 states and 5 Union territories. It will likely get more seats than the CPM in West Bengal. And Modi is riding the crest of massive support in urban India, cutting across caste divisions.

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