It is said that in electing a right-wing leader in the USA as the president, the 2016 elections are a reflection of what has happened in Bharat in 2014. One of the factors in making such statements is that the ultimate winner was roundly vilified by the ‘liberals’ in both the countries, and that the victory happened despite the mainstream media (MSM) being solidly against the winner.
Apart from a loss of the credibility of the MSM in not understanding the mood of the people, there is very little common in the two elections. In both the cases, the MSM believed what it wanted to believe, even though the evidence was something else. Sadly, the MSM continues to behave like an ostrich, and the vilification continues, sometimes with even more vigor.
To understand what really happened in Bharat in 2014, one needs to look at the numbers, particularly the macro ones.. they tell a story. The total number of additional voters registered was about 100 million. The total number of votes increased by 134 million compared with 2009, to 549 millionn in 2014, an increase of 32%. This increase in votes is more than the total votes cast in a USA presidential election. The total votes cast in favour of the BJP increased from 78 million in 2009 to 172 million in 2014, a phenomenal increase of 120%. The total votes to the Congress was only 10% less, 107 million votes against 119 million. Hence, it is the new voters, exhibiting a different aspiration than in the earlier elections, that propelled the NDA into power with a such a significant majority in the Lok Sabha.
It should be understood that the core support base of the BJP wanted Narendra Modi to be its prime-ministerial candidate soon after the 2012 elections in Gujarat. Being disgusted with what the UPA government was doing to the country, particularly in its second term, and having very little confidence in any individual person at the central level of the BJP, the core support base was looking for a person who would carry the torch of Hindutva forward.
Narendra Modi is a product of the ideology of Hindutva. Additionally, he contributed to the articulation of the ideology to the public, as well as working out and implementing plans to keep it relevant to the times, and hence nurturing its dynamism. To fully understand Narendra ji, the history of the BJP needs to be understood, including its previous avtar of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
It used to be often said about Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he is a right man in the wrong party. To this Atal ji responded that ‘it is like saying that the tree is rotten but the fruit is sweet’ – something that is botanically not possible. As much as Vajpayee was the fruit of the tree of Hindutva, so is Modi.
Now let us look at the numbers of the USA presidential elections of 2016. At the level of nation, we need to look at the numbers of the previous three elections also. They are :
Firstly, despite so much hype in the media in favour of the Democratic candidate, and also against the Republican candidate, the national vote did not reach the level of the 2008 elections. As stated above, in Bharat there was a massive increase in votes cast of 32%, and the media coverage followed the mood of the people wanting to have a serious change, not create it.
Secondly, the reduction in the Democratic vote did not benefit the Republicans, but mostly went to the other candidates who saw more than tripling of their absolute votes. Why this happened is a matter of investigation, which I do not have the wherewithal to do.
Third, there is a need to look at the state-wise data. In three of the largest states – California, New York and Illinois, the Democrat candidate secured a lead of 5.1 million votes over the Republican candidate. These three sates provided nearly half of the total electoral votes that the Democrat candidate got. Given that the national lead for the Democrat candidate was 0.5 million votes, in the rest of the country, the Republican candidate had a lead of 4.6 million votes.
There are, of course, some large states, like Texas, where the Republican got a large lead in terms of total votes. So, one needs to do a more rigorous analysis than the rudimentary one I have done above.
The 2014 elections in Bharat were a defeat for the ‘liberals’, and, more importantly, a victory for the aspirational class in Bharat. These aspirations are not only for material benefits, but also for civilizational benefits. The 2016 elections in the USA are indeed a defeat for the ‘liberals; but to what extent it is a positive vote for Donald Trump, in the same way as it was for Modi, is not clear.
One things is clear – the ‘liberals’ in both the countries have taken their defeat in a very bad way. This is because they realize that the ‘power’ that they had was a hollow one, and the new dispensation will not pamper them as the earlier ones did. They might even be questioned by those who thought that they were genuine analysts about what is happening in their respective countries. And they will be uncomfortable because they now realize that they got so entrapped in their echo chamber, that they refused to believe that there was a voice outside.
In an article written in 2011, Swapan Dasgupta wrote:
‘I recall an NRI who had lived some 26 years in a small town in southern USA (and thereby becoming his politician brother’s main intellectual input on foreign affairs) turning livid when he heard me argue that President George W. Bush had a lot of popular backing for his politics. “I have not met a single person who ever voted for Bush”, he informed me. When I suggested that his social experiences were limited, he took very serious umbrage.
Political analysis has been on the basis of limited social experiences. Anyone outside the circle is dismissed as racist, fascist, misogynist. Xenophobic, etc. By using such uncomplimentary adjectives, it was felt that there is no need to even considering what they have to say. Even those in the chamber who decided to venture out to find what the people are thinking and saying, and then report about it saying that these views have to be factored in the analysis, were similarly branded, and exiled from the echo chamber. The objective is to prevent even the thought of an informed analysis’.
The situation in Bharat is no different, and Dasgupta also writes in the same article:
‘A friend of mine with a high media profile proclaimed grandly that she hadn’t met a single person who was supportive of Modi’s new campaign. “We have to draw the line somewhere,” she said grandly. Modi’s supporters “aren’t the types you can invite into your home”.’
The two elections have exposed the ‘liberals’. But the Bhartiya election has gone beyond in terms of the mood of the people. It is hoped that those in government understand this mood and act on the basis of the message that they are receiving. It is, naturally, in the interest of the ‘liberals’ to bring the narrative back to what they want – their relevance will remain only in these circumstances. But the people want a change – a change for the better.
(Ashok Chowgule is the Working President (External) of Vishwa Hindu Parishad.)