With the National Democratic Alliance leading in about 345 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party itself close to 300, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s narrative against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, and the combined — albeit botched — attempt by the rest of the Opposition to capture Delhi, are a spectacular failure.
By the time election results are announced and trends translate into a clear electoral victory for the NDA, epitaphs would already have been written about the Rahul-Priyanka campaign against Modi. The Congress campaign was three-pronged: the brother-sister duo, their poll plank of corruption in the Rafale deal by the Modi government, and the proposal of Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY). None of it seems to have cut any ice with the electorate.
In the battle between the proposed NYAY and Modi’s implemented schemes of Kisan Samriddhi Yojana, Ujjwala and Ayushman Bharat, the trends clearly indicate that the electorate is going to repose faith in concrete work on the ground, and not visions. Modi’s aggressive stance against Pakistan, evinced clearly through the Balakot strikes, on the other hand, seems to have clicked with the voters who saw it as a important tool in national security, and not overt jingoism as Opposition tried to dismiss it.
Priyanka formally joined the Congress as general secretary on 23 January and kickstarted her campaign in March. She was brought in as a trump card and ‘Brahmastra’ (ultimate weapon of Hindu deity Lord Brahma) to revive the party’s fortunes.
Throughout its Lok Sabha election campaign, the Congress amplified its Rafale deal corruption narrative and Congress president Rahul coined the ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ slogan for Modi, repeating it ad nauseam at every public rally and in every roadshow across the country.
The Congress mentioned the NYAY scheme or Minimum Income Support Programme (MISP) in its election manifesto. The scheme is envisaged as guaranteeing 5 crore families, assumed to be the poorest 20 per cent of the country, a cash transfer of Rs 72,000 a year. “Congress’s NYAY will prove to be a gamechanger,” Priyanka had said in her rallies, echoing her brother.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Rs 75,000-crore PM Kisan Samman Nidhi direct income support scheme for farmers in February. A sum Rs 2,000 was transferred to over one crore farmers. Over 12 crore small and marginal farmers will benefit from the scheme.
To counter Modi’s gift to farmers and win over the segment, Rahul announced NYAY.
The BJP, in its campaign, had focused extensively on what it has done for the poor in its five-year tenure. From Ujjwala scheme, by which poor households were given free LPG connections, to Ayushman Bharat, a health insurance scheme focusing on affordable healthcare for the poor, PM Modi had repeatedly mentioned them all repeatedly in his speeches.
But what is important to note is that the benefits of the schemes launched by Modi in the past five years seem to have trickled to the poorest of the poor who have voted for the BJP instead of poll promises by the others that have no guarantee of being fulfilled in the long run.
At one point of time it seemed as if Congress doesn’t have any concrete plan to offer rather than showing Modi in poor light, which is just what the electorate seems to have emphatically rejected.