Analysis of election data from 1996 to 2009, including the two terms of the Congress-led UPA, shows that the strike rate of BJP contestants was far better than those fielded by the grand old party. The percentage of BJP candidates winning was higher in all but one election (2009), including in 2004 when the UPA-I assumed office.
That Congress also fielded more candidates than BJP could have affected its winning percentage, but as experts explain, “BJP’s success in building a national narrative had been in the pipeline since 1992”.
Veteran BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa told TOI: “Narendra Modi was a Gujarat CM and was working in that capacity for the party. But from the time of Vajpayee, we worked across the breadth and length of this country with leaders like Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi, and at a time all this was taking a more concrete shape, Modi was projected as the PM candidate and naturally it got converted into votes.”
1n 1999, when the BJP-led NDA came to power under Vajpayee, 57% of BJP candidates had won, against 25% from the rival party.
In 1996, 34% of all BJP contestants won, compared to 26% of Congress candidates; in 2004, when UPA eventually formed the government, 38% of BJP candidates won, against 35% for Congress. In 1998 and 1999, when NDA ruled, BJP candidates had a much higher winnability record compared to Congress.
“You can map the timeline of how we grew from Gujarat and Rajasthan to Karnataka and the northeast. It was between 1996 and 1998 that the party emerged nationally. In 2014, we did reach the peak as there was ‘partial consolidation’ because of the spiralling growth of the middle class and youth which came in handy,” BJP spokesperson Krishna Sagar Rao said.
At a discussion last month, psephologists spoke of how the 2014 LS polls were critical in setting the ground for a narrative on New India. “If BJP comes back to power you will see this narrative getting stronger by 2024. But even if the party fails to retain power, the idea won’t die, such was the nature of the elections in 2014,” said Suhas Palshikar.
“India Shining may not have worked for BJP electorally in that year (2004), but the exercise of building a national narrative that has engaged people had begun and that was the first attempt. Today, the Naya Bharat campaign is not just a linguistic nuance but a sustained effort at consolidation,” Palshikar said.
Lok Sabha elections: How BJP beats Congress in turning votes into seats – Times of India