Narendra Modi, Yogi Adityanath's rallies in Karnataka gave fillip to BJP at some places, made no difference in others

101Reporters Desk | May 15, 2018 | 4 min read


Did Modi and Yogi rallies help BJP?

By Prince Singhal & Gangadhar S Patil

“Rahul Gandhi could not match the oratory skill of Narendra Modi and Yogi Aadityanath and we lost,” said Prakash Naik, a Congress party Uttara Kannada district president. Obviously. But is it really the sudden blitzkrieg of rallies these two BJP stalwarts addressed in the last 10 days of campaign that propelled the BJP to 104 seats.

Besides, the party had released a list of 40 star campaigners like Union Ministers Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani, Rajnath Singh, Prakash Javadekar and Piyush Goyal, in the end it turned out to be mainly Modi and Yogi Aadityanath.

Modi in most of his speeches raised issues of underdevelopment, corruption and dynastic politics to target the Karnataka Congress leadership, while the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Aadityanath, who was most active in the last leg of campaigning, stridently championed the Hindutva angle, calling on Hindus to unite to fight anti-Hindu forces, a line which found ready acceptance in the already communally sensitive region.

But what impact did Modi’s 21 rallies across the state (up from the 15 originally planned) in Nine days starting from May 1, with particular emphasis in northern and coastal Karnataka and Aadityanath’s 17 rallies, which were largely in the coastal belt, actually have on the final voting pattern.

To try and answer this, we analysed all the constituencies where PM Modi and Aadityanath campaigned to see how the BJP had fared in that particular seat. To simplify this, we have only considered the constituency where the rallies took place and not the surrounding constituencies, even though the tour plan shared by the party media cell said that the public meetings were meant to cover nearby constituencies too.

Analysis of Election Commission data shows an increased voter turnout in 28 out of 36 seats where Modi and Aadityanath rallies were held. The average increase was 1.5 per cent over the 2013 assembly vote percentage in these constituencies. Some constituencies like Bijapur city, Bhatkal and Sirsi witnessed a five percent higher voter turnout.

In terms of seats won, while the data suggest that these rallies helped BJP gain ground, the extent of the gain was not as high as projected in the media. Out of the 36 constituencies Modi and Aadityanath visited, BJP gained 11 seats, retained six and lost two. So the net gain is nine seats out of 36 seats. The winning margin in these seats were around 12,000 votes compared to state average margin of victory which is about 18,000 votes.

Important to note that seven of the 11 new seats were in the coastal belt, where the party was able to polarise Hindu votes, which were further consolidated by Aadityanath’s rallies. Aadityanath kept raking up the issue of communal riots and terror links to Bhatkal, which pushed the majority community voters towards BJP. 

However, there was no similar impact of Modi-Aadityanath rallies in a number of other constituencies. In 18 such seats, the BJP’s loss margin was around 15,000 votes.

In some cases the margin of defeat was huge. Belgaum Rural for instance, where both Modi and Aadityanath had held rallies, two-time BJP MLA Sanjay Patil lost by 50,316 votes. Patil had made headlines with this controversial remark that “this election is about Hindus versus Muslims". 

Modi’s rallies covering the twin districts of Kolar and Chikkaballapur too had no impact as the BJP lost all 11 seats here. Modi had addressed a huge gathering near Beerandahalli on May 9. But the party finished a poor third in Bangarpet, and lost the KGF seat by over 40,000 votes.

It would probably be unfair, to compare Modi’s rallies with the kind of public meetings that Congress organised for Rahul Gandhi. His interactions were more in the nature of Corner and Swagat meetings (road shows) instead of big public rallies, according to the tour plan shared by the Congress Media cell. However, an analysis of 15 constituencies where Rahul campaigned between May 1 and May 9 shows that the Congress was able to win only one new seat, losing three and retaining six.  

The analysis suggest that such public rallies by national leaders are more a show of strength than a method for swinging votes.

“I doubt if there is a correlation between the rallies by national leaders in certain areas and who the population there eventually ended up voting for,” says Muzaffar Assadi, professor of political science at University of Mysore. “It’s the result of no anti-incumbency coupled with lack of any particular ‘Modi wave.’”


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