Modi Wave: Did voters really punish Congress in 2014?

Wave: Disturbance on the surface of a liquid body causing in the form of a moving ridge or swell.

A lot has been talked about “Modi wave” in Indian politics over the last few weeks which has been vindicated by the results on May 16th due to sweeping victory by BJP under Modi’s leadership.


Typically, a wave (in the context of sea) is accompanied by displacement of water from one part to another. For example, if there is a wave or a tsunami hitting a coastal region, equal amount of water has to be displaced from some other part of the sea because the volume of water in a sea is constant in that given time frame.

Similarly, when it comes to a wave in political scenario, it is expected to be due to the result of a large scale switch among voters from one party to another. i.e A victory to a party due to wave is expected to be at the cost of another party losing votes.

In 2014 Elections, BJP managed to cross the halfway mark on its own and its coalition (NDA) crossed 330 while the Congress could barely touch 44. This apparently looks like a huge BJP/Modi wave at the cost of Congress. It looks like there has been a massive exodus of Congress voters. Most of the news channels and analysts have almost written off Congress as a party on deathbed without any future prospects and the heat of the moment in discrediting Congress is palpable.


But, have voters really punished the Congress party? Have the masses deserted Congress? Is Congress bankrupt? Lets try to find out if Congress is indeed in such a dangerous situation as depicted in media today.

One of the most important psychological traits among humans is “loyalty” which comes under the real test during tough times. It has indeed been a tough time for Congress especially due to the exposure of large scale corruption, anti-incumbency factor, hopes from BJP, lacklustre PM candidate (Rahul Gandhi) and many more factors.

rahul_escape_velocityImage credits:

Under such testing times, it is natural to find Congress voters switch to BJP and hence those who still choose to remain with Congress during these testing times can be safely be considered as “highly loyal” who will forever remain with Congress no matter what.


Lets try to compare the vote share of Congress over the last 4 elections to understand if there is any mass exodus from Congress in 2014.

As we can see from the above table, the vote share of Congress was around 10-12 crore in 1999, 2004 & 2009 and surprisingly has been around that mark (10.7 crore) in 2014 as well. In fact, the number of Congress voters have actually increased compared to 2004 when Congress had managed to win 145 seats. Surprisingly funny but true. Inspite of 10.7 crore votes, Congress has got only 44 seats while on the other hand, AIADMK has managed to get 37 seats with just 1.8 crore voters. This is due to the concept called “First past the post” which was the reason for BJP’s debacle in 2004 and has been explained with an illustration in the following article:

Does this mean there was not really any BJP wave but just “First past the post” at play? Not really. There has indeed been a massive wave (some have even called it a tsunami due to its magnitude) in favor of BJP. The following table shows the voter share of BJP in the last 4 elections

Data sources:

As we can see from the above table, the vote share of BJP was around 7-8 crore in 1999, 2004 & 2009, and shockingly has increased to 17 crore in 2014. i.e It has almost doubled and hence has resulted in such a resounding victory.

This proves that BJP’s victory is not really due to “massive number of Congress voters punishing Congress and switching to BJP” because in the earlier paragraphs we saw how Congress still managed to hold on to its 10+ crore “super loyalists”.

From where did BJP manage to get these additional 10 crore voters in their favor? Could it be due to increasing size of electorate due to increasing population? Lets find out.

Following is a table depicting the electorate size (number of registered voters) over the last 4 elections.

Data sources:

Between 1999 & 2009, there was a gradual increase in the electorate size but 2014 witnessed a dramatic increase. i.e While the increase in electorate size was around 5 crore per election between 1999 & 2009, it increased by 10 crore for 2014 election. Was it due to a sudden increase in number of people turning 18 years (and hence becoming eligible voters) between 2009 & 2014? i.e Does that mean India witnessed a baby boom 18 years ago, between 1991 & 1996? Lets find out.

Following is a chart of birth rate in India over the past few decades.
Chart credits:

As the chart clearly indicates, there was no baby boom during 1990s and in fact, the birth rate has been slowly, continuously & smoothly decreasing over the last few decades. If not for any baby boom, then the only other possibility is “Increased voter registration” to explain the drastic increase in registered voters.

During the 2000s, due to good economic growth, urbanization & modernization (almost every Indian was able to access a TV, computer, phone either by owning it or accessing it in the neighborhood), a significant chunk of the youth had distanced themselves from politics. It is a very well established fact in the subject of sociology that when economic growth is good, people (especially the youth) tend to gradually disengage themselves from politics & might even not participate in the electorate. Hence, every democracy actually needs some revolutions or movements once in 10-15 years and even US is no exception to this. One of the recent movements in the US was “Occupy Wall Street“.

Coming back to Indian politics, as long as a decade had witnessed a movement/revolution, the youth were engaged in electoral system. In 1970s, the youth were being made aware (and some of them even engaged) about the Govt due to anti-corruption movement by JP (against Indira Gandhi).


During late 1980s, VP Singh had engaged with the youth for anti-corruption movement (against Rajiv Gandhi) and within few months, the same youth protested against his Mandal commission (anti reservation protests).


But throughout the 1990s & 2000s, there was no such movement which could engage the youth, who in turn distanced themselves even to the extent of not participating in the electorate. Especially during 2004 & 2009, elections were seen as “vacations” by youth to chill out and have fun.

This was widely discussed even till 2009 by psephologists like Yogendra Yadav, who were of the opinion that the youth seems to have disconnected itself from politics.
News link:

Some sort of a movement & platform was necessary to bring such youngsters to get them engaged into electoral (i.e get them registered for voting) and that did not happen unless they were frustrated by the current Govt. The exposure of large scale scams (2G scam in particular) by veterans like Subramanian Swamy was the trigger point and media had played an important role in bringing it out to public.

In parallel, the issue of black money (and corruption) was taken up by Baba Ramdev back in 2009 itself and throughout 2010, he had been demanding the Congress Govt to come out clean on it
News Link:

Baba Ramdev’s initiatives had a significant impact among rural youth but the urban youth was still not convinced. It was only when the social activist Anna Hazare started an indefinite hunger strike on 5 April 2011, the urban masses joined the revolution and there was no stopping. Most of the proactive youth participated in the movement (rallies organized by “India Against Corruption”) and thanks to the news media & social media, millions of youngsters were glued to their TV sets/computers watching breaking news of the Govt being exposed of one scam after another.

anna revolution

Anna Hazare & the youth on streets protesting against Congress Govt

Apart from the scams, the high handedness & dictatorial attitude of the Govt in dealing with social media had not gone down well with the youth.The anti-Congress sentiments among all sections of the youth had thus been ingrained.


This anti-Congress sentiment among youth was further fuelled in 2012 when the Govt tried to shirk its responsibility during the Nirbhaya rape case and mishandled the protests by resorting to lathi-charge & water canons.


In 2013, the youth saw a ray of hope in a new party called AAP which was formed in late 2012 as a result of the anti-corruption movement. Due to the very strong anti-Congress sentiments, the party achieved unexpected success in the Dec 2013 Delhi elections and went on to form a Govt. Over the next 49 days, the tactics used by the AAP Govt (which included dharnas, janata durbars, anarchy etc) did not go down well with the people who started distancing themselves from it and the party’s prospects received a major blow when it dissolved the Govt in just 49 days which was perceived as “running away from responsibilities” by many which in turn caused disillusionment among youth. After a few months, even Kejriwal himself admitted that quitting as Delhi CM was a mistake which affected his and the party’s credibility.

It was precisely at this moment (Feb 2014) when Modi upped the ante and started appealing to the youth with his clean ideologies like development & good governance. From the “Controversial Hindu Nationalist” in 2013, Modi transformed & presented himself as the most suitable leader to lead the nation through good governance & development.

If not for Kejriwal’s resignation on 49th day, Modi would have had a very tough time convincing the youth to get him his way which would have resulted in vote splitting which in turn would have indirectly helped the Congress. This way, Kejriwal’s theatrics & impulsive resignation indirectly helped in promoting BJP, by redirecting (channelizing) the aggressive but disillusioned youth towards Modi.


In April 2014, the Indian youth was frustrated and desperately seeking a change which was promised by Modi. This frustration was converted into voter turnout and hence 2014 witnessed the highest ever voter turnout (66%) ever in the history of India. The following table depicts the voter turnout over the last 4 elections.

As we can see, the 2014 elections witnessed an additional 14 crore voters in polling stations compared to 2009 elections. From the earlier table, we had seen that BJP had managed to pull in 10 core more voters towards it (compared to 2009). i.e Out of these 14 crore new voters, almost 10 crore went towards BJP.
(Of course, some of them who had voted for Congress in 2009 would have voted for BJP in 2014 but that would be mostly compensated by similar number of new voters adding to the Congress in the name of secularism.)

To summarize:

  • Congress has not really experienced a mass exodus as perceived by media and has in fact held on to it’s most loyal voters and the very fact that they have voted for it inspite of a naive leader like Rahul Gandhi at the helm, shows that they will always remain Congress loyalists in future no matter what.
  • Baba Ramdev & Anna Hazare provoked the youth to take notice of the political scenario. News media & Social media played a great role in creating awareness.
  • Scams, dictatorial attitude & atrocities by ruling party created further frustration among youth who wanted to vent it out through some means and when they realized that polling is the most powerful medium, they got themselves registered in the electoral list.
  • Youngsters who had seen a ray of hope in AAP were disillusioned by its theatrics and they were quickly pulled towards Modi due to his charisma.
  • Modi’s agressive campain & clean political promises (development & good governance) struck a chord with not just the youngsters but across all ages as well whowent out in large numbers (large turnout) and most of those votes went to Modi.

This way, we can say that the Modi wave was definitely there but it was not at the cost of Congress votes.
Hence, this mandate for BJP is not really by usual voters in general but it is actually the mandate of young Indians who are seeking a positive change in the form of good governance & development and all eyes are on Modi now to take India forward.

Congratulations to Modi and his team for understanding the aspirations of young India and for their efforts into the campaign which helped them get a clear majority. Hoping for delivery of the promises of development & good governance. All the best.

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