Opinion | In Numbers: 'Brand Modi' Is Still The Key Difference Between BJP And Others

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The 2024 mandate has reignited the debate around 'Brand Modi'. The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) inability to cross the majority mark on its own has led some analysts to claim the brand has weakened considerably. On the other hand, despite losses, the BJP has still emerged as the single-largest party. This coupled with the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has equalled Jawaharlal Nehru's record of winning a successive third term is being seen by many as proof that the strength of the brand is still intact. 

While the BJP won 240 seats in the recently concluded elections, the Congress won 99. Alliance-wise, while the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 292 seats and around 44% votes, the INDIA bloc got 234 seats and registered a 41% vote share. 

The 'Modi premium' or the 'Modi factor' can be defined as PM Modi's ability to attract voters who are not among the party's core vote banks. Post-poll data released by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and some associated research carried out by this author point to some answers to questions about the popularity of this 'brand'. 

Localised Elections

At the national level, the election this year was more localised than the 2019 polls. Just 10% of voters said they considered the prime ministerial face as the most important factor while voting -  down from 17% in 2019. Correspondingly, the share of voters who focused on their local candidates increased from 31% in 2019 to 36% this year. 

In terms of Prime Ministerial preference, while Narendra Modi received 41% support, Rahul Gandhi's ratings were just around 27%. Though the gap is still significant, it has narrowed since 2019, when Modi's ratings were 47% and Rahul's 23%. 

If we multiply the leadership gap by the number of respondents voting on the basis of the prime ministerial face, it can be said that in terms of vote share, the BJP's leadership advantage fetched the party and its allies roughly 4.1% votes in 2019. This has declined to just 1.4% in 2024. Further, in the previous Lok Sabha polls, 32% of voters who backed the BJP said they would not have voted for it if Modi were not its prime ministerial candidate. The share of such voters has declined to 25% now, veering closer to the 2014 figure of 27%. 

Still The USP

However, PM Modi's popularity helps not just the BJP but also its allies. In 2014, he fetched 20% of votes for the BJP's allies, 25% in 2019, and 27% in 2024. 

Also, in 2019, the BJP recorded a 37.8% vote share. According to this author's research, 25.7% of this came from its core ideological base, while 12.1% can be attributed to the 'Modi factor'. This year, of the BJP's 36.6% vote share, the core base accounts for about 27.4% votes and the 'Modi factor' around 9.2%. This implies that the 'Modi premium' has declined from around 12% in 2019 to around 9% now. Nonetheless, Modi still fetches 9% support for the BJP, three times the difference between the vote shares of the NDA and the INDIA bloc. 

It may be argued that without Modi, the NDA would have struggled to form a government. He was the difference between the two blocs. The numbers below illustrate this:

  • In 2014, the NDA bagged around 5.5 crore votes based on the Modi factor. The NDA's lead over the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was around 8.7 crore votes. This means the Modi factor accounted for 63% of NDA's lead.
  • In the next elections, the NDA got around 8.5 crore votes, while the NDA's lead was 11 crore. Thus, the Modi factor accounted for 77% of NDA's winning margin.
  • In the latest round, Modi fetched the NDA around 7.1 crore votes, while the NDA's lead over India was around 2 crore. The Modi factor thus accounted for much more than the NDA's lead and was the key differentiating factor between it and the opposition front.

Hence, the BJP's victory in 240 seats and the NDA's in 292 seats may have been difficult without Modi. Brand Modi may have aged - or perhaps peaked as well - after 10 years in power, but it's still the prime differentiator between the BJP and the Congress. 

(Amitabh Tiwari is a political strategist and commentator. In his earlier avatar, he was a corporate and investment banker.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author