Political observers have been looking for objective reasons to explain the stupendous electoral success of the BJP under Narendra Modi in Gujarat. This will automatically help us understand whether Modi will be a success when he moves to the Centre. Many political analysts put Modi’s success down to his development agenda and the ability to market himself as one who can give agency to the aspirations of the young, especially in urban areas. Of course, there is also the contrary view, empirically true, that Gujarat was always among the top five developed states even before Modi arrived on the scene. Data for 20 years, from 1990 to 2010, shows that Gujarat consistently remained among the top five states on the growth and development index.
Overall, if one takes per capita income and other human development indices, Gujarat still ranks lower than Haryana and Tamil Nadu.
So, what explains Modi’s huge political cache among the Gujaratis. One saw the manner in which he is able to generate near hysteria among the masses when he addresses public meetings in Gujarat. He seems to have a special chemistry with the Gujarati people, which can only come when you operate at an emotional rather than a purely rational level. In public meetings, he virtually holds a cosy conversation with his audience which has both men and women wearing the Modi mask.
The nature of the interaction between Modi and his audiences suggests the chemistry does not flow from something as instrumental a factor as development. In a sense, Modi doesn’t derive his core popularity from his development agenda. It is about a deeper emotional connect that Modi has established with the Gujarati psyche. This connect normally transcends material factors such as development and delivery of bijli and paani. No wonder, Modi hardly talks about his achievements in the state when addressing the people. He confidently tells the people, “You need someone to not only look after you but also your children and grand children.”
In other words, he is simply telling the people, “Main hoon na” (I am there for you).
Of course, development is a small part of this package. This political vocabulary is very personalised, and it seems to work even when he addresses a large gathering. It is often a two-way dialogue with the audience, marked by a short question which is followed by a quick answer from the crowd.
Interestingly, such a personality-based chemistry is known