Book Review: Paul Wallace (ed.), India’s 2014 Elections: A Modi-led BJP Sweep

Date01 June 2016
Published date01 June 2016
Subject MatterBook Reviews
136 Book Reviews
Paul Wallace (ed.), India’s 2014 Elections: A Modi-led BJP Sweep. New Delhi: SAGE Publications. 2015.
451 pages. `1,250.
DOI: 10.1177/2321023016634969
India’s 2014 Elections: A Modi-led BJP Sweep is the fifth book in a series that aims to explain the
verdicts of parliamentary elections in India. Paul Wallace and Ramashray Roy had co-edited the first
four volumes of this series, beginning in 1998. The book brings together academicians from across
the country and seeks to provide a holistic understanding of what led to Narendra Modi led Bharatiya
Janata Party’s (BJP) emphatic victory. It has been divided into two parts—thematic studies of broader
themes related to the election, and 12 state studies. The BJP’s victory in 2014 has some common
elements from both the 1977 and the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. Despite no united opposition, there was
a strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the Congress similar to 1977. Like 1984, most states in north
and western India probably witnessed what Paul Brass calls—‘lamppost election’. The BJP gradually
gained support since 2013 onwards and kept increasing its lead over the Congress. Thus, rather than
merely identifying a few pre-election incidents and factors, one must be able to elucidate how this entire
process unravelled on the ground if he/she wants to explain how the BJP won such a massive majority.
The first part of the book, apart from the broad introduction by the editor, consists of thematic studies
with a narrow scope, covering essentially only four themes—the role of regional parties, the impact of
Modi’s leadership, gender and the role of civil society. The introduction provides an overview of the
BJP’s victory and discusses three major factors that led to the party’s victory—economy, corruption and
the leadership-centric campaign of the BJP (p. 10). While Wallace correctly identifies ‘price rise’ as the
main concern of the people, he seems to have ignored the direct and indirect impact of poor macro-
economic performance, not considering other indicators, such as economic growth and infrastructure
development. Also, one would have expected a more detailed discussion of the future of the Congress
party, on whether it would be able to rebuild its social coalition and prevent itself from a terminal decline.
In their chapter entitled ‘Resistance to Regionalism’, Christophe Jaffrelot and Gilles Verniers identify
larger changes in the country’s party system that emerge from the 2014 result. They explain how the
regional concentration of the BJP’s support and the dominance of regional parties in many states might
prevent it from recreating a Congress-like hegemony in Indian politics. Their argument about the
emergence of a class-based mobilization among caste groups should stimulate further research, as it
could help in gauging whether class is becoming relatively more important than other social identities.
Walter Andersen’s chapter on the BJP provides a comprehensive account of Narendra Modi’s rise in
national politics. It provides a detailed report about the individual-centric nature of the BJP’s campaign.
The chapter by Jyotindra Dasgupta and Anshu N. Chatterjee, on the role of civic organizations, deviates
from focusing on the 2014 election and has detailed information about organizations and movements,
such as Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Sangathan (MKSS) and
the Right to Information movement. The discussion on the Anna Hazare movement again is extremely
descriptive and focuses on the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). One would have expected the
section on corruption in this chapter to elucidate how the perception of widespread corruption was
built and how the large scams harmed the Congress’s electoral prospects. Overall, this part of the book
could have covered a wider set of themes, for instance, the role of social cleavages, media and the
impact of young voters.
The second part of the book has analyses of most states of the country. Scholars from across India
have written about the election verdict in their respective states. There is no methodological rigidity in
the articles: most authors use a combination of methods—qualitative/ethnographic evidence and survey
data to explain the findings from the aggregate data. In many articles, authors commit basic mistakes in

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