Prashant Jha, an Associate Editor with Hindustan Times, has a long track of covering Indian national politics, particularly politics in the Gangetic plains. How the BJP Wins: Inside India’s Greatest Election Machine is his latest book. As the title of the book suggests, this book tells us how the BJP wins election after election. In other words, the book tries to analyze the election machinery of the BJP and provides an insight into the complexities of India’s election system. The major part of the book deals with the UP state election 2017 and gives an informed account of the events that shaped this election. By doing this, the book brings into perspective the multiple mechanisms that have gone into making a big impact on this election.
As all of us know, Narendra Modi is politically astute and knows the art of spreading his message according to the need of the audience. The book starts by dealing with this aspect of Modi’s charm. The book tries to look into the secrets of Narendra Modi’s mass appeal and then moves on to discuss the effect of demonetization. On 8 November 2016, the Modi government announced the phasing out of certain currency notes. This step was taken not only to control black money but also to crack down the use of counterfeit currency. This sudden move brought a disruption to the everyday lives of ordinary citizens of the country. There was a general assumption that this drastic step by Modi government will harm the BJP politically in the upcoming elections. However, nothing of that sort happened. On the contrary, there was a palpable enthusiasm for the move as was witnessed later on in the UP state election 2017. The BJP won this election handsomely. Why didn’t demonetization harm the BJP in this election? The book tries to answer this question.
Amit Shah played a very important role in transferring the BJP election machinery, and the book tells us the ways this machinery operates on the ground during both campaigning and election. Amit Shah’s school of election management focused on bringing new members to the party, mass contact on a consistent level and forming the lowest level of organizational structure. The book discusses all of these in detail. Other topics that have been discussed in the book include the impact of the BJP’s ideology with Hindutva, the role of RSS during the election, and the BJP’s expansion into North-East and Kashmir. The book also touches upon the story of the Bihar state election 2015. The BJP lost this election but took a number of lessons. What were these lessons the BJP drew from Bihar loss? The book makes an effort to answer that. I feel that a few more pages could have devoted to discussing this issue.
While I followed the UP state election 2017 closely, reading this book made me aware of quite a few facts that I didn’t know personally. At the same time, at many portions of the book, I felt that the story from the other side was missing. I would have liked to know a little bit more about the election machinery of the opposition parties. The inclusion of this would have resulted in presenting a comparative account and, consequently, would have enhanced the quality of the book. Anyhow, the writing style in this book is breezy and, overall, the book is an easy read. The pacing is such that it keeps readers engaged throughout. You will love reading this book if you enjoy reading about the Indian electoral system and having followed the UP state election 2017 closely.