Winning back the rural heartland
THE performance in the rural parts of India by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is perhaps the most impressive element of its sweeping victory in the 2019 election. Low food inflation, slow economic growth, and notebandi (India’s ‘demonetization’ exercise that severely restricted money stock) caused a number of analysts to suggest that rural India was facing economic distress. This seemed to be borne out by recent state election results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – all once considered BJP stronghold states that the party lost to its rival Congress – less than six months before the national election. Further analysis of the electoral results from these states confirmed that the BJP had been particularly punished in rural areas in the state elections,1 and it seemed natural to assume these trends would continue to the national election. But the BJP actually increased its tally from 282 seats in 2014 to 303 seats in 2019, further consolidating its vote share in rural India.