As the numbers flashed for Amethi, a huge cheer went up among the crowd of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters gathered in front of the giant television at the party’s national headquarters in central Delhi. At noon, Rahul Gandhi was trailing Smriti Irani by about 6,500 votes. “Someone get an oxygen cylinder fast — Rahul baba is about to faint,” quipped a BJP worker, a party flag resting on his shoulders.
It turned out that the jibe wasn’t premature. By evening, Irani had emerged as a giant killer, defeating the Congress president in his family bastion by over 50,000 votes.
There were scenes of utter jubilation at the BJP’s imposing new headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg. Thousands of supporters thronged the complex to celebrate the huge mandate that the voters had given the party. A part of the crowd spilled on to the street, blocking traffic on the busy arterial road. They were waving BJP flags, bursting crackers, dancing to drum beats, chanting slogans and giving impromptu bytes to reporters.
Till early evening, busloads of supporters were being brought in from the National Capital Region and the neighbouring states. Though men outnumbered women, there were lots of women supporters as well — from those dressed in resplendent sarees to younger women wearing T-shirts bearing legends like ‘NaMo Again’ and ‘Main Bhi Chowdikar’.
The celebrations began right from the morning, the moment early leads showed that the BJP was headed for another majority. The slogans that were raised ranged from “Ek hi naara, ek hi kaam, Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram” to “Har Har Modi, ghar ghar Modi” to the outright bizarre, “Tel laga lo Dabur kaa, naam mita do Babar kaa”. Of course, the standard slogan of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” was still there.
And in the midst of it all, the presence of the man in whose name this election was fought and won loomed large everywhere. The party office was filled with Narendra Modi’s larger-than-life cutouts and posters. Even children were made to dress up like him.
If you asked the supporters what secured their party the largest Lok Sabha mandate since 1984 and brought Modi back as the first non-Congress Prime Minister for a second term, the answers were consistent.
“This election proves that nationalism is the biggest issue in the country. Today, the global trend is that only nationalists parties win. There should be no place for anti-national sentiments,” said Satyendra Chauhan, a BJP supporter.
It was clear that the promises made during campaigning, and the core issues on which the party’s campaign was built, was still resonating with the supporters. “I want Modiji to finish terrorism in Kashmir and make Pakistan bite the dust again and again like he did in Balakot. I am confident that Modiji will also make the temple in Ayodhya,” said Sameer Ahuja, a BJP worker from Delhi.
“I am so happy that I am speechless. We have got more than what we expected. This mandate means that BJP is not only winning in 2019, but also in 2024,” said Aditya Sharma, a party supporter, who had come to celebrate all the way from Bijnor.
By afternoon, the huge, 1.7 lakh square feet BJP headquarters was packed with people. The ground floor and the front courtyard were chock-a-bloc with party workers, journalists and security persons. In the backyard, a line of makeshift studios were set up as the BJP brought out its cadre of spokespersons in full strength. The canteen and the makeshift buffet were bursting at the seams. In the upper floors, where the senior leadership of the party have their offices, sweets were being distributed and selfies clicked.
Some were reminding the general secretaries about the hard work they had put in: “Sir, we are the Telangana group, we worked hard.” Or, “Sir, we’re from the Bengal group, we fulfilled our promises.”
One by one, the BJP’s national leaders started trooping in. Party president Amit Shah would arrive later. But the one they were all waiting for was their hero. They were waiting for Narendra Modi.