There Is No Alternative (TINA) to Narendra Modi was both a statement and a question posed to the Indian citizens across India. The answer seemed obvious to all. There was no alternative, and no one understood that better than PM Modi and his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah.
The complexity of issues, challenge of high expectations, lack of convincing solutions, found a simple counter – TINA. And the BJP fought its entire campaign by placing TINA before voter questions.
Five years in office is enough to give a litany of complainants. Enough reasons to feel upset. In a country as large and as diverse as India, it can be an overwhelming challenge for any single party to find solutions and answers to the umpteen issues and problems that people face.
The Narendra Modi-led BJP government tried hard to meet high expectations. However, they were finding it difficult to come up with answers. Many ordinary citizens felt frustrated and angry. They expressed it so when they brought down BJP governments in M.P, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Punjab. The heat was turning up on the PM as had placed himself as the party’s face for all credits and failures. There was no running away. The BJP think tank had to come up with answers and fast.
In Amit Shah, hiding behind soft-spoken geniality is a crafty politician with an uncanny political mind. He was on point to recognize the only weapon which BJP possessed that could overturn the building frustration over different issues. That was the TINA factor in Narendra Modi.
He has been the best bet for turning defeat into victory for the party, and fighting the elections with Narendra Modi at its core was a smart move. The idea was simple, and yet, brilliant. Shift the narrative from tough issues to TINA whenever confronted with Rahul Gandhi’s repeated taunts for answers on Rafale, development, and jobs.
Ask yourself what has been your grouse with the Narendra Modi-led government in these five years. The list could be a long one – no Rs 15 lakh coming, no overseas black money returning, Article 370 still around, no Ram temple, demonetization, GST, high fuel prices, rising food prices, lack of jobs, the list can go on, so take your pick.
Now, ask yourself, who do you think is best placed to solve this? On whom would you bet your hard earned money – Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi? It’s a no-brainer, and this was the fundamental idea upon which Amit Shah built the entire 2019 election strategy.
TINA factor overrides all issues when there is no matching competitor. Voters don’t only vote on issues in national elections but also consider the leader or party most capable of solving the fundamental problems.
The Rahul Gandhi-led Congress strategy stuck to the old electoral tactics of focusing on getting the caste arithmetic right. And issues they believed mattered to the public. There certainly were serious issues the people were upset about, but no one considered the fundamental question – does Rahul Gandhi fulfill the TINA factor? The answer is an emphatic NO. It’s a question the party leadership should have asked when they decided to appoint him president.
Rahul Gandhi was never a person who could match Narendra Modi, let alone challenge him. From 2014 onwards, Narendra Modi evolved from a person into an idea, one that offers hope and inspiration. Rahul Gandhi offered neither.
How important was the TINA factor in these elections?
Let’s go back to the run-up to the 2014 general elections. UPA II under Manmohan Singh was under severe pressure with corruption charges slowing down the government’s decision-making process. People were angry and frustrated at wide-spread corruption, as also the fact the government seemed to come to a standstill.
In that scenario, some people may have viewed Manmohan Singh as ineffectual, especially in the last months of UPA II. Nonetheless, almost all still regarded him in high esteem as a person of integrity and a good economist.
Now, were people asked to choose between a new and untested-at-the-national-level Narendra Modi, and Manmohan Singh in 2014, there’s a fair chance the result would be very different from the choice people made in 2019 when choosing between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. TINA factor is most effective when the opponent is extremely weak. It makes people’s choices easy.
Amit Shah spotted the advantage and used it to its fullest. Rahul Gandhi remained stuck with “Rafale” and “Chowkidar Chor Hai” rather than attempt to weaken the TINA factor. The outcome is for the world to see.