This article was written in the joint authorship of Shantanu Gupta and Abhishek Bhattacharya.

There are many in line to take credit for the stellar performance of BJP- a clean sweep in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, a close shave in Chhattisgarh, and its emergence as the largest party in Delhi. Thoughtful seat allocation, projecting a good CM candidate, structured polling booth management, and Modi wave are the major factors contesting for the credit for this.

However, two factors which have gone completely unnoticed are- Social Media and Swami Ramdev!

A group of Indian alumni from Harvard and IDS, Sussex studied the Swami Ramdev effect on BJP’s performance in these four Hindi speaking states. As per Vinod Yadav- a Harvard Kennedy School of Government alumnus, Swami Ramdev has done 53 Public Rallies, 23 Yoga Camps, and countless road-shows in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Delhi in the last two months. He himself campaigned in 118 out of the total 589 seats in the fray- more than 20%. And the effect- BJP pulled more than 90% of these 118 constituencies!

Mr. Yadav further adds, “majority of these rallies were in rural and tribal areas, where Swami ji has a huge fan following and a very strong organizational structure through bharat swabhiman movement.” Even in remote areas, he easily attracts a crowd of 50,000. If Modi is a charismatic natural crowd puller in urban India, Swami Ramdev is the same in the rural hinterlands. Though urban areas are expected to vote for the BJP, rural areas are more inclined to vote for the grand old party. However this time, BJP managed to increase its vote share in rural areas and the success is attributed to the Ramdev factor.

Swami Ramdev featured in the Top 500 Most Powerful People, a list compiled by the renowned Foreign Policy Magazine in 2013. It was a great honour for India when he spoke at the Fullerton Hall in the Art of Chicago Institute, the same hall where Swami Vivekananda had spoken in the year 1893.

It is worth mentioning that Swami Ramdev’s extensive connect and sabhas have converted strong Congress bastions such as Pandariya, Raigarh, and Saja in Chhattisgarh to BJP’s favour. Extensive anti-Congress campaigning by Ramdev ji pulled the seats such as Bhind and Morena in Madhya Pradesh where BJP did not even manage a second place in the previous assembly elections. Similarly in Delhi, constituencies like Nagloi Jat and Narela, which were with Congress earlier, are with BJP now, courtesy yog shivirs and jansabhas organised by Swami Ramdev.

Ramdev effect will be crucial in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. It is the strong performance in the rural heartland of India in the crucial states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that will determine the fate of BJP and Swami Ramdev will be a critical ally in accomplishing this. His strong base and a wide network through the retail outlets will be a key advantage during election campaigning.

Swami Ramdev’s relentless efforts are backed up by his meticulous social media team which has disseminated his messages from rural India to the netizens across the globe. His Facebook page has more than 12 lakh likes and his Twitter following is steadily rising. You can follow all his moves, meetings, and statements on his twitter handle @yogrishiramdev.

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Abhishek Bhattacharya

A libertarian by orientation, Abhishek Bhattacharya is a former LAMP Fellow and presently works at Centre for Civil Society- a free market think tank. His ideas and writings reflect the interplay of Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Connect with him at @tathast_manush / abhi.bh.in@gmail.com

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