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Narendra Modi addresses his BJP's campaign rally ahead of Delhi state elections in New Delhi on February 3. Image Credit: Agencies

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to rule the minds of people in India. The recently held Delhi elections, in which his BJP bagged only eight of the 70 seats, is enough to understand how Modi’s popularity is creating a visible rift in the society. Particularly at the micro level.

While investigating various aspects of Delhi Assembly elections on February 8, our team noticed that the current political environment is in some ways impacting family relations and friendship bonds in the country. Thanks to BJP’s social media management team, Modi has remained one of the most discussed persons in the country. People love and hate him in equal measure, sometimes even at the cost of harming their own personal relations.

The Delhi elections, for example, witnessed fights and arguments among near and dear ones even on voting day. Members of the same families could be seen quarrelling on whom to vote for. In some cases, altercations between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, neighbours and close friends over Modi took serious turns. Sparring family members, in a few cases, either did not cast their votes at all or stopped speaking to each other for days and weeks.

One such case is of 74 years old astrologer Shakuntala Sharma, who is a die-hard fan of Modi. “I told my son candidly that if you are not going to vote for Modi in the Delhi election, I will not give you anything from my property,” said the mother of four and a resident of Dwarka, a sub-city located in South West Delhi.

But her 42-year-old son Gaurav Shukla, who works with a Gurugram-based advertising company, has been an ardent supporter of Arvind Kejriwal, whose party bagged 62 seats in the elections.

Hardcore fan

Since the announcement of the last Delhi elections. Gaurav and his mother Shakuntala were arguing daily over Modi and Kejriwal. “Every day me and my mother used to debate over Modi and Kejriwal. My mother, a hardcore fan of Modi, wanted me to vote for him on February 8. But I was adamant about voting for Kejriwal. Our debate over whom to vote for continued daily, from dawn to dusk. We used to discuss Modi before going to office and after returning from work. My mother made all attempts to convince me to vote for Modi’s BJP but could not succeed. Upset by my indifference towards Modi, my mother, on the eve of the voting day, told me that she will not give me anything from her property if I do not vote for BJP”.

Gaurav said he was surprised by the attitude of his mother. Next day he got up and went to a nearby polling booth to vote. It is still a mystery for his mother as to whom Gaurav voted for. However, his mother looked convinced that her threat of not giving anything from her property to his son if he didn’t vote for BJP worked.

It was not a long ago when Shakuntala Sharma moved to Delhi from Aligarh, a city of Uttar Pradesh. She brought up her four children - two daughters and two sons - alone after the death of her husband. Shakuntala is living with her youngest son alone in Delhi. Her two married daughters are living elsewhere and her eldest son, a lawyer by profession is settled in Allahabad, yet another city of Uttar Pradesh.

Fighting with her children

Kavita Sharma, one of the daughters, who is a journalist by profession, revealed that her mother was a hardcore Congress fan. She didn’t see her mother ever voting for any other party except Congress till 2014 when Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of the country for the first time. Since then, her mother became a staunch supporter of Modi. “Her love for Modi is to the extent that she fights with her own children if they say anything against Modi. Today our family is divided over Modi,” Kavita said.

Usha Sharma, another resident of east Delhi, said that she and her husband Ashok Sharma, a businessman, quarelled for years over BJP and Congress. She is a supporter of Congress while her husband backs BJP. But things were not so divisive till 2014, when Modi came to power. Usha, a housewife, said that her husband started debating on every political issue, which was rare before Modi. He became so obsessed with Modi that one day when she said something against Modi, her husband threw a glass of tea on the floor in anger. The mother of two said her family today looked completely divided over Modi. “A word against Modi means a long lecture in praise of Modi from my husband,” she added.

Like other elections, in the last Delhi elections too, Usha and her husband had a long debate over whom to vote. The debate lasted till midnight. “In the end, Ashok told me that he will not talk to me in life if she doesn’t vote for BJP,” said Usha.

Never clashed

Archana Agnihotri, a woman activist and a resident of South Delhi, is a supporter of Aam Aadmi Party. And her father, a retired government servant who lives with her, is a BJP supporter. Their political ideologies never clashed with each other until the last Delhi elections. Archana said her father became a hardcore Modi fan after the Article 370 was abrogated by his government. She pointed out that her father now believes that the country is in the safe hands of Modi ji. Archana said her father left no stone unturned to convince her that she should join BJP. “It was becoming hard for me to face my father. Everytime he saw me he used to ask me the same thing. That is, when am I joining BJP?” she added.

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

Archana said she started having a long debate with him over their political ideologies, which had never happened before. She said by the time Delhi went to poll , her father, who failed to convince her to join BJP left her house in anger to live in Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh’s capital, from where they belong and have their second house.

Vikas Gulati, a businessman from East Delhi, has a similar story to tell. His father, also a businessman, had nothing to do with politics. But his father’s attitude towards politics changed after Modi became prime minister of the country in 2014. According to Vikas, his father, a non-political man all of a sudden became a political person. Courtesy Modi. He started sharing his political views with the people around him, especially his son Vikas.

“I never expected such a drastic change in my father’s personality. He became a huge fan of Modi and his policies. He is not ready to endorse any anti-Modi view,” he said.

Divided views

According to vikas he once criticised Modi’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), his father became so upset with him that for few days he stopped talking to him. Dinesh, the elder brother of Vikas and a supporter of Aam Aadmi Party said that whenever he and his younger brother Vikas sit in the living room, watching news over television with his father, they end up fighting. “Their views are divided. All because of Modi,” he pointed out. According to Dinesh, in last Delhi elections, his father campaigned for BJP because of Modi. He also convinced his family members to vote for BJP. “A man who used to hate politics, all of a sudden became a political pundit and started disliking his own sons who do not support Modi,” Dinesh added.

The list is endless. You may go to any nook and corner of Delhi, and you will find people and their opinions divided over Modi. Investigations reveal that husband and wife, son and father, mother and son, sister and brother, they all clashed with each other over their political ideologies. Their fight came out in the open on the voting day during the Delhi elections last month. One thing remains clear: Love Modi or hate him, but you cannot ignore him.