BJP Falters as Congress Stages Dramatic Comeback in India’s Seven-Phase General Election

Featured & Cover BJP Falters as Congress Stages Dramatic Comeback in India's Seven Phase General Election

The seven-phase general election in the world’s largest democracy, India, began on April 19 and ended on June 1. The results saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) winning 293 seats, while the INDIA Bloc secured an unexpected 232 seats. However, the significant story was the BJP’s surprising underperformance.

Despite predictions that the BJP would surpass 400 seats, the so-called ‘Modi Magic’ faltered, with the party winning only 240 seats and failing to achieve an absolute majority. Although the BJP emerged as the single largest party, the Indian National Congress celebrated a strong performance, winning 99 seats. This comeback was notable given that the Congress had been largely dismissed by political analysts and the media. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader, also achieved personal success by winning both Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh and Wayanad in Kerala.

On the day of the results, Indica interviewed Sam Pitroda, former Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress (IOC), who resigned on May 8 following a controversial statement. Pitroda discussed the election outcomes and how the consecration of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya, which was expected to be a major advantage for Modi, did not secure the majority for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. Pitroda, 82, also spoke about his relationship with Rahul Gandhi and expressed confidence that the INDIA Bloc would form the next government.

A key factor in the BJP’s diminished results was their poor performance in Uttar Pradesh, where they lost 29 seats, ending up with 33. Meanwhile, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party gained 37 seats, boosting the alliance’s standing.

One of the most shocking defeats was the BJP’s loss in Faizabad, which includes Ayodhya. Two-term incumbent BJP candidate Lallu Singh was defeated by Samajwadi Party’s Awadhesh Prasad. Pitroda commented that the temple inauguration appeared more as a spectacle for the wealthy rather than a significant event for the common people. “The jets which landed at the Ayodhya Airport, ferried the rich and famous,” he said. “The fancy clothes that they wore is not what Indian people are used to. It was a show.”

Pitroda identified another issue: public fear that a BJP majority would alter the constitution. He noted that the BJP’s silence on employment issues and their divisive strategies drove voters towards the opposition. “People rejected Modi, not the BJP, because everything was seen as Modi ki guarantee (Modi’s Guarantee). ‘Modi will deliver,’ and people feel that this is not the democracy that we want,” Pitroda said.

Pitroda praised Rahul Gandhi’s message of inclusivity. “I think the people of India have spoken, and Rahul’s message of inclusion went through well, saying we need opportunities for OBC, Dalit, minority, and we need jobs for the young and security for women, and the environment and we need to take care of the farmers,” he said.

Pitroda, who collaborated with Gandhi on the Congress manifesto, recalled their bond. He mentioned that Rahul would meet him whenever he visited India after Rajiv Gandhi’s death. “The mentorship, I wouldn’t call it a mentor but promoting him to the overseas audience since he was in the US several times. Even this morning we spoke, and I speak with him regularly,” he said. Pitroda shared that he and Rahul often communicate using emojis on WhatsApp, indicating Rahul’s happiness with the election results through three emojis.

Regarding the next steps for the INDIA Bloc, Pitroda said, “The partners will meet and decide what steps they should take, whether they should go forward and form the government or let the BJP form its third consecutive government.” He predicted that the hung government might not last a full five-year term and anticipated another election within a couple of years. However, he believes Narendra Modi will do everything possible to maintain his position as Prime Minister.

Pitroda explained his support for Rahul Gandhi, stating, “Because I believe in the Congress party. I was born in the British Raj, and so I am a product of the British Raj, but the fervor and ethos of the independence movement.” He emphasized the historical values of the Congress party and its role in shaping modern India. “I could go to college almost free, low fee, and how can I forget. All that was possible because the Congress party had the idea of democracy.”

Pitroda asserted that his loyalty to the Congress stems from its foundational values. “I have seen Rajiv as the custodian of the idea of India, and when he died, Sonia Gandhi became the custodian, and then Rahul became the custodian of the idea of India. There is nothing to do with dynasty.”

He highlighted the significance of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, a march led by Rahul Gandhi before the elections, as pivotal in the Congress’s revival. “Not just people, but it changed Rahul, and made him bold. Now Rahul speaks with confidence,” Pitroda said.

Pitroda also mentioned that the BJP-NDA often twisted his words to create false narratives, which led to his resignation. “The larger goal was no matter what I say, they will twist and make agenda for 24 hours, and so I resigned,” he said, adding that he did not want to negatively impact the party.

Commenting on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s role, he noted her effective campaigning. He suggested that had she contested a seat, her efforts would have been limited to that area. Instead, she campaigned extensively. He hinted that Rahul might give up the Raebareli seat, allowing Priyanka to contest it in a by-election.

In a press conference, Rahul Gandhi stated he had not yet decided which seat to retain. When asked if Rahul was suited to run the country, Pitroda affirmed his support, acknowledging that no one is perfect but grows into the role with time and support.

Indica  also interviewed George Abraham, Vice-Chairman and Former President of the Indian Overseas Congress, who supported the INC’s campaign. Abraham said, “The people of India have unequivocally rejected the BJP’s agenda, which sought to undermine the constitution and transform the country.”

He stressed that if Modi and Amit Shah continue to lead, they must adhere to the constitution, stop divisive politics, and allow free expression and objective journalism. “We at the Overseas Congress salute the INDIA coalition and its leaders, especially AICC President Kharge Ji and Rahul Ji, for their tireless efforts in getting the message to the people,” he added.

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