Modi’s BJP Falls Short of Winning Majority in India’s Parliamentary Elections

Feature and Cover Modi’s BJP Falls Short of Winning Majority in India’s Parliamentary Elections

After all the media hype of a Modi wave, and alleged abuse of government agencies to silence and intimidate political and independent minded opponents from all walks of life  by the Narendra Modi led Government in India in the past 10 years, India’s nearly one billion people, who went to the elect their new government, have given their verdict on June 4, 2024.

According to the latest election results available,  prime minister Narendra Modi’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is falling well short of expectations, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is projected to lose its majority in Indian parliament after a decade. The opposition INDIA bloc has performed much better than projected in exit polls, as many expect the 20 party alliance could possibly form the fovern in New Delhi with other like minded parties.

As the election season began over two months ago, Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had hoped to win 400+ seats in the 543 member Indian parliament. However, BJP is projected to be short of the 272 needed to form a government, leading in 241 seats, which is well behind the 303 it won in the 2019 election.

The opposition bloc, known as the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), which is made up of more than 20 opposition parties including the Indian National Congress, is on course to win more than 228 seats. Despite being behind, opposition leaders have not ruled out talks on forming their own governing coalition

Now that Modi’s ruling party is expected to lose its majority in parliament, forcing him to rely on allies to form a government. It’s a stunning blow to a leader who has dominated Indian politics since he first took power a decade ago. “India will likely have an NDA government, where the BJP does not have a majority on their own, and coalition politics will come into real play,” said Sandeep Shastri, the national coordinator of the Lokniti Network, a research programme at the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

The results also show that India has rejected the Hindutva ideology that Modi and his Party have been trumpeting for the past decade. In a major shock to Modi and his ideology, BJP has lost a seat in the Ayodhya constituency, a deeply symbolic loss after he opened a controversial Hindu temple there in January. BJP candidate, Lallu Singh, lost to a rival from the regional Samajwadi Party. Modi and his party had campaigned heavily at the temple dedicated to Lord Ram, built on the historic ruins of a mosque that was destroyed by Hindu mobs in 1992.

Modi is set to return to parliament as he wins national elections from his constituency Varanasi. After initially trailing behind his closest rival, Ajay Rai of Congress, he returned strong securing 612,970 votes beating his opponent by 152,513 votes.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party leader is leading by a whopping 350,000 votes, with his current vote tally at 623,539, according to the election commission. Annie Raja of the Communist Party of India, a member of the Congress-led INDIA bloc, is trailing there with 273,509 votes for her counted so far. He is also running from the family bastion of Rae Bareli in northern Uttar Pradesh state, where he is leading by more than 370,000 votes.

The vote, which began on April 19 and concluded on June 1, was carried out in seven phases over six weeks and saw over 1 billion Indians heading to the polls—making it the largest democratic election in the world. The Election Commission says a record-breaking 642 million voters cast their ballots in the staggered election.

There have been doubts expressed about the ability of the BJP to put together a ruling coalition, as there have been informal consultations started among various parties to join the INDIA Alliance in an attempt to form a non-BJP government.

Even if BJP is able to put together a government, a smaller-than-expected majority means that Modi may face a more powerful opposition than at any point over the past decade, making implementation more difficult unless the BJP works with smaller alliances and negotiates with opposition leaders.

Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi did not outright reject the possibility of his INDIA alliance forming a government. When a reporter asked him the question, he deflected it by saying that the bloc would meet tomorrow and discuss it.

Two of the BJP’s allies – the Janata Dal (United) and the Telugu Desam Party – are leading in close to 30 seats. The BJP – which has been restricted to around 240 seats – needs them to reach 272 seats to be able to form the government in New Delhi.

Both the TDP and the JDU are former Congress partners, and Gandhi did not rule out the possibility of holding talks with them. Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh and Nitish Kumar of Bihar, hold the key to forming the next government.

“TDP has a pre-poll alliance with NDA and it will continue, no doubt about that,” party lawmaker K Ravindra Kumar told the media. JD (U) spokesperson Abhishek Jha said, “We are formally with this NDA alliance and will participate in making the government.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the people of India have “placed their faith” in the BJP-led NDA alliance “for a third consecutive time. This is a historical feat in India’s history,” he posted on X, moments before he is expected to address party workers in New Delhi.

Shama Mohamed, a Congress party’s spokesperson said, leaders of the opposition knew that exit polls showing a wide-margin of victory for Modi’s alliance were not reflective of the reality on the ground. “You have to understand that there is a lot of unemployment in India, the price rise is huge. There is the capture of various institutions for example,” Mohamed added, referring to the opposition’s allegations that Modi’s government has consolidated power at key institutions, including the country’s election commission.”

The initial election results have spooked India’s financial markets, which had expected a hefty win for Modi.

While Modi government tried to project a “shining India” campaign, the reality of huge unemployment, inflation, a controversial army recruitment reform, Modi’s aggressive and divisive campaign, totalitarianism, abuse of government machineries and turning the impartial government agencies and Courts to act as stooges of the Modi government seem have had a negative impact, leading to the party’s down fall. “And the most compelling was the unemployment and that trumped the BJP in a way they did not expect,” as an analyst put it. The BJP has performed badly in India’s vast rural areas.

Modi’s ambitious slogan “Ab ki baar, 400 paar,” aiming for over 400 seats for his NDA alliance, may also have backfired, raising fears of constitutional changes with such a massive majority.

As Surendra Kumar Dwivedi, a political analyst summed it all: “The trend very clearly shows that in a state like Uttar Pradesh, which has Ram Temple, the temple is not the only deciding factor anymore and developmental issues especially, which are related to youths like rampant leaks of the competitive examination (services) and unemployment, had made an impact on the youths who were the largest chunk of voters.”

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