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Modi Wins a Third Term But the Opposition INDIA Bloc Cuts Incumbent BJP Down to Size 

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Modi Wins a Third Term But the Opposition INDIA Bloc Cuts Incumbent BJP Down to Size 

In a telling blow, the BJP even lost in the constituency that includes the Ram Temple, in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh.

Modi Wins a Third Term But the Opposition INDIA Bloc Cuts Incumbent BJP Down to Size 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted by supporters as he arrives at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi, India, June 4, 2024.

Credit: AP Photo/Manish Swarup

In one of the most closely contested elections in recent times, the opposition INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) coalition made a remarkable debut, bagging 234 seats even as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi managed to scrape through to a third term in office. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won 240 seats and along with its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies managed to cross the 272 majority mark. India’s lower house has 543 seats in total.

In 2019, the BJP had won a brute majority of 303 seats on its own. 

The BJP-led NDA got 45 percent of the vote while the Congress and its INDIA alliance got 42 percent.

The biggest upset for the Hindu nationalist BJP came in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) where the INDIA parties outstripped the BJP to bag 43 seats. The BJP had been brimming with confidence before the polls, even bragging that it would secure a 400-seat victory this time, especially after fulfilling its promise of building the historic Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. However the BJP got a rude jolt when its candidate, Lallu Singh, lost in the Ram Mandir constituency, Faizabad.

The INDIA parties contesting in UP – the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, with young leaders Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, respectively – trounced the BJP in a state where it won 62 out of the 80 seats in the last election, accounting for one-fifth of its 300-plus majority. This time, the BJP managed just 33 seats in UP, nearly halving its 2019 result.

The 2024 results, according to reputed pollster Prannoy Roy, formerly of NDTV television and now on the online news platform deKoder, are a “huge mandate against one man’s dictatorship.” The opposition alliance fought the polls on the plank of “saving the Constitution and preventing the country from sliding into dictatorship.”

The results demonstrate a remarkable turnaround for the “Grand Old Party,” the Congress, which had been decimated in the past decade. It won a paltry 52 seats in the 2019 elections and just 44 in 2014, when Modi decisively trounced the Congress-led UPA and came to power. In the 2024 polls, a resurgent Congress nearly doubled its numbers to 99 seats, which is being largely attributed to the efforts of its leader, Rahul Gandhi.

The two “long marches” that the Gandhi scion undertook, from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India, and again from western India to the remote northeast in Manipur, helped to revive the fortunes of the party. Gandhi himself won both seats that he contested, in north and south India, by record margins. In Rae Bareli, in UP, formerly his mother Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, he won by over 300,000 votes while in Wayanad Kerala he also won a landslide victory.

The pro-Congress mood in UP was best reflected in Amethi, another Gandhi family bastion, where a long-time Congress party worker, Kishori Lal Sharma, managed to unseat a sitting union minister of the BJP, Smriti Irani.

After the results, Gandhi said the Congress manifesto had quite accurately raised issues close to the people’s hearts, such as unemployment and inflation, which was reflected in the verdict.

Beyond UP, Modi has been humbled in the eastern state of West Bengal. Modi himself visited the state 20 times during the campaign, hoping to increase the BJP tally from the 18 seats it won last time. However the Trinamool Congress (TMC) under the country’s only woman chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, convincingly stamped out the BJP challenge, winning 29 of the 42 seats  in the state. The BJP’s count was reduced to 12.

Former TMC member of Parliament Mahua Moitra, who had been specifically targeted for being outspoken against Modi and his crony capitalist friends and was subsequently suspended from Parliament, won a landslide victory from her Krishnananagr constituency. Moitra told The Diplomat during the campaign, “The people are the final arbiters in a democracy. This time I will win by a larger margin.”

For the BJP, while UP proved to be disappointing, states like Bihar in the east spelled good news for the saffron party. Together with its allies, the regional party Janata Dal (United) of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the Lok Janshakti Party, and the Hindustani Awam Morcha, the NDA coalition managed to hold on to the state, winning 30 of the 40 seats  in Bihar. INDIA alliance partners Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress were limited to just seven seats, belying the huge turnout of people during their rallies in the two-month long election campaign. 

Another state that has helped to keep the BJP afloat is the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, where its NDA ally, the regional Telugu Desam Party TDP, has won 16 of 25 seats, routing the incumbent YSR Congress. Former Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu of the TDP can now leverage some power in the NDA alliance, since his party will help to prop up the BJP government in Delhi. Likewise, Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) in Bihar, another NDA ally who deserted the INDIA group right at the cusp of the 2024 polls, will now have a sizable say in the BJP-led NDA coalition.

Modi had put in great efforts for his BJP to breach the southern states in India. The BJP can take heart from the fact that it has opened its account in Kerala, which has a history of fiercely shunning the BJP’s Hindutva or Hindu supremacy ideology. It capitalized on a growing Islamophobia and divisions within the Christian church to bag the Thrissur seat in the state.

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, however, the BJP once again failed to make a mark. The regional DMK party and the Congress made huge gains and consolidated their position, together winning 31 of the 39 seats in the state (22 for the DMK and nine for the Congress).

Significantly, the BJP had made a clean sweep in 2019 of the northern states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand; it also won all the seats in the BJP-ruled states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. This time around, it managed to rout the Congress once again in Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.

However, the Congress has put up a strong fight in Rajasthan, where it gained eight seats, and managed to even win one seat in the state of Gujarat, Modi’s home province. In the south, in Karnataka, which swore in a strong Congress-led state government last year, the Congress won nine seats to the BJP’s 17. For context, in 2019, the BJP had won 25 of the 29 seats in the state. In the northern state of Haryana, Congress has clawed back, winning five of the 10 seats in the state. It was zero last time around.

Political analyst Yogendra Yadav hailed the verdict as a “victory of the people, the public.”

The ruling BJP had captured all institutions like the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation, and deployed them against opposition leaders at will. The Election Commission (EC) was a partisan player, turning a blind eye to the transgressions by the BJP and violations of the Model Code of Conduct MCC. The unfair playing field in these elections had even been commented upon internationally. 

Yet, Yadav argued, despite the Modi government’s jailing political opponents, freezing bank accounts of the Congress party and others, and controlling all major media networks, it could not bag a brute majority. Irrespective of the fact that Modi will continue to be prime minister, Yadav said, the will of the people prevailed and the BJP has been cut down to size.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said the poll verdict is a resounding “mandate against Modi.” Modi had repeatedly resorted to polarizing the electorate, including hate speech against minority Muslims. He had targeted the Congress, alleging that they fraternized with Muslims, ate mutton, and would target devout Hindu women and seize their jewelry (mangal sutra).  

What has come as a rude shock for the INDIA bloc, however, is the verdict in Delhi. After the arrest of chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, the opposition alliance was hoping to benefit from the sympathy factor. The AAP, despite holding resounding majorities in the Delhi Legislative Assembly since 2015, has never won a parliamentary seat from Delhi, with the BJP winning all seven seats in parliament in the 2014 and 2019 general elections. The Congress, much to the anger of several of its own leaders, allied with the AAP, but the alliance failed to register any wins in the union territory. The BJP again made a clean sweep, squashing all hopes of Kejriwal, who has since gone back to prison. He had been out on bail briefly.

The AAP, which has a government in Punjab, however has managed to win three seats in the state. The Congress took seven out of the 13 seats there.

The other strong mandate against the authoritarian tactics of the BJP has come from the state of Maharashtra, where last time the BJP won big. In 2024, its former ally, the Shiv Sena (which split into two rival branches), has come back to haunt it, with the Uddhav Thakeray-led group winning nine seats. Similarly, the NCP of veteran leader Sharad Pawar (which had also split into two at the behest of the BJP) won eight seats. In total the INDIA coalition won 30 of the total 48 seats while the BJP alliance has been reduced to half – from 41 in 2019 to 18 seats in 2024. The Congress improved its tally from one seat to 13 seats this time.

In an earlier article, way back in March, I had correctly predicted that “this time, victory may not be a cake walk for the BJP.” Analyzing the reasons why Narendra Modi, possibly for the first time in a decade, was nervous ahead of the elections, I had cited how his “anti- corruption crusader” image had been dented with the electoral bonds disclosures. The crucial Supreme Court verdict had exposed how the BJP benefited from secret electoral bonds, and used them as the largest “extortion racket.” 

With this 2024 verdict, most importantly, the invincibility of Modi and his “God complex” have been put to rest.