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Election in India: Modi loses majority

Rohit Revi

June 4, 2024
On June 4th, people in India were glued to their seats as election results were being announced for the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections. The winning party or coalition in the Lok Sabha elections would decide who holds political power in the central government for the coming 5 years, until 2029. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party, has been in power for the last 10 years, winning two consecutive elections and are now positioned for a third term. 

Lok Sabha elections in India are conducted for 543 constituencies across the country, over five phases and across six weeks. A party or coalition that wins in at least 272 constituencies would receive the majority seats that are required to be able to form a government. 
In the previous elections held in 2019, Modi’s BJP alone secured a historic number of 303 seats and was able to form its government comfortably, with or without allies. Modi’s campaign slogan this year was “Abki Baar, 400 paar”, or “this time, we cross 400 seats”.

As the vote-counting neared completion, the trends in election results revealed a setback for the BJP. It was able to secure only 241 seats, losing its single majority status in parliament. They are now completely dependent on allied parties in the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) to build a coalition government.  
While the chances of them succeeding in securing power is still high, that would now depend on negotiations with regional parties such as Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), who now find themselves with significant bargaining power. 
The oppositional coalition of INDIA Alliance is also in position to lure the two parties to their side, and if successful, they would too be able to lay a claim to a coalition government. What follows now are going to be hours of horse-trading and attempts to make offers to the regional parties who are currently allies of the BJP.  
At the end of these negotiations, it is likely that the BJP still would lead a coalition government and Modi would receive a third term in office, but the election results have been humbling for the BJP. It is also an equally stinging and sobering reminder to the other stakeholders, from political institutions to the corporate media, who have all been servile to the Modi administration in the last 10 years, that democratic power in India is not permanently bequeathed to the BJP. There is change in the air.

Ram Temple’ doesn’t yield electoral gains
In the lead up to the elections, on January 22nd, the Prime Minister had publicly inaugurated the controversial Ram Temple, constructed recently upon grounds razed during the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. The demolition of the mosque was a watershed moment in the rise of BJP in modern India, where the party succeeded in building a mass movement based upon an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that the mosque had been constructed upon the birth site of Hindu God Ram. It was this Hindu nationalist movement that eventually secured political power in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The timing of the inauguration of the temple was widely understood to be an electoral move with Modi’s figure taking center stage in the ceremony.
Much of BJP’s electoral discourse has been unsurprisingly communal and Islamophobic. For example, in a mass rally, Modi mischaracterized the opposition party’s wealth redistribution promise as an attack on Hindus, claiming that the opposition seeks to “forcibly snatch the golden wedding ornaments” of Hindu women and gift it to Muslim “infiltrators”.  
These public statements, alongside Modi’s implementation of the CAA legislation in the lead up to the elections, created an atmosphere of religious hatred. In a moment that showed classic authoritarian delusion, Modi also declared that he believes his birth to not be biological but a divine gift from the Gods to help the people. After this declaration, Modi confidently proceeded to go on a prolonged spiritual meditation even before the elections were completed, obviously with his personal camera crew invited to capture his posterity in high definition for the social media.
Throughout the electoral campaign, the corporate media such as Republic TV, completely married to Modi, sang praises, and ran scripted interviews to promote the BJP. Exit polls run by pro-Modi corporations and think tanks had also predicted a massive sweep in favor of the BJP.  
But finally, when the ballot spoke, the results were sobering for Modi and the BJP, bringing them down from the divine clouds back onto the real world, inaugurating a potentially hopeful era for the working class. The shifting tide comes directly from BJP’s traditional strongholds, including the largest state of Uttar Pradesh, where the workers and the rural poor appear to be seeing through the false promises and communal propagandas of the BJP.

Some results of note
Among the results, there are some upsets that are of note. Primarily, it is a matter of importance that the constituency that includes the city of Ayodhya, where the Ram Temple was constructed, rejected the BJP electoral candidate who contested from there.  
Signs of a changing tide can also be seen within the margins of victory of major candidates. For example, in 2019, Modi won his seat by a margin of more than four hundred thousand votes, but in 2024 that margin has been reduced to a hundred and fifty thousand votes. Modi’s counterpart in the opposition camp, Rahul Gandhi, who contested from two constituencies increased his margin of victory to around three and a half hundred thousand votes in both constituencies respectively, indicating an increase in public acceptance and legitimacy of his opposition to Modi. Similarly, Smriti Irani, a sitting minister in Modi’s government, who had previously unseated Gandhi in 2019, lost her sitting seat to her opposition candidate.  
The Indian National Congress, whose election manifesto this time around was the most worker-friendly it has been in years, was able to double its seats in parliament, securing at the minimum a strong oppositional voice in the house.
This is also a clear indication that substantive politics that focuses on the failures of crony capitalism is what the people demand, not communalism or politics of hate.

Another victory of note was Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan, a grass-roots leader for oppressed caste liberation, who was arrested, detained and slandered multiple times in the last many years by the BJP forces. Carried upon the shoulders of people, Azad will now be a member of parliament, an equal among equals in the corridors of power.  

“Voters saved the Constitution” 
In the immediate response to election results, opposition leader Rahul Gandhi held a press conference holding up a copy of the Indian Constitution. He declared the election results to be a victory of the Constitution of India, and a setback to the forces that are trying to alter the founding document forged during the anti-colonial era. The constitution, drafted by Dr BR Ambedkar and the Constituent Assembly, enshrines India as a socialist and secular union of states, and is a valuable reminder of legacies of struggles against class, caste, and colonialist oppression that founded the country.  
The BJP-RSS agenda of establishing a Hindu Rashtra – a religious ethnostate – is contrary to the ethos of the constitution and would require them to have a massive majority in the houses of power to make those fundamental changes. With this election, the people of India have shown the Modi administration that it is neither impervious nor infallible, and the future of the country will be decided by its people. The people do not want a Hindu Rashtra. 
Photo: Anuwar Hazarika CC by 2.0
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