Verdict 2024: Democracy defeats despotism & divisiveness

BJP’s pyrrhic victory signals Modi magic wearing off

Politics

June 5, 2024

/ By / New Delhi

Verdict 2024: Democracy defeats despotism & divisiveness

The NDA has failed to come anywhere close to 400 seats and is in fact settling for even below the 300-seat mark with a loss of over 56 seats

As the results for the final tally of various parties in the Lok Sabha elections come in late on Tuesday evening, it is clear that the decade-long rule by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has left Indian voters seeking a change. The surprisingly strong performance of the opposition alliance, led by the Indian National Congress, is a big win for democracy in India.

5/5 - (2 votes)

Once again, the exit polls in India have come a cropper as the results of the Lok Sabha elections belie the exit polls that had all predicted a smooth sailing for the ruling NDA alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party to an historic tally over close to 400 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

With a handful of results awaited, the NDA has failed to come anywhere close to 400 seats and is in fact settling for even below the 300-seat mark, with a loss of over 56 seats. In sharp contrast, the opposition alliance, INDIA, led by the Indian National Congress, has staged a strong come back, improving its tally from barely 94 in the outgoing house to well over 230 in the new Parliament.

The recovery of the opposition alliance is led by the Congress itself, which has almost doubled its tally in the Lok Sabha from 52 to 99. Its other key alliance partners including the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhgham and Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, have all done surprisingly well for themselves.

UP dashes BJP dreams

The day delivered a number of punches to the BJP and its star candidate-campaigner outgoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. First, in the initial phases of counting, Modi himself trailed his rival from Varanasi, even if briefly, There were quite a number of other setbacks to the BJP, more permanent in nature, but the biggest blow to the BJP has come from a least expected quarter, Uttar Pradesh, which has been the fortress of the BJP for the past 10 years and has been the focus of non-stop campaigning by Modi himself as well as the focus of dozens of high-profile schemes of the government to attract investments.

In the final count, Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav, which was member of the INDIA alliance, emerged as the largest party in the state, with 37 seats, keeping the BJP down to 33. The final tally shows a seven-fold gain for SP, which had managed only five seats in 2019 elections, and a huge blow to the BJP which lost nearly half of the 62 seats that it held in the outgoing Parliament.

The re-emergence of SP and its key ally INC, which bagged eight seats in the largest state of the country, is a strong reality check for the BJP, that had focussed its high-decibel campaign on communal lines, with Modi himself mking outlandish claims against the INDIA alliance, notably Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Modi also tried to ridicule the Gandhi-Yadav duo as ‘young, naive boys’ and centred his campaign around the Ram Temple that was inaugurated amidst much brouhaha earlier this year in Ayodhya.

On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav focussed their campaign on the key issues facing the country, especially its youth – education, jobs and rising inequality. With over 250 million people, almost two-thirds of whom are under the age of 35, Uttar Pradesh is not only politcally the most powerful state in the country, but also a template of the harsh realities on the ground and the issues of unemployment, education and inequality have evidently hit the raw nerve amongst the voters who did not hesitate to indicate what mattered more to them and nothing explains that in a clearer manner than the fact that the BJP lost the election from even Faizabad, the Parliamentary seat which comprises Ayodhya.

Maharashtra defeats defections

Another strong message for Modi and the BJP has been delivered from Maharashtra, which in terms of parliamentary seats is the second largest state in the country, with 48 seats. Two years ago, the BJP engineered a down fall of the opposition alliance government led by  Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, with INC and Nationalist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar. Both Shiv Sena and NCP split and their factions joined hands with the BJP to form a new government in the state.

The country’s judiciary watched the clear violation of various laws from the sidelines and its ruling, which came over a year after the defections did little to deliver justice, not just to the plaintiffs from the two parties that had seen defections, but also to the people of Maharashtra.

Finally, when the voters got a chance to deliver their verdict on the defections and gross abuse of power by Modi and his party, they did not leave any doubts as to who they blamed. The BJP has had to rest content with Bharatiya Janata Party’s tally tumbling from 23 seats to just nine and the Congress gained 12 seats to end up as largest winner with 13 seats in the Parliament.

Bengal turns its back on BJP

West Bengal is yet another key state which had seen very aggressive and intense campaigning by Modi and his team and here, too, the BJP has been left disappointed, if not decimated. While its leaders, in their usual brash and boastful manner, pitched their target to become the largest party in the state, edging out the ruling Trinamool Congress led by three-term Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Once again, the BJP left no stone unturned, roping in cinema stars as their candidates, while going on a high-octane communal campaign overtly targetting Muslims and calling them anti-nationals, terrorists and what not.

But despite what the BJP thought was higher traction on the ground, the party has seen its seat count fall by half yet again, from 18 to barely nine, while TMC romped home with 29 seats.

Mixed fortunes for BJP in South

While the BJP did make some forays in the southern states, bagging eight seats in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, it was left with zero seats in Tamil Nadu and managed only one in Kerala, which is its first win in the state.

All these states had again witnessed unprecedented number of visits by Modi, especially Tamil Nadu where the BJP was hoping to emerge as the key opposition party, especially in view of the disarray in which the AIADMK party has been for the last few years.

The verdict in these states has been clear and resounding enough and there is a strong message for the BJP from states like Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.

But it is unlikely that Modi or other members of his party will change their tune. Already, after a day-long silence when he also remained missing from live cameras, highly unusual for Modi, when he did emerge and make a statement, he tried to put a positive spin on a visibly disappointing, if not disastrous, performance as far from breaching the 400-seat mark, he had failed to lead the BJP even to a majority on its own and has presided over a humiliating loss of over 60 seats, despite having a supplicant media and a pliant Election Commission, which had spread out the elections over an unprecedented period, allowing Modi to visit almost a third of the constitutencies.

Nonetheless, the results have already re-energised the Congress which had been suffering from unending defections and, with its alliance partners, it is set to prepare for the upcoming assembly elections in various states, starting with Maharashtra which sees elections in barely four months.

Despite all the challenges, the results have displayed that Indian democracy is alive and kicking and that voters can be fooled or distracted only for so long, before the harsh realities of life hit them again and bring the national focus back on issues that matter.

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