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Democracy Strikes Back: Modi’s Absolute Majority Dreams Shattered in Indian Elections

A photo of a street in Delhi

Staff Writers Aryan Pandla and Abhinav Poludasu reflect on the results from the recent election in India, considering its impact on Narendra Modi’s power and society as a whole.

Over 640 million votes were cast by citizens in the recent Indian election. The election was not merely a political contest; it was a vibrant expression of democracy triumphing over authoritarianism. Narendra Modi might have secured a third term as Prime Minister, but his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fell short of the 272-seat majority required to govern independently. This unexpected result means the party must rely on coalition partners to govern. The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) coalition secured a total of 292 seats, with the BJP itself winning 240. This outcome signifies a profound shift, showing that the Indian electorate rose to the challenge, rejecting authoritarianism, bigotry, and regressive politics.

Narendra Modi’s aspiration for a 400-seat landslide victory turned into a sobering reality, with the BJP securing only 240 seats and the NDA coalition tallying 292 seats. This result highlights a victory that feels like a defeat for Narendra Modi, who must now navigate the complexities of coalition governance. Key allies, like Nitish Kumar from Bihar and Chandrababu Naidu from Andhra Pradesh, have emerged as kingmakers, competing for influential cabinet positions. This demonstrates that Indians have chosen a democratic alternative over the status quo.

The BJP’s formidable campaign machinery was fuelled by far more financial resources than everyone else. Multiple outlets were deploying the phrase ‘abki baar, 400 paar’ which essentially refers to the party seeking to gain 400 seats. Still, the BJP could not secure the decisive mandate Modi sought. In a political landscape dominated by one party’s narrative, the electorate’s decision to withhold an outright majority from the BJP is a powerful statement against the centralisation of power and erosion of democratic norms.

India’s opposition, previously dismissed by many polls and analysts, made a significant comeback. They achieved their strongest performance in the past decade, framing the result as a rebuke against Narendra Modi’s polarizing approach. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Indian National Congress, stated that early election trends indicated the nation had “unanimously and clearly” expressed a desire for change, rejecting Narendra Modi and his party’s leadership. Congress led a coalition of opposition parties aiming to unseat Modi. Though they fell short of this goal, they have tarnished his image of electoral invincibility.

The results revealed that the opposition chipped away at BJP’s seats, including in some of their traditional strongholds. The most significant setback for the BJP occurred in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a crucial battleground, that was turned after 7 years by the opposition. UP, with 80 parliamentary constituencies and almost 250 million residents, plays a crucial role in determining the national government. The Samajwadi Party (SP)-Congress alliance’s strong performance underscores the electorate’s demand for change. 

In Varanasi, a city viewed as a spiritual hub in India, Congress candidate Ajay Rai significantly reduced Modi’s winning margin from almost half a million votes to just above 150,000. At one point, Modi even trailed Rai by a few thousand votes, creating nationwide suspense before eventually securing a comfortable win in his own constituency.

In contrast, Rahul Gandhi secured the Rae Bareli constituency, by a margin of 390,000 votes swinging it in his favour. Shifting our focus to Amethi, Smriti Irani from the BJP, who is the incumbent Minister of Women and Child Development, lost to Kishori Lal from Congress. This marked a reversal from 2019 when Irani secured a victory over Gandhi in Amethi by 55,000 votes, ending the Gandhi family’s long-standing hold on the seat. This further illustrates the shifting political tides.

Their downfall in Faizabad, the constituency of Ayodhya, was a particularly shocking loss to the BJP. Despite their campaign centered around the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the loss epitomises the electorate’s resistance to divisive politics. The SP-Congress alliance’s success in traditional BJP strongholds reflects a broader dissatisfaction with Modi’s governance among diverse voter bases, including younger voters and marginalised communities. The allure of religious supremacy was insufficient to address people’s material needs. Indians have spoken that they want employment, hospitals, and schools, rather than temples.

Furthermore, the Indian electorate has unequivocally declared that “tanashahi nahi chalegi” – authoritarianism will not prevail. This election is a testament to the resilience of India’s democratic spirit. The opposition, emboldened by this mandate, will now have a stronger voice in parliament. Freedom of speech and expression is poised to flourish, and the judiciary may become more assertive in upholding the constitution’s principles.

This election has reinforced India’s dedication to pluralism, inclusivity, and standing against oppressive rule. Indian voters have once again proven that their democratic system is strong and capable of challenging even the most entrenched political forces. Protests, democratic movements, and resistance to oppressive strength will once again thrive in Indian politics. It is a victory for democracy and for India.

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