Narendra Modi must return to government, now with less hegemony, and needing the support of former opponents.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared he will form the next government despite predictions that his Bharatiya Janata Party (PBJ) will lose its majority in parliament after a decade of dominance. Current trends show that the PBJ will need help from allies as a united opposition, led by the Indian National Congress (Congress), has made significant gains.

The counting of votes continues in the face of the gigantic electoral process and the surprising loss of the invincibility that Modi seemed to have. Modi’s PBJ won or leads in 240 districts, lacking the 272 seats needed for a majority in the Lok Sabha. The PBJ initially set the goal of winning more than 400 seats. This means they will have to rely on their NDA coalition partners for a majority.

These partners include the Janata Dal-United led by Nitish Kumar in the state of Bihar and the Telugu Desam Party led by Chandrababu Naidu in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. This gives outsized influence to these two regional parties. Both recently broke away from the opposition Congress Party alliance. The PTD is expected to win 16 seats and the JD(U) is on track to win 12.

Oppositional rhetoric

Over the last decade, under a PBJ majority government, India has fallen in several democratic indexes, amid accusations of repression of dissent, political opposition and the media. With the new coalition, there are expectations of greater breathing space for opponents.

Analysts say the PBJ’s strategy of focusing on cultural and identity issues did not resonate as expected, leading to significant losses, while rising prices and record unemployment were important issues for the people.

Modi had increasingly focused on allegations that the opposition planned to hand over the country’s resources to Muslims, a tactic his critics dismissed as fear-mongering. The opposition sought to corner Modi on his government’s economic record.

Overreliance on divisive policies led by Prime Minister Modi was avoidable, analysts say, adding that the ruling party could have focused on the government’s achievements in the last 10 years. As a result, the opposition was able to set the agenda during the six weeks of campaigning.

The opposition also mounted a major campaign to “save the Constitution” with the theme that the PBJ would change the constitution if it obtained an absolute majority. The Constitution, which guarantees reservations in jobs and legislatures for Dalits (the lowest caste in the population), also became a major topic of discussion in the campaign. It created fear among Dalits that the Constitution was in danger.

The Samajwadi Party, which is a major player in Uttar Pradesh, and the Congress Party, which leads India’s opposition alliance, have made social justice an important promise. This appears to have resonated with voters, especially lower caste Hindus, in a context of growing income inequality and economic difficulties.

Lost cattle in Uttar Pradesh was another problem following the state government’s 2017 decision to ban cattle slaughter. Farmers have complained that stray livestock destroy their crops.

Losses and damages

Modi’s party failed to repeat its performance in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 representatives to parliament. The PBJ won 71 and 62 in the 2014 and 2019 elections, respectively, obtaining only 33 now.

The PBJ also lost support in the agricultural regions of the north, which saw protests against the Modi government. It suffered defeats in the state of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, mainly due to farmers’ unrest due to lack of government support for the sector.

The decision to overthrow the government in the western state of Maharashtra likely cost the party dearly, as it suffered a major electoral setback in a state it has dominated for the past decade.

Factions of the far-right Hindu ultranationalist party Shiv Sena – an ally of the PBJ – are expected to win 16 seats.

The Congress and its allies are ahead in four of the six seats in Mumbai, India’s financial capital. The PBJ and its partners lead in just two, a significant change compared to 2019.


The BJP maintained its dominance in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, winning 25 of the 26 seats. Congress won just one seat, continuing a trend of PBJ dominance that began in 1995.

Suresh Gopi won the PBJ’s first victory in Kerala, a state traditionally swinging between the left and the Congress.

Modi tried to motivate PBJ supporters in his speech, highlighting the government’s achievements despite difficulties such as the pandemic and unemployment. He also focused on praising the NDA coalition, stating that the election was an endorsement of the coalition, avoiding mentioning the PBJ’s underperformance.

In his speech at the PBJ headquarters, Modi hailed the victory as an endorsement of citizens’ faith in the party and praised India’s election management.

“Since 1962, this is the first time that a government, after serving two terms, returns for a third term,” he said.

Modi added that he would promote India’s defense production, youth employment, increase exports and help farmers, among other things.

“This country will see a new chapter of great decisions. This is Modi’s guarantee,” he said, speaking in the third person.

Moral defeat

Mamata Banerjee, leader of the opposition, claimed that the arrogance of Modi and the PBJ led to his defeat, calling for his resignation. Jairam Ramesh of the Congress declared the election a moral defeat for the PBJ, advising Modi to resign due to loss of credibility.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi bounced back strongly in this election after an embarrassing defeat in 2019. Gandhi won two seats in Wayanad, Kerala, and Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh. He thanked voters but will have to give up one seat and indicated that a by-election will be necessary for the seat he chooses not to represent.

Rahul Gandhi stated that voters punished the PBJ, expressing confidence in the Indian people’s response to the party’s policies.

Opposing Modi, Smriti Irani conceded defeat in Amethi, a traditional Congress stronghold, after an impressive victory in 2019.

“Vibrant democratic process”

John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, praised the Indian people for their participation in the election and expressed Washington’s anticipation for the final results.

US-India relations are unlikely to change substantially, with India emerging as an important linchpin in US Asian policy, especially against China’s influence.

As the vote count progresses, India’s political landscape in 2024 reveals significant changes, with the BJP facing challenges in maintaining its hegemony even as Modi prepares to form the next government with crucial support from allies.


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