Win for Democracy

Nearly 970 million people, or over 10 per cent of the global population, were eligible to vote in India’s general elections over 7 phases, which began with the initial phase on 19 April and lasted until 1 June.

Subhasini Naicker Wednesday 05th June 2024 07:15 EDT

With the culmination of the Indian general election of 2024, the nation stands at the threshold of a new chapter in its democratic saga.

This time, the people of India (Bharat) and democracy have emerged victorious and kingmakers. Beyond the election results, their voices have shaped the nation's political landscape and future.

The results brought significant surprises, with the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, won 240 seats, falling short of the 272-seat majority mark in the Lok Sabha. However, with its allies, the BJP still secured a majority, while the opposition INDIA alliance, led by the Indian National Congress party, won 234 seats. 

As we went into the press, leaders of both NDA and INDIA alliances reached Delhi to hold discussions on the way forward. Interestingly, Nitish Kumar, known for his record of political flip-flops, was on the same flight as INDIA ally and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav as they fly to Delhi to attend separate meetings. Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu confirms that the party is with NDA. 

The BJP managed to avoid a potential debacle through victories in key regions like Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, thanks to its ally TDP, as well as by defending strongholds such as Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. It also performed well in Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand, and, alongside ally JD(U), maintained dominance in Bihar. However, it faced potential losses in crucial Hindi heartland states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana as well as West Bengal. 

If Modi becomes the prime minister, taking oath on Saturday, he’ll be the second leader after Jawaharlal Nehru to serve three consecutive terms as Prime Minister, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee also having served three terms, though not consecutively.
Investors globally dislike surprises and prefer stability, but both were notably absent during trading on Dalal Street. The result was an unprecedented 4,390-point crash and a Rs 31-lakh-crore wealth destruction in just six-and-a-half hours.

In a remarkable milestone, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar announced that 642 million voters, including 312 million women, participated in the electoral process. Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, he highlighted the involvement of over 68,000 monitoring teams and 1.5 million polling and security personnel. Kumar noted that India set a world record with 64.2 crore voters, including 31.2 crore women, casting their ballots in the Lok Sabha elections this year. Additionally, he emphasised that Jammu and Kashmir experienced its highest turnout in four decades, with an overall turnout of 58.58 percent and 51.05 percent in the Valley.

Insights on key candidates

In this general election, India witnessed both triumphs and setbacks. The BJP, a dominant force for the past decade, faces formidable challenges as vote counting progresses. Surprisingly, the Congress-led Opposition India bloc emerges as a strong contender, challenging the BJP's dominance. 

Key BJP figures, including Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Om Birla, Hema Malini, and Kangana Ranaut, secured victories in their constituencies. However, Union minister Smriti Irani, who was hailed as a giant killer in the 2019 elections after she defeated Rahul Gandhi, lost the prestigious seat of Amethi. BJP candidate K Annamalai, a former IPS officer, contested from the Coimbatore seat in hopes of making significant strides in Tamil Nadu. BJP's Shankar Lalwani won the Indore Lok Sabha seat by over 11 lakh votes, a contest notable for a record number of NOTA (none of the above) votes. Lalwani, the incumbent MP, received 12,26,751 votes, defeating Bahujan Samaj Party's Sanjay, who secured 51,659 votes. A BJP leader claimed this victory margin might be the highest in India's electoral history. 

Key candidates from the INDIA bloc, including Akhilesh Yadav, Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor, and Kanimozhi, have secured victories. Formed just a year ago, the bloc won 234 seats, establishing itself as a strong national opposition to the BJP-led NDA government. 

In contrast, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party suffered a significant setback by failing to secure a single seat in Delhi. Despite Kejriwal framing the polls as a virtual referendum on his incarceration with the slogan “jail ka jawab vote se,” the strategy did not yield the desired results. This election result has become a wake up call for them, especially with the Delhi assembly election due to be held next year. 

Despite challenges such as Nitish Kumar's exit, the bloc has successfully united Congress and regional parties. The Congress party has notably increased its seat count to 99, up from 44 in 2014 and 52 in 2019. This improvement is attributed to a strategic shift in their election approach, including initiatives like the Bharat Jodo Yatra and the formation of the INDIA bloc to counter the BJP. With the NDA holding a slim majority, the INDIA bloc aims to strengthen its efforts and potentially seek alliances with NDA allies. 

At least seven independent candidates have won the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The leading contenders are Sarabjeet Singh Khalsa, engineer Rashid and Amritpal Singh, a convicted pro-Khalistani among others.

PM Modi hails results, sets tone for next term

After a day of setbacks and speculations over the next government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is returning to power for the third time.

In a speech to BJP workers at the party headquarters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the BJP's third consecutive victory, noting it as a historic achievement since no party has done so since 1962. He expressed gratitude to the people of India for the mandate, calling the election results a triumph of democracy.

"This is the victory of democracy. This is the victory of 'Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas'. It is a victory for 1.4 billion people. We are grateful to the people for retaining their faith in the NDA," Modi said. He emphasised the people's support, stating that they have "blessed" him in the elections and that he humbly acknowledges their faith in him.

Modi also highlighted the pride in India's vibrant democracy. "Today is Bada Mangal, and on this auspicious day, the NDA is set to form the government for the third consecutive time. We are all very grateful to the people. The countrymen have expressed full faith in the BJP and the NDA," he added.

Big wins for BJP

In a direct battle for Madhya Pradesh's 29 seats, the BJP has secured a sweeping victory for the third consecutive time, facing off against the Congress. The polling, conducted in four phases of the Lok Sabha election on April 19, April 26, May 7, and May 13, witnessed a total voter turnout of 67.75%, 58.59%, 66.75%, and 72.05% respectively. Despite Congress contesting on 27, the BJP won all 29 seats, including wresting away Congress' sole seat. Additionally, Congress' backing of All India Forward Bloc (AIFB)'s R.B. Prajapati for the Khajuraho seat further delineates the BJP's dominance in the region. In both 2014 and 2019, the BJP had secured clear majorities, winning 27 and 28 seats respectively.

The BJP has secured a majority in the Odisha Assembly by winning 78 seats out of the 147-member House. The BJD, which has held power in Odisha since 2000, secured 51 Assembly seats, while the Congress won 14 seats. In the 2019 Assembly elections, the BJD won 113 seats, with the BJP securing 23 seats and the Congress 9 seats. Preliminary estimates indicate a vote share of 40.18% for the BJD and 39.96% for the BJP in the Assembly polls. Additionally, in the Odisha Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has won 20 out of 21 seats, while the BJD has secured one seat.

Kerala, traditionally a stronghold of the left, has posed challenges for the BJP due to its Hindu majoritarian politics. However, a significant shift occurred this year as the BJP's candidate, Suresh Gopi, emerged victorious in the Thrissur constituency, marking the party's first Lok Sabha parliamentarian from Kerala. Gopi secured victory by a margin of 74,686 votes. Meanwhile, the Congress secured 18 seats in the southern state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has secured a resounding victory in the capital for the third consecutive time, clinching all seven Lok Sabha seats: South Delhi, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, Northeast, East Delhi, West Delhi, and North-West Delhi. According to the Election Commission website, BJP candidates Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, Praveen Khandelwal, Bansuri Swaraj, Harsh Malhotra, Manoj Tiwari, Kamaljeet Sehrawat, and Yogender Chandoliya emerged victorious with impressive margins of 1,24,333, 89,325, 78,000, 93,663, 1,38,778, 1,99,013, and 2,90,849 votes respectively.

Gujarat, known as a stronghold of the BJP, showcased the party's substantial influence once again. Despite facing electoral setbacks in various parts of the country, Gujarat remained steadfast in its support for its native leader, Narendra Modi. The BJP clinched 25 out of 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state. However, the opposition saw a glimmer of success as Congress's Geniben Thakor won the Banaskantha seat, ending the BJP's decade-long hold on the constituency.

The BJP-led NDA won 30 seats in Bihar while the INDIA bloc secured nine seats. NDA partners BJP and JD-U bagged 12 seats each, Chirag Paswan-led LJP-Ram Vilas (LJPRV) won five, and Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) got one seat. While the BJP lost its majority in the polls, the alliance led by it easily passed the magic number of 272 seats.

Indian election takeaways for UK politics

Before the election, the BJP-led NDA aimed for 400 parliamentary seats, a goal echoed by pundits. Despite comfortably crossing the 272-seat threshold to form the government, they fell far short of the ambitious target. Asian Voice interviewed experts to gather their insights on the Indian general election and its potential lessons for the UK.

Head of the ‘ Diasporic communities’ desk at the International Centre for Sustainability (ICfS), Nitish Rai Parwani noted that, for the first time in a decade, no single party will command a parliamentary majority. He said, “With over 40% of seats, the BJP is poised to emerge as the largest party in government for a third consecutive term. The Congress party secured 99 seats, its highest since 2014, ensuring an official leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. Regional parties will also have increased representation in both Parliament and the government. While a coalition government may lead to slower decision-making, heightened consultations and diverse representations are expected in policy formation, as indicated by the dwindling market confidence.”

He further added that, “The BJP's performance in states like Maharashtra, Haryana, and especially Uttar Pradesh demands introspection, deviating from past trends and exit poll projections. However, the party retained dominance in Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, and Gujarat, and made inroads in Kerala. While the BJP is likely to form a central government with alliance support, its optimism is buoyed by expected gains in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) due to strong performances in state assembly elections in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh.”

Speaking about what the UK can learn from Indian general elections, Nitish emphasised the impact of political complacency on altering expectations. He said, “In India, exit polls suggested a clear majority for a particular party, leading to relaxed campaigning and low voter turnout among local workers, resulting in the party falling short of expectations by about 100 seats. This trend mirrors observations in the UK, where the upcoming July 4th elections exhibit signs of subdued campaigning and defections, potentially surprising poll predictors.”

“Examining the interplay between national results and local trends, Uttar Pradesh, traditionally a BJP stronghold, witnessed recent elections defying expectations, showcasing a disconnect between national and local sentiment. Similarly, recent local elections in the UK have favoured Labour over the Conservatives, suggesting a potential disparity between local and national voting patterns, “ he added.

Nitish underscored the economy's role in elections, while it holds significance in political narratives, its impact on voter behaviour varies. He said, “Despite India's economic growth, the BJP's electoral gains were modest. In the UK, Labour criticises the Tories' economic management, yet the correlation between economic performance and electoral outcomes remains complex, especially as the economy shows signs of recovery under Conservative leadership.”

Speaking about factors that contributed to the BJP not achieving their anticipated results in the 2024 general election, Reader in Culture and Law, Queen Mary, University of London, Dr Prakash Shah said, “The factors may be many, such as the inability of the BJP to present any coherent national story which does not pander to sectional interests to which the opposition pandered; the standing back of the RSS this time, even though they could have brought out more voters; and a fairly united INDIA opposition who knew that if they didn’t unite they would have become reduced to regional parties but disappeared from national relevance. As it is, however, the BJP remains the only nationwide political force; the Congress has gained seats probably because of two factors: promising freebies, the elimination of the competition who instead became part of the electoral pact, and Muslims voting en bloc. The last does not make them a national party but a primarily sectarian one; some are comparing them to the Muslim League of the 20th century, and we know how that ended up. The results beg the questions whether Indians as a whole reward successes on “big” issues like national economic growth, infrastructure, or foreign policy successes.”

Prakash further stated that like India, Britain has fissiparous tendencies. He said, “The lack of a national story is going to hurt both the Conservative and Labour Party as it has the BJP and will benefit the smaller parties who will get protest votes and be tempted to pander to sectional or regional interests. The rising Muslim population, although not yet to the level in India, has already begun to make itself felt over the last 20 years first after the Iraq War and now because of their antipathy towards Jews and Israel. Unlike the India’s INDIA opposition, the Labour Party has sent mixed signals about their support for Israel and will probably haemorrhage votes as a result. Because British electoral systems make a Muslim party difficult to form, they will turn against the Labour Party once more and vote for the smaller parties or field independent candidates which will split the vote on the left.”

Return of regional parties

As the votes for the 2024 Lok Sabha election are counted, regional parties witness a significant resurgence in their respective states. From Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, these parties have surged, signalling a pivotal moment in their ascension. Uttar Pradesh is one of the biggest stories of this Lok Sabha elections.

Samajwadi Party and Congress are performing much better than what the exit polls had predicted. Akhilesh Yadav has surprised everyone with a strong show and has even helped the Congress improve its performance in the state. The BJP also lost Faizabad which includes Ayodhya. Clearly, Ram temple is not leading to much gains for the BJP in the state.

In Maharashtra, The Uddhav Thackeray–led Shiv Sena (UBT) has secured nine seats and tied up with the BJP, reaffirming that the Thackeray brand continues to rule a strong vote puller in Mumbai, despite a split in the party, countless allegations and central agency probes and perennial flow of turncoats. The Indian National Congress has won in total 13 seats. Out of the six seats in Mumbai, the ruling alliance won two seats with Shiv Sena’s Ravindra Waikar emerging as winner in a nail biting finish emerging triumphant with 48 votes from Mumbai North West. The BJP’s Piyush Goyal won the second seat from Mumbai North.

In West Bengal, All India Trinamool Congress party, commonly known as TMC has won in 29 constituencies. While BJP has won in 12 seats and Congress won in one seat. In the 2019 polls, TMC had bagged 22 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The BJP had then won 18. TMC MP and national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has won in West Bengal’s Diamond Harbour by a margin of 7,10,930 votes in the Lok Sabha election. Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee stated, “I am happy the Prime Minister did not achieve a majority. He has lost credibility and should resign, especially after claiming they would win over 400 seats. Despite their atrocities and lavish spending, Modi and Amit Shah's arrogance has been defeated. INDIA has won, and they have even lost in Ayodhya.”

 N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party (TDP) made a comeback in Andhra Pradesh assembly by winning 135 seats. The party contested the polls in alliance with BJP and Pawan Kalyan's Jana Sena Party. The party has announced that Naidu will take oath as the Chief Minister on June 9 and PM Modi will attend the ceremony.

What went wrong for BJP and Modi this time around

It's evident that the BJP's ambitious "400 paar" campaign has faltered, with the party struggling to reach the majority mark. Despite a highly aggressive and polarising campaign, issues like high unemployment, inflation, and the controversial Agniveer scheme seem to have influenced voter sentiment.

Uttar Pradesh, historically crucial for the BJP, has witnessed a significant shift. In 2024, the Samajwadi Party (SP) won 37 seats, with the Congress also making gains compared to previous elections. The BJP's seat count has dwindled to 33, signalling a notable change in the state's political landscape.

In Maharashtra, voters have leaned towards Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, marginalising the BJP and its allies. Other NDA partners have performed well, but the BJP's aggressive campaign, coupled with issues like unemployment and inflation, has taken a toll on its prospects.

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