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Why India’s Modi Failed To Win Outright Majority

Indian PM Narendra Modi has won a third consecutive term in a much tighter general election than anticipated.

His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks set to fall short of a majority and is leading in the 543-seat parliament, below the required 272 seats. However, its coalition partners have gained additional seats.

The results are a personal blow to Mr. Modi, who has always secured majorities in elections as both chief minister of Gujarat State and India’s prime minister, and dominated the country’s politics for a decade.

The verdict marks a surprising revival for the Congress Party-led INDIA opposition alliance, defying earlier predictions of its decline, and sharply diverging from both exit polls and pre-election surveys.

More than 640 million people voted in a marathon seven-week election, hailed as a “world record” by election authorities. Nearly half of the voters were women.

Getty Images 4: Indian National Congress (INC) Party leader Rahul Gandhi speaks during a press conference at the Congress Party headquarters in New Delhi, India on June 4, 2024. (
The opposition has staged a remarkable comeback under Rahul Gandhi

Many world leaders have crawled across the finishing line in their third term elections and Mr Modi is no exception. The BJP remains India’s single largest party by seats, and if Mr Modi secures a third term with his allies, the prime minister matches the record of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first premier.

But the significant loss of seats for his party – more than 50 – dims the allure of a third term, especially given Mr Modi’s campaign targeting 400 coalition seats, making anything less seem like an under-achievement.

This has led to jubilation in the Congress camp and some despair in BJP quarters. Despite the BJP emerging as the single largest party, the burden of hype and expectations has left many of their supporters disheartened.

Mr Modi’s supporters believe securing a third term can be attributed to several factors: a record of stable governance, the appeal of continuity, efficient welfare programmes, and the perception that he has enhanced India’s global image.

To his Hindu nationalist base, Mr Modi delivered on key manifesto promises: revoking the autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir, building the Ram temple in Ayodhya and implementing a controversial citizenship law. Many BJP-ruled states have implemented laws tightening regulations on interfaith marriages.

AFP : A billboard along an expressway presents a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) advertisement, featuring India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi promising a developed India, in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India on 24 April 2024.
Mr Modi appealed to his Hindu nationalist base by building the Ram temple in Ayodhya

The BJP’s significant drop in seats may be linked to joblessness, rising prices, growing inequality and a controversial army recruitment reform, among other things. Mr Modi’s harsh and divisive campaign, particularly targeting Muslims, could also have alienated voters in some regions.

His ambitious slogan “Ab ki baar, 400 paar,” aiming for more than 400 seats for his NDA alliance, may have backfired, with such a massive majority raising fears of constitutional changes among the poor.

Mr Modi’s party faced its largest setback in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a state larger than the United Kingdom and three times as populous. With 80 parliamentary seats, UP holds significant sway in national politics – many consider it the gateway to Delhi. Both Mr Modi and Rahul Gandhi hold seats there.

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BBC

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