Lok Sabha elections results 2024

Lok Sabha elections results: A win by any margin is just as sweet


The recent election results in India have shown a decline in BJP’s performance, challenging Narendra Modi’s authority. The BJP fell short of expectations, signaling a shift in the country’s political landscape.

Hurrah for democracy! Rarely has an election ended with the losers celebrating more than the winners. The BJP’s claim that it would exceed 400 seats has been exposed as a fairy tale. Voters have sent an unmistakable message that India is not going to become a saffronised fiefdom of the BJP.

Communal hate speech has not won votes. Dissent and media criticism, muzzled in the last five years, will no longer be easily tamed. It is a victory for all fundamental values of a democracy. Liberal excitement over the BJP’s setbacks must not obscure the bottom line — that Narendra Modi is back in power. When the hurly-burly’s done, what matters is who won, not the margin of victory. But his capacity to shape India’s future stands transformed.

Modi’s authority, once seemingly unchallenged, has crumpled. There is no question of his attempting major changes in the Constitution. The BJP has fallen far short of a majority on its own for the first time in his three attempts. India has returned to the uncertainties and changing loyalties of coalition era. The BJP ultimately scraped through thanks to fair-weather friends like Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu.

Both have ditched it in the past, and they will demand more respect and consultation this time. But there seems no chance that they will ditch the BJP again in the short term. The long run is always fuzzy. Remember the old dictum — there is no such thing as unconditional support in politics, or even life.

The stock markets, which had been buoyed by fanciful exit polls, duly crashed. But they are still up significantly over the last 12 months. They would have crashed even more spectacularly had the NDA lost. The markets prefer continuity. Besides, they will continue to be pumped up by a monthly inflow of Rs 20,000 crore from SIPs.
The BJP manifesto had promised no radical changes, just more of the same. So, economic policy will continue in the same groove. Government capex will remain high. Atmanirbhar Bharat, production-linked incentives, protectionism and curbs on Chinese imports and investments will continue. Chip production and green hydrogen will remain major incubation areas. The BJP’s weak performance cannot be attributed to slack economic growth, which hit an impressive 8.2%. But the party can argue it was unlucky in going to the polls after an El Niño year that pulled down farm production and employment in a mainly rural country.

Modi boasted 74% popular approval, the highest for any democratic leader. The exit polls suggested an NDA sweep. Why, then, did the BJP not fare better? The answer is that when dissent is curbed and too many media outlets become fawning courtiers, the leadership is denied information about what is going wrong and where dissatisfaction is spreading. Fear prompts bogus praise and support for the leader, and dissenters prefer to keep silent. The truth only comes out in a secret ballot.

Right now, the data defy any easy explanation of the BJP’s decline. Unemployment and inflation were issues for the voters. But then why did the BJP sweep MP, which is no champion in employment, but come a cropper in UP? In the state elections six months ago, the BJP won Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh. Of the three, why did only Rajasthan turn against the BJP this time? Clearly local issues matter a lot. The BJP’s big gain has been in Odisha, where it ousted five-time chief minister Naveen Patnaik. However, it has lost serious ground in West Bengal.

The BJP says it gained ground in the south. But its win in Andhra Pradesh was entirely due to its partners, the TDP and Jana Sena Party. Its one seat in Kerala reflects the candidate-actor’s popularity, rather than the party’s.

This article was originally published by The Economic Times on June 5, 2024.

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