India starts to wake up?

The exit polls had predicted a comfortable win for Narendra Modi’s BJP

By Editorial Board
June 06, 2024
Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, arrives to address the media after the initial poll results in Karnataka elections at the party headquarters, in New Delhi, India on May 13. — Reuters

The Indian election results were finally announced on June 4 after six weeks of polling that ended on June 1 with about 642 million votes cast. The exit polls had predicted a comfortable win for Narendra Modi’s BJP but the results that came out on Tuesday sent shockwaves across India. Unexpected but widely hailed, the results show a country that seems to be waking up from an unfortunate slumber. Yes, Modi is all set to become the prime minister of India for a third time as the BJP needed 272 seats for a majority in the lower house of parliament, which it got due to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that has won 294 of the 543 seats. However, the real surprise was that the BJP was not able to secure a majority on its own, winning only 240 seats compared to the 303 seats it won on its own back in the 2019 elections.


Modi had claimed that the BJP would win more than 400 seats but the party lost more seats than expected, especially some key seats that made headlines like ‘India cuts Modi down’ in the Indian media. The reliance on its coalition partners will make the Modi-led government a weak coalition that will have a lot of checks and balances. Surprisingly, the opposition INDIA alliance, which is led by the Indian National Congress party, won 232 seats. Congress itself has won 99 seats. This makes a departure from the last two terms where the Indian opposition was extremely weak. Now India will have a strong opposition to challenge Modi’s hegemonic and authoritarian style of governance after a decade. Many in India say that the Indian voters have spoken against Modi and the BJP’s politics of hate and divisiveness, especially Modi’s recent anti-Muslim rants that were not just factually incorrect and full of hate speech but also led to more fear amongst the country’s largest minority. Fortunately, the Indian voters have rejected the politics of hate. One of the major surprises – and a most heartening and vindicating surprise – was the BJP losing the Ayodhya seat where they built a temple in place of the demolished Babri Masjid and played up the anti-Muslim card massively.

These results are being seen in India as a wakeup call for the BJP and Modi’s politics, which targeted minorities, arrested political rivals, co-opted the Indian media, benefitted the corrupt Indian elite, had a stronghold on the judiciary and compromised the Indian election commission. Many are hopeful now that there will be breathing space for the country’s minorities as well as critics of the Modi government. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had led a campaign that focused on bringing India together with solidarity and not dividing it along the lines of hate. After a decade or more of an India that was not just not shining but falling into the lowest depths of communal hatred, the Indian voter seems to have said: Enough. The much vaunted ‘silent voter’ really did turn up it seems and spoke through the ballot – a powerful tool in any democracy. Modi has been cut to size because the world’s largest democracy has started to question his authoritarian hold on governance. It is perhaps not enough for those who have been lynched and harassed and threatened during the past Modi years but this is a beginning. Modi 3.0 will have to learn to play with others in the playground.