India’s opposition leveraged caste and constitution to shock Modi in election

By Reuters
June 15, 2024
A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man shows his ink-marked finger after voting, outside a polling station during the fifth phase of India's general election, in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India, May 20, 2024. — Reuters

AYODHYA/VARANASI, India: A seminal moment in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unsuccessful campaign to retain his parliamentary majority occurred days before India’s marathon election began in April.


Speaking in the constituency that includes the Hindu temple town of Ayodhya, lawmaker Lallu Singh said that his and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was seeking a supermajority in parliament’s lower chamber to make material changes to the constitution.

Opposition parties latched onto Singh’s remark to assert, without evidence, that the BJP would amend modern India’s founding document to strip Hindus at the bottom of the caste hierarchy of access to affirmative action policies.

The attack line hit a nerve - splitting the Hindu vote and ending the BJP’s decade-long dominance in the country’s most populous state.

Opinion polls had pointed to a landslide in Ayodhya’s home state of Uttar Pradesh and nationally but when results came through on June 4, the BJP had lost 29 seats in the state - nearly half of all the party’s losses nationwide.