Winners and losers

June 16, 2024

BJP is reduced to 240 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, down from the 303 it had won in 2019

Winners and losers


e tend to remember our personal stories associated with a cataclysmic event. I still remember one fine evening on September 11, 2001, I got a call from my sister living in the United States asking me whether I was watching TV. Having recently moved out of my hostel to a two room flat, I didn’t then own a TV. I went to the next-door shop which used to have a television and found a large set of people crowding the tiny shop. It was then that the reality of what was later known as 9/11, dawned on me.

On June 4, barely a week ago, I was out late in the morning with my father-in-law for his medical tests consciously avoiding any news update on election results. As we were stepping out of the test centre, I overheard a couple of youngsters excitedly talking about Purvanchal (eastern region of Uttar Pradesh). I still didn’t dare ask them anything. Stepping out of the door, I spotted another excited rickshaw-puller whom I, in the end, couldn’t resist asking about the upcoming trends. He was looking happy, too. He started speaking and then looked at me, and halted. He said: “Modi is leading,” and then slowly added, but “the INDIA is also fighting close.” We hurried back home and I launched myself before the television, a rare action for me over the past decade or so. In hindsight, one can draw many insights from this brief episode but I’ll resist that for now.

I am also not sure whether most people will agree with my attempt to equate the significance of 9/11 with the latest election results in India, but ask any Indian, regardless of which side theyare on, they will tell you: it is unprecedented. From a record-breaking stock market crash to the parallel crash in the popularity of exit polls which were found to be heavily skewed, if not rigged, by then ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, to the opposition INDIA alliance supporters celebrating in the streets despite their inability to win enough seats to form the government, we have got a result where it is being said “everyone is happy.” The BJP has managed to form the next government with the support of its coalition partners in the NDA; the INDIA alliance, led by the Congress, has significantly increased its share of seats, and so on.

Winners and losers

But that is not true. The very evening when the results came out, the BJP held its public meeting in Delhi and Modi’s supporters anointed him as their confirmed supremo once again. But that didn’t do enough to change the morose expression writ large on the face of the now third-time prime minister. As the latest issue of the Economist says: “In late May he told a television interviewer, ‘God has sent me for a purpose.’ That purpose, it seems, was to provide a cautionary tale about overconfidence.” The cacophony of Modi’s slogan “Ab ki baar, char sau paar” (This time around, we will cross 400 seats) was so loud till the morning of the counting of votes, including from the Western media, that the fact that for some time in the morning even Modi was trailing in his constituency Varanasi (before finally managing to win it by a much-reduced margin) seemed hard to believe.

The fact that the BJP’s key stronghold Uttar Pradesh sent more MPs from the opposition Congress Party-led INDIA alliance than the BJP; the fact that Ayodhya (where he had inaugurated a Ram Temple in place of the demolished Babari Masjid) sent his two-time parliamentarian packing against a Dalit leader; and the fact that in the end the BJP was reduced to 240, 32 seats less than the absolute majority of 272 and 60 less than the previous time (2019) tell you the enormity of historical significance of the moment.

All the years of fighting, back to the wall with their hands tied, against the state oppression unleashed in myriad forms on not just the opposition parties but also on civil rights activists, NGOs, and in the end common people did come to haunt the BJP in the end.

We have got a result where it is being said “everyone is happy.” The BJP has managed to form the next government with the support of its coalition partners under the NDA; the INDIA alliance, led by the Congress, has significantly increased its seats and so on.

The BJP, in its new, emaciated avatar has tried to send the ‘business as usual’ signal with the usual faces grabbing their usual big-ticket portfolios - including Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. But even they know, they stand on shaky ground. Barely 10 days ago the slogan “Modi ki Guarantee” was pasted all across the streets of India. Instead, we constantly hear about the NDA government. According to one analysis, “In four speeches since the results, Modi mentioned the NDA 60 times. Contrast this with the last four election speeches in which he referred to himself in the third person 29 times and mentioned ‘Modi government’ 13 times.”

Winners and losers

The opportunity is huge. Besides a halt to the dream of Hindutva nationalists of converting India into a Hindu nation and making minorities (particularly Muslims) a formal pariah, there is an opportunity is to rewire the fabric of the nation with the issues that matter. There is an opportunity to halt and reverse India’s slide into the most unequal country; to halt and reverse India’s slide into being a restrictive authoritarian regime; and to halt and reverse India’s slide into being among the worst ranked on media freedom, civic space, violence against women etc. The politicians have their task cut out for them: it is to rewire the country back to a cooperative federalist polity from an extremely centralised regime, towards truly inclusive development politics, beyond the hollowed rhetoric of “sab ka sath, sab ka vikas” (a 2014 slogan given by Modi).

Most importantly, we have to win back public spaces for a constructive conversation for all, where people don’t fear saying anything in public, regardless of their identity. In this sense, the election results have shown the triumph as well as limitations of our imagination. The terror of the propaganda machinery of the Modi-led BJP was such that most of the opposition and civil society’s hopeful calculations were restricted to limiting BJP from gaining absolute majority on their own. This, they did succeed in achieving. However, we didn’t aim for the stars, envisioning a complete replacement of Modi regime by a secular and democratic regime. Hence, we didn’t get one. There is a lesson in that for the opposition and the rest of us: to imagine big, to imagine transformational change for improvement in people’s lives; all people’s lives.

Meanwhile, this is also a time to re-read and reflect on the famous words of Hindi poet ShrikantVerma:



Victory is yours!

There was no war…Our enemies went back…

They were unarmed.

Each one of them

was alone.

Each one of them

was saying:

Everyone is alone.

Still, victory is yours.



The Rajasuya is done, you have become


Only, they have left

behind misgivings.

For instance –Kosal

cannot last much longer.

There is a lack of thought in Kosal”. 

(Translated by Rahul Soni).

The writer has been in the development sector for more than a decade. He currently works with an international non-governmental organisation based in Delhi. He may be reached at

Winners and losers