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India Delivers Shock Verdict on Narendra Modi

The results of the Indian election on June 4th were historic and humbling for India’s PM Narendra Modi. The results contradicted the exit polls that came out 3 days before, which predicted an overwhelming victory for Modi.

However, once the election trends started to reveal themselves, PM Modi’s party (the BJP) was always in for a shock, as the party lost a significant chunk of seats in Uttar Pradesh (UP). This state contributes 80 seats (the highest in India) to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s Parliament). In comparison, the last election in 2019 saw the NDA (the alliance that includes Modi’s party) swept UP, winning 62 of the 80 seats. Modi will now have to rule with the help of allies, the Telugu Desam Party, and the Janata Dal (United), who contribute a significant number of seats to the alliance (28).

Many factors attributed to the BJP’s loss in UP, Maharashtra, and West Bengal. In UP, there was anti-incumbency against the local chief minister Mr. Yogi Adityanath (touted as one of Modi's successors). Several factors played a part in the emergence of the anti-incumbency, such as unemployment, lack of recruitment for government jobs, and stray cattle. The statements of motormouth BJP MPs and other functionaries, hinting at a change in the Constitution (scrapping job reservations for the Scheduled Castes/Tribes) if they received 400 (2/3rd majority required to effect a change in India’s constitution) seats also created fear in the Dalit communities and resulted in them voting en masse against the BJP in Eastern UP.

In Maharashtra, the state that sends the second-highest number of seats to the Lok Sabha (48), the ruling NDA could muster only 17 seats. The factors that contributed to the losses were the growing agrarian distress, along with the decision by the BJP to team up with two parties (the Shiv Sena and the NCP) it split to form the State Government. The voters seem to have sympathised with and recognized the leaders of the breakaway factions, Sharad Pawar (a veteran of Indian politics) and Uddhav Thackeray. In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who contested solo, held her fort as she won 29 of the 42 seats: a 7-seat improvement from the last election in 2019. Several factors, including her general popularity, were attributed to her success. The BJP had been pinning high hopes on West Bengal to increase their majority in the Lok Sabha but were reduced to 12 seats: a 6-seat reduction from 2019.

The BJP managed considerable gains in the South and East, particularly in the states of Telangana and Odisha. In the latter, it managed to win 20 out of the 21 parliamentary seats and usurped the long-standing Chief Minister of the State, Naveen Patnaik. Additionally, It managed to open its account in the state of Kerala, long regarded as a bastion of the opposition parties, by winning the seat of Thrissur.

The PM and his Council of Ministers took oath on Sunday, 9th of June. Their two most important allies, the TDP and the JDU have secured a cabinet rank and a minister of state (junior minister) position. Furthermore, the other allies have either managed to secure a cabinet rank or a minister of state position. In terms of the distribution of portfolios, one must credit the BJP for having managed it deftly. They have managed to retain the most important portfolios and ministers. It includes the CCS (the Cabinet Committee on Security), which comprises the PM, the Defence, Home (Interior), Finance, and the Foreign ministerial posts. It has allotted other important portfolios, such as civil aviation and rural panchayati raj & fisheries, to the TDP and JDU respectively. For now, the BJP has managed to temper the expectations of its allies. It remains to be seen if their demands increase.

For now, they have pledged unconditional support to the BJP. The allies, mainly the TDP, have a lot to gain from the Union Government as well, since Andhra Pradesh (AP), the state in which they have won power, has just elected them with a humongous majority (the BJP along with Jana Sena will be junior partners to the TDP in AP) and is the youngest state in India. The New Government in AP will require a lot of support from the Union Government to build their capital, Amaravati. The other allies, the JDU and the Shiv Sena require the support of the BJP to run their respective state governments.

The real test for the BJP is likely to be the upcoming assembly elections in Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra. Depending on the results, the allies might increase their demands, or the BJP could make clandestine moves to poach MPs from other parties to shore up their numbers.

It is still early days, but given the fact that Modi and his lieutenant, Amit Shah, are canny politicians, one must not overestimate the strength of the allies and underestimate the strength of the BJP.

Image: Prime Minister's Office

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