Many articles and even books were written about “2024 Modi’s win” before the elections were fully underway, but we can now confirm that they were quite wrong. With hindsight, we can say that 2024 was never a done deal for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), given the broader social and economic issues that remain unresolved, particularly unemployment and Rural Economic Weakness. So, as much as the markets may have hoped for stability in politics and economic policy, it will not happen.

To retain power, the BJP will now rely on regional allies like the Telugu Desam Party and the Janata Dal (United), which most observers had written off before the polls began. Worse, they may be in a position to negotiate with other alliances. Chandrababu Naidu, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin, and Akhilesh Yadav are now the most powerful regional politicians with whom all parties vying for power in Delhi will have to deal.

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The biggest loss of face is for Narendra Modi, who is far from securing his 370+ seats for the BJP (and 400-plus for the National Democratic Alliance or NDA), even a simple majority for his party. have not been able to There is no doubt that the prime minister has more charisma than his party, but 2024 is proof that no party can ultimately rely on one person to deliver victory all the time. The Congress party discovered this with the Gandhi family in the last decade or so, and the BJP would also be wise to realize this fact. It requires more than one supreme leader to be in touch with the electorate and this logic applies to regional leaders as well. Democracy can sometimes support strong leaders, but when the time comes, the electorate is ready to take the risk and vote for change.

The bad news, if one can call it that, is that anti-incumbency politics has replaced the pro-incumbency of recent years, and sham politics may once again take center stage. The BJP, having resisted rewards this time, may realize that it has paid a heavy electoral price for it, and will be more open to this kind of voter persuasion in the years to come. Moreover, if his allies continue to push him in that direction.

The clear trend this time is anti-incumbency. The BJP has lost seats in several states where it won maximum in 2019, including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. Where it has retained power are in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and the smaller states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the latter of which has delivered separate Lok Sabha and Assembly by-elections. The BJP won all the Himachal Lok Sabha seats, but lost to the Congress in the assembly by-elections.

Apart from Uttar Pradesh, the BJP suffered the most in Maharashtra, where an engineered split between the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party not only unrevealed it, but humbled its allies. BJP would probably have been better off if it had not joined these unprincipled alliances. In addition, the opposition government has also helped the BJP in Odisha, where it ousted Naveen Patnaik, and in Andhra Pradesh, where its regional allies won the day.

The strongest opposition outside the ruling coalition since 2014 will increase political pressure, not least because elections are due later this year in three major states, including Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand. , and two other (Bihar and Delhi) years, the BJP will face vigorous opposition in at least four of these states, and will have to find new allies and new policies to retain its position.

The biggest winners in 2024 are the Congress Party, which has won the Hindi heartland, and the regional parties in their strongholds. The only regional parties that lost were the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha (not surprising given Naveen Patnaik’s age and long tenure as chief minister of 24 years) and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in Telangana. BRS got too big for its boots in 2023, when it set its sights on Delhi, though its regional base was far from secure. Now it has come to an end, at the cost of which the BJP is benefiting.

Elsewhere, the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the Telugu Desam in Andhra, and the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) and NCP (Sharad Pawar) in Maharashtra have come into their own on the back of the BJP’s incompetence.

The Bahujan Samaj Party, which had its roots in Uttar Pradesh but was never a purely regional party, appears to be on the wane. This has had a huge impact on Dalit politics in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere. The group is looking for new leadership and all the regional parties, as well as the Congress and the BJP, are hoping to gain a foothold. As an aside, one can doubt that this big charge by the Congress, that the BJP can do away with reservations and quotas, has contributed to the party’s big loss in Uttar Pradesh. Dalit vote played a major role in BJP’s poor show in Uttar Pradesh this time.

The leads and wins available till the evening of June 4 seem to suggest that the BJP was not weak enough to lose, and the opposition not strong enough to win. This suggests that the NDA has to run its next government as a heterodox coalition, and not as a majority party. This may not bode well for stability in politics or economics, but it confirms India’s extreme diversity, where unity will always be difficult to achieve.

For Narendra Modi and his party, this will be more than a sobering result. The message sent by the voter is clear: no leader is greater than the voter.

The author is the editorial director of Swarajya Magazine.



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