Indian General Election 2024: Hat-trick for BJP, revival for Congress

Narendra Modi remains in power, but with diminished stature ( Facebook photo)

Venu Menon
Wellington, June 6, 2024

Incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies look set to govern India on the back of a simple majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) crafted a hat-trick by winning 293 seats and securing a third successive term in the 543-strong Parliament.

But the BJP, with its tally of 240 seats, is under compulsion to negotiate with its allies – the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Janata Dal (United) (JDU) –  to form a governing coalition at the Centre.

However, the NDA fell short of the majority it had secured in the 2019 general election, while the Opposition INDIA bloc, led by the Indian National Congress, posted surprise gains in the Hindi heartland along with a dominant showing in the southern states in the just concluded general election.

In the post-election scenarios of 2014 and 2019, the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi had commanded a single-party majority, with the NDA serving as a revolving door for allies to subsequently enter and exit the alliance.

But the 2024 Lok Sabha election has put the NDA back on centre stage as an alliance, held together by the BJP, the TDP and the JD(U) as interdependent allies.

The TDP first joined the NDA in 1996, left in 2018 and rejoined the alliance in February 2024 after sweeping in Andhra Pradesh, its leader Chandrababu Naidu now a kingmaker at the Centre.

JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar from Bihar, who has also played hot and cold with the NDA in the past, has returned to the multi-party alliance in 2024 and is key to government formation at the Centre in the poll aftermath.

The opposition INDIA bloc scripted it’s come-back narrative by claiming 233 seats, with the Congress Party garnering 99 seats.

Political parties not affiliated to either alliance led in the eastern parts of the country.

In 2019, the BJP-led NDA won 353 seats, of which 303 were bagged by the BJP alone.

In 2024, the NDA has emerged with a depleted vote share in the Hindi belt and in western India compared to 2019, while the INDIA bloc gained across regions, especially in western India where its vote share increased by 16.8%.

But the political landscape has changed since the last general election. The bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh, with 80 Parliament seats and where the BJP has ruled since 2017, saw the resurgence of the Samajwadi Party (SP), a constituent of the opposition INDIA bloc.

A stunning setback for the BJP has been  the loss of the Faizabad constituency in UP where Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the Ram temple in Ayodhya in January.

But the big gains by the opposition grouping in UP went beyond the bonhomie between SP leader Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The SP has traditionally been a magnet for Muslim votes. That factor apart, this time around the groundswell of discontent among young voters with the BJP’s perceived failure to deliver on bread-and-butter issues is likely to have played a part in its diminished showing in the state.

There was clearly a disconnect between the BJP’s political agenda centred on the Ram temple and a shortfall in delivering economic outcomes.

In 2019, Modi won the Varanasi seat by 500,000 votes. This time his victory margin shrunk to 152,000 votes.

Gandhi family upbeat in poll aftermath (Facebook photo)

Rahul Gandhi, standing in for his mother Sonia, won Rae Bareli by a handsome margin of 390,000 votes, avenging his defeat in the Gandhi family pocket borough of Amethi five years ago. The BJP’s Smriti Irani, who unseated Gandhi in Amethi then, had her Waterloo moment in the hands of Kishori Lal of the Congress in 2024.

Maharashtra, the western state where the BJP fell out with local entity Shiv Sena, left a political vacuum that the Congress has managed to fill in this election.

In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress has continued to hold sway in the key eastern state, where the BJP lost ground compared to its last showing in 2019.

But in Kerala, ruled by the leftwing coalition led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the BJP achieved a long-cherished but elusive milestone by securing its first parliamentary seat from the state when actor-turned-politician Suresh Gopi won in the Thrissur constituency.

But that euphoric win was partly dampened by the party’s unsuccessful bid to oust the Congress’s Shashi Tharoor in the Thiruvananthapuram constituency. Tharoor tipped a tight contest in his favour on the back of the Congress-leaning monolithic minority vote of the coastal belt, and sealed his fourth term in Parliament.

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its alliance with the INDIA bloc took a majority of the parliamentary seats in the state, blitzing the AIADMK-BJP combine. Karnataka is the only southern state where the BJP still has a weakened hold.

The legacy of Lok Sabha Election 2024 is that a chastened Narendra Modi now has to negotiate with his alliance partners and observe the norms of consensual politics.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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