Anne Sandager
1 week ago

Indian Election: Why Voters Turned their Back on Modi

Why did Modi perform so far below expectations?
Bharatiya Janta Party leader and chief minister of gujarat narendra modi interview to media after terrorist attack by deccan mujahideen ; India — Photo by xyz fotos
Bharatiya Janta Party leader and chief minister of gujarat narendra modi interview to media after terrorist attack by deccan mujahideen ; India — Photo by xyz fotos

The Indian election upset last night has put pundits and polls to shame. With all India’s 640 million votes counted–in what is considered the biggest election in history–it is clear that incumbent Narendra Modi will likely remain Prime Minister for a third consecutive term. 

However, his mandate has weakened substantially. His party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 240 seats out of 543 in the lower house of India’s parliament: short of the 272 threshold needed for an outright majority. With allied parties, Modi secures a governing majority of 283 seats.

This result is way off the predictions of the latest exit polls published on June 1 which predicted an easy win for the BJP-led coalition with well over 350 seats. Several polls including News 24-Today’s Chanakya even predicted a 400-seat majority for Modi and allies. The BJP had even started flaunting a ‘plus 400’ [seats] campaign slogan (400 paar) reflecting their confidence in a landslide victory.

Now the Prime Minister will have to secure and lead a coalition government–a common sight in India historically, but surely an unsettling prospect for the most powerful Indian leader in this century.

Why did Modi perform so far below expectations? Here are three key reasons:

  1. Opposition

    Unlike the 2019 general election, the cohesion between the 26 parties in the ‘INDIA’ opposition alliance appeared more robust in this year’s election.

    The leaders of the two biggest parties in the opposition, Indian National Congress and the Samajwadi Party have held mega rallies together throughout the campaign season and defended each other on social media.

    This stands in stark contrast to the 2019 election when the ideologically segregated opposition bloc failed to portray itself as a reliable alternative to a governing coalition.

  1. Economy

    The most shocking result of this year’s election was arguably Modi’s defeat in the populous Uttar Pradesh region (UP).

    The 240 million inhabitants of UP have handed INDIA control of the state with 47 parliamentary seats out of 80 available. An embarrassing defeat in a region where BJP have had the majority since 2017 and where Modi himself has run for elections.

    Political analyst and Hindi professor Apoorvanand tells Al Jazeera that young voters in Uttar Pradesh concerned with growing unemployment have come out in large numbers against the BJP. Modi’s divisive Hindu-nationalist platform has rallied core voters but failed to address the ‘kitchen table’ economic issues that have moved more voters than polls suggested.

  1. Democracy: Yesterday’s historic election wasn’t just important for India, it was a victory for struggling democracies worldwide. Last week, we reported a new claim by PM Modi that “he was sent by god.”

    The quote was a worrying first sign that a new BJP supermajority could lead to constitutional changes that could put India’s democracy in jeopardy. In one reading of last night's election results, voters have taken a stance against Modi’s Hindu-first vision for India and embraced a return to pluralism. 

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