MODI IN Kanniyakumari
India's Prime Minister Narendra at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial Image Credit: ANI

According to twelve exit polls in India, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is poised for a significant victory in the General Election 2024, potentially forming the government for a third consecutive term.

These exit polls include projections from News 24-Today’s Chanakya (400 seats), ABP News-C Voter (353-383 seats), Republic Bharat-P Marq (359 seats), India News-D-Dynamics (371 seats), Republic Bharat-Matrize (353-368 seats), Dainik Bhaskar (281-350 seats), News Nation (342-378 seats), TV 9 Bharatvarsh-Polstrat (342 seats), Times Now-ETG (358 seats), India TV-CNX (362-392 seats), and Jan Ki Baat (362-392 seats). Notably, one of the most trusted exit polls, India Today-Axis My India, predicts 361-401 seats for the NDA.

These trends indicate that the NDA is on track to secure another term in power. If these predictions materialise into actual wins on June 4, it will represent an unprecedented victory for the BJP. Achieving a third consecutive term would surpass the success of many renowned leaders in their third terms, such as Margaret Thatcher. This outcome would not only solidify the BJP’s dominant position in Indian politics but also reflect a profound mandate from the electorate.

But what explains these trends? Why do voters trust the government despite lucrative promises from the opposition?

Read more by Aditya Sinha

Nuanced realities of voters

The principal opposition party announced a slew of populist measures, including an annual transfer of ₹1 lakh to women’s accounts, along with other freebies and loan waivers. According to traditional economic theory, voters, as rational actors, should maximise their benefits, which in this case would mean favouring the party offering the most direct financial incentives. However, this simplistic view overlooks the nuanced realities of voter behaviour and trust dynamics.

The electorate’s rejection of these freebies can be understood through the lens of institutional trust and political economy. Voters are not just utility-maximisers; they are also rational actors who consider institutional integrity, policy consistency, and long-term national interest.

The BJP-led NDA has cultivated a robust institutional trust through sustained policy implementation, economic reforms, and efforts to improve infrastructure and social welfare. This trust acts as a critical variable in voter decision-making, outweighing immediate financial incentives.

India’s voters have cast their ballots for empowerment, reflecting a trust in the BJP-led NDA’s commitment to grass roots development. This trust is not unfounded; it is substantiated by the significant strides made under the NDA’s governance, particularly through initiatives grounded in the principles of New Welfarism.

Improvement in quality of life

The Economic Survey 2020-21 introduced the Bare Necessities Index (BNI), which provides a comprehensive assessment of access to essential services such as housing, clean water, sanitation, electricity, and clean cooking fuel.

The BNI, integrating 26 indicators across five categories, reveals substantial progress in access to these basic necessities across all states, thereby enhancing living standards and demonstrating an improvement in the quality of life for the rural, urban, and national population.

Government initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY) have played a pivotal role in these advancements. The reduction in interstate disparities, particularly for the poorest households, underscores a significant movement toward equitable access to basic services. The positive correlation between the BNI and improved health and education outcomes further validates the effectiveness of these welfare programs.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) complements this narrative by showcasing a remarkable reduction in the percentage of India’s population living in multidimensional poverty.

The latest data from NFHS-5 (2019-21) indicates a significant decline from 24.85% to 14.96%, translating to approximately 135 million individuals moving out of multidimensional poverty. These improvements in access to essential services and poverty alleviation highlight the impact of targeted government interventions aimed at empowering the most marginalised sections of society.

These are the Indian voters whose lives have transformed significantly over the last decade, and this transformation explains their vote in favour of the incumbent government. The empowerment of individuals at the grass roots level through these initiatives signifies a profound shift in India’s developmental trajectory.

The electorate’s choice to support the incumbent government, despite the opposition’s promises of substantial freebies, reflects a deep-seated trust in the NDA’s ability to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth.

Lasting empowerment

This trust is rooted in the visible improvements in living standards and the reduction of poverty, as evidenced by the BNI and MPI. The BJP-led NDA’s focus on long-term developmental goals, such as enhancing infrastructure, improving health care, and ensuring access to basic amenities, resonates with voters who prioritise lasting empowerment over short-term gains.

This historic potential victory for the NDA, achieving a third consecutive term, underscores the electorate’s recognition of and confidence in the government’s commitment to grass roots empowerment and holistic development.

Moreover, the implementation of the Integrated Welfare Empowerment Model (IWEM) has been instrumental in driving these outcomes. By focusing on direct provision, technological integration, inclusivity, and long-term impacts, IWEM has effectively transformed the lives of millions. This model has empowered individuals at the grass roots level, contributing significantly to their improved living standards and overall well-being.

The tangible benefits experienced by the populace under this framework have translated into widespread electoral support for the incumbent government. The NDA’s consistent and effective governance, as embodied by the principles of IWEM, has garnered a strong mandate from the electorate, reflecting their trust and confidence in the government’s ability to continue driving sustainable and inclusive development.

We will know the exact result on June 4, but the trends are clear: the people have voted for empowerment, fiscal prudence, stability, and continuity. They have placed their trust in a government that has transformed their lives over the past decade.

If the exit polls hold true, this unprecedented victory will not just be a testament to the NDA’s governance but a resounding endorsement of a future built on sustainable growth and empowered citizens.

Aditya Sinha (X:@adityasinha004) is OSD, Research, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minster. Views Personal.