Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he arrives at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi, India, June 4, 2024. Image Credit: Reuters

The winner of India’s general elections is the wise voter who prefers checks and balances of our Constitution and holds our democracy dear when they decide a mandate. This is the emphatic message from the big mandate of 2024.

After two back to back victories in 2014 and 2019 Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had aimed for a historic third term equalling the historic record of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Lal Nehru.

The Modi-led ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fought the election on the PM’s name and his guarantee — unlike 2019 which was an election fought on national security post the Balakot strikes and Modi’s first term in 2014 which was a sunny campaign to usher in “acche din” (good days).

This time around Modi was the message and Modi was the medium but it didn’t quite work. The BJP is currently the single largest party but nowhere near the 272 mark required to form the government alone.

The biggest story of the elections is the BJP’s decimation in UP — India’s biggest state — which had given it a whopping win twice.

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Billion people registered to vote

Another big development was Maharashtra where BJP the BJP broke political parties like Shiv Sena and the NCP, and then went on to co-opt the rump factions.

UP with its whopping 80 seats (maximum in India) saw the BJP take a giant stumble with Modi’s own victory margin in Varanasi coming down to 150,000.

Modi’s ministers Smriti Irani, earlier heralded as a giant killer for defeating Rahul Gandhi, lost to a decade old Congress worker, Kishori Lal Sharma, Ajay Singh Taini — whose son had run over some agitating farmers — lost and so did another minister Sanjeev Balyan from Muzaffarnagar where he had allegedly set off communal riots in 2013.

Though Modi has claimed victory in the Indian election, his alliance is far short of the 400 seats he set out to win. Speaking in Delhi, Modi thanked voters for their mandate.

The world’s biggest election was held in seven phases over six weeks with almost a billion people registered to vote.

The opposition went to the polls as the INDIA alliance with Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party saying that they would introduce a caste census to decide representation in affirmative action and reservation and be guided by the Constitution.

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Yadav is the comeback story of the decade. Repeatedly written off after serial losses in alliance, he came good and carried off the majority in UP. Gandhi won from Rai Bareilly and Wayanad in Kerala.

Coalition and compromise politics

To form a government the BJP will need to placate allies Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. Kumar has been a veteran turncoat in Indian politics somersaulting between the BJP and the opposition. This time around the BJP wanted to oust him as Bihar CM with his BJP deputy replacing him.

Now Modi has to tempt him to remain an ally. The BJP broke Naidu’s party in 2019 and also held out the fear of the investigative agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax. Naidu will also drive a hard bargain.

Since 2002 when he was parachuted as Gujarat CM, this is the first time that BJP faced a defeat in a poll helmed by Modi and his confidant Amit Shah. Both Modi and Shah have never worked in coalition politics and have a very aggressive attitude towards allies.

Modi’s entire style of politics as a “strong leader” goes against the nature of coalition and compromise politics.

BJP was seemingly unaware of the mood of the nation and had also got party president J P Nadda to repudiate the Sangh Pariwar’s paterfamilias — the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) — saying the BJP did not need them now.

The RSS specially in UP used do work as the foot soldiers of the BJP.

What does this mean for the BJP? Watch this space. Interesting days ahead.