Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Coalition govt a good signal for our vibrant democracy

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2024 Polls outcome may lead to dilution of Modi’s authoritarianism

By Girish Linganna

The perception of superiority surrounding Narendra Modi has unexpectedly collapsed. The election outcomes on Tuesday were disheartening for Modi, who has often referred to himself as “Sent with a purpose” and set an ambitious slogan of ‘Abki baar, 400 paar’ (This time, above 400). However, this slogan may have had unintended consequences as the prospect of such a massive majority sparked apprehensions among the underprivileged about potential changes to the Constitution.
At age 73, Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have achieved remarkable success compared to other political parties. It seems they are on track to secure a third consecutive term for Modi as Prime Minister. Modi, himself, considers this accomplishment as a monumental milestone in India’s history. Nevertheless, despite the possibility of his party losing some seats in Parliament, they may have to work together with smaller parties within their coalition to form a government.
Modi, who could become only the second Indian PM to secure a third consecutive term, hailed it as a historic milestone in India’s history. Instead of a big win, the BJP lost many seats and has fallen short of a simple majority. It is leading by a small margin in the 543-seat Parliament, but does not have the required 272 seats on its own. . However, its coalition partners have picked up extra seats. The election results are a setback for Modi, who has always won majorities in previous elections as Gujarat’s chief minister and India’s prime minister and has been a dominant figure in Indian politics for the past 10 years.
This outcome also represents an unexpected comeback for the Opposition Congress-led Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDI Alliance), going against earlier predictions of its decline and differing significantly from both exit polls and pre-election surveys.
When the results became clear, the stock markets in the country experienced a sharp fall. Opposition parties who had joined forces to “protect the nation’s democracy,” celebrated the outcome. Although Modi strengthened his grip on power in India, he discovered his political influence had its limits. He effectively made the election all about himself, even though it is typically fought on a constituency basis.
In a statement released on X, Modi expressed his optimism and announced that his coalition had secured a third term. He described this achievement as a remarkable milestone in the history of India.
A lenient interpretation of the outcome for Modi would suggest that his party’s victory at the local level was possible only because of his personal efforts, despite its unpopularity. Alternatively, it could indicate that his carefully nurtured image has reached its peak and he can no longer evade the public’s dissatisfaction that eventually catches up with most politicians.
It is unclear how Modi will respond to the situation. He may intensify his efforts to suppress any opposition to his authority, or he may be humbled by the voters’ decision and the necessity to collaborate with coalition partners who do not hold the same Hindu-nationalist beliefs as he does.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Janata Dal (United) will, indeed, be kingmakers in the formation of the new government. With 16 seats in Andhra Pradesh and 12 seats in Bihar, respectively, these parties hold considerable influence in determining the formation of the next government. Their commitment to secularism is particularly important, as it raises hopes among those who oppose Prime Minister Modi’s efforts to prioritize Hinduism in India’s governance.
Naidu, a technocrat who served as Andhra Pradesh’s chief minister three times and played a crucial role in promoting India’s technological capabilities, made a comeback after being incarcerated for several weeks on corruption allegations last year. Additionally, his party is leading in the state elections of Andhra Pradesh, indicating that the 74-year-old Naidu is likely to secure another term as the state’s chief minister.
The second BJP partner, Janata Dal (United), from Bihar, is led by Nitish Kumar, who has a reputation for frequently changing his political affiliations. Despite serving as Bihar’s chief minister nine times, his coalitions have often failed, resulting in the termination of his terms. However, Kumar has consistently bounced back by forming new alliances.
The biggest blow for PM Modi’s party came from Uttar Pradesh. With 80 parliamentary seats, UP wields significant influence in national politics and is often seen as the key to Delhi, the seat of the central government. It is noteworthy that both Modi and the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi hold seats in this state.
The defeat in the Faizabad constituency highlighted how some of the major initiatives of the prime minister had failed to resonate with the voters. The Faizabad constituency is significant as it is the site of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The temple’s grand inauguration, planned just before the election campaign, was expected not only to consolidate Modi’s Hindu supporters, but also attract new followers.
Some BJP workers noted that the party’s emphasis on the Ram Temple may have alienated many Hindus from the lower castes. The Opposition accused PM Modi of favouring upper caste interests, which they argued limited opportunities for disadvantaged Hindus to overcome long-standing oppression. This perspective was highlighted in a BBC report.
To counter potential losses in his northern stronghold, or the Hindi heartland, Modi aimed high for this election. He wanted to make inroads in the more prosperous southern regions of the country. He made some progress in Kerala. However, overall in the South, he found it challenging to surpass the 29 seats his party had secured out of 129 in the previous election.
One of the biggest setbacks for the BJP in southern India was that it seemed to have failed once again to win any of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu. Modi had campaigned vigorously in Tamil Nadu, even spending two days meditating in a coastal town as the election drew to a close. India has a history of chaotic coalition governments, although some in the early-1990s and 2000s were instrumental in bringing about economic reforms. If the BJP forms the government, it will have to rely on its allies and will need to adopt a more collaborative and consultative approach. This reliance makes the government vulnerable to collapse if the allies feel ignored. The party, once seen as all-powerful, now depends on its allies, unlike in 2014 and 2019.
The election outcomes will revitalize the Congress-led Opposition, which has often faced criticism. The INDI Alliance remained intact despite facing turbulence in February when one of its key leaders, Nitish Kumar, withdrew from the alliance before later rejoining the BJP.
Under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, the Opposition conducted a vibrant campaign and made significant progress, despite limited resources and biased media coverage. The future appears promising for the Opposition as the BJP currently holds around one-third of India’s 4,000+ state Assembly seats and they have previously been defeated by regional parties. In the next 14 months, five states are scheduled to hold elections, all of which could witness intense competition.
The BJP may confront significant challenges in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana this year, as they face tough competition in these regions. The forthcoming elections in Delhi could also present difficulties, while Bihar’s regional dynamics in October add another hurdle to overcome.
India requires significant efforts and reconciliation moving forward. The economy is experiencing growth, primarily driven by government expenditure. However, inequality is also increasing. To sustain this progress, there is a need for higher private investment and increased consumer spending. It is crucial for the lower-income and middle-class populations to have more disposable income to stimulate economic activity.
Modi has faced backlash for marginalizing Muslims, who have experienced a disproportionate amount of violence. His government has been accused of suppressing dissent, resulting in prominent Opposition leaders being imprisoned under what they claim are fabricated charges. However, third terms in office have often presented challenges for many leaders, as unexpected and unpredictable events can veer governments off their intended course and disrupt their plans. (IPA Service)

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