Modinomics has produced high growth but everything isn't as it seems in India's economy. Photo: AFP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get a second five-year term in office, with the country’s electorate handing the Bhartiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) a landslide victory. Under Modi’s leadership, the BJP has won more seats on its own than it did in the last general elections and the numbers are historic.

The NDA is poised to win 350 of the 542 seats of the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament), while the count of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance is likely to remain at 90 (a gain of 25 seats since the previous 2014 elections, but well short of the three-figure mark). On the other hand, the BJP’s tally is likely to cross 300 seats. At the time of this article, the BJP had won 158 seats and was leading in 145 – a total of 303 seats (a gain of 21 seats since the 2014 elections). In the 72 years since the country’s independence from British rule in 1947, this is the first time that a non-Congress government has been able to secure a second consecutive term.

The Congress, on the other hand, had won 29 and was leading in 22 seats. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has himself lost the family bastion of Amethi but won from Wayanad constituency in the southern state of Kerala.

Conceding defeat and taking responsibility for the electoral debacle, Gandhi congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a press conference, while saying that the Congress battle against the BJP was “ideological” in nature and content. Even as Gandhi put on a brave face, there has been some speculation that he will offer to resign from the party’s top post.

In response to a specific query from a journalist on the subject, Gandhi said he had considered it at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) – the party’s highest policy-making body. The CWC is likely to meet early next week.

Effect on states

The historic BJP win is expected to bring about a political upheaval of sorts, with the saffron party likely to train its guns on the minority governments led by the Congress in central Indian states such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The state BJP unit of Madhya Pradesh has already petitioned the governor to dismiss the “minority” Congress government led by Kamal Nath.

After the BJP’s massive projected win in neighboring Rajasthan (where the saffron party is likely to sweep 24 of the state’s 25 seats), the Congress state government led by Ashok Gehlot could also be destabilized, observers say. In Karnataka, the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government has come under threat as well. According to reports, Chief Minister N Kumaraswamy has convened an emergency meeting to review the possible fallout of the Lok Sabha election trends.

“Political movement in such matters will be witnessed over the next few days,” a highly placed BJP source said.

An interesting aspect of the 2019 elections has been the electorate’s different attitude in the parliamentary elections from the state assembly elections. In states where the assembly elections were simultaneously held – Andhra Pradesh and Odisha – regional parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the YSR Congress have performed creditably. The Navin Patnaik-led BJD has been given a record fourth term, while the YSR Congress has swept the state of Andhra Pradesh. Incumbent Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has resigned, while YSR Congress chief N Jagan Mohan Reddy will be staking his claim for chief ministership.

Modi addressed party workers at the BJP office Thursday evening, while a meeting of the party’s parliamentary board is also scheduled for late evening. A meeting of the outgoing Council of Ministers is scheduled on Friday morning.

Region-wise performance

The BJP and its alliance partners have swept central and western India, while having made significant gains in the eastern states of West Bengal, Odisha, Assam and the North East.

But except for Karnataka, where the BJP was leading in 25 of the state’s 28 seats, India’s five southern states appear to have remained largely untouched by what is called the “Modi magic.” The DMK-Congress-Communist Party alliance with other smaller parties has swept the southern state of Tamil Nadu, as the alliance is leading in 36 of the state’s 38 parliamentary seats.

The BJP’s 2019 performance is considered more substantial than its achievement in the previous 2014 elections when the then Gujarat chief minister Modi had emerged as the challenger to the “scam-tainted” United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh. The BJP’s vote share in these elections has jumped by six percentage points, while that of the Congress has risen by four percentage points. In contrast, the vote share of the non-Congress and non-BJP parties has declined by minus 9%.

The biggest surprise is in Uttar Pradesh, which sends the largest number – as many as 80 – of members to Parliament. At the time of writing, the BJP was leading in 35 seats and won 27 (total 62) of the 80 seats, while the Opposition “Grand Alliance” comprising the Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal were together leading in 15 seats, while the Congress won in just one constituency.

The UP trends show that political chemistry rather than caste arithmetic have prevailed as the SP-BSP-RLD combination failed to succeed despite nearly 80% of the caste groups being represented by these parties, on paper. “Ostensibly, these parties failed to transfer their votes to one another,” a veteran political observer said.

A factor that apparently worked against the UP grand alliance was possibly the entry of Rahul Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. “After Vadra’s entry, votes of the minority Muslims got divided between the candidates of the Grand Alliance and the Congress. The Priyanka factor accounted for a 7% swing away from the Grand Alliance,” a political observer said.

Meanwhile, adjoining Bihar, which accounts for 40 parliamentary seats, has also given the thumbs down to the “secular alliance,” as the BJP-Janata Dal (United) alliance is likely to bag 39 seats. “The absence of Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad, who is serving a jail sentence in a corruption case, is being considered a major factor for the poor showing of the secular alliance. In West Bengal, where an acrimonious debate was witnessed between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress, the saffron party increased its tally from two seats in 2014 to 18 of the state’s 42 seats in the 2019 elections. In Odisha, the BJP bagged seven seats while, in Assam, the BJP-Asom Gana Parishad coalition led in 10 of the state’s 13 seats.

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