Lok Sabha results 2024: Modi claims victory for NDA alliance but his BJP party falls short

Opposition coalition appears to have outperformed expectations as counting continues in world's largest democracy

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed victory for his electoral alliance and is on track to form a government, despite his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party being set to fall short of winning a majority itself, as the shock results from India's elections came in on Tuesday.

Counting was still under way on Tuesday evening, with final results expected late in the night or early on Wednesday.

Mr Modi claimed victory for his BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in a speech to party workers in a speech on Tuesday night.

“The people of the country have expressed their trust in the NDA for the third consecutive time. This is an unprecedented moment in the history of India. This is the first time since 1962 that a government got a successive victory for third time," Mr Modi said at the party headquarters in the capital, New Delhi.

“I assure the countrymen that to fulfil their aspirations, we will move forward with new energy, new enthusiasm and new resolves," he said, as party workers chanted his name.

Mr Modi had predicted a victory by landslide before the election and was aiming for a super-majority of 400 seats in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, for the NDA.

But as results came in from across the world's largest democracy, he appeared to have fallen well short of that goal.

The NDA, consisting of the BJP and other smaller parties, was set to win more than the 272 seats needed to form a government, and therefore provide Mr Modi with a third term as prime minister.

But the main opposition INDIA alliance, led by the Congress party, was performing better than expected. It was ahead in about 235 seats, with smaller parties and independent candidates leading in 18 seats.

The ruling party, which enjoyed a huge mandate in the past two elections, faced a jolt from opposition parties that slashed its seats in key constituencies, particularly the BJP’s stronghold Uttar Pradesh.

The bellwether state, ruled locally by the BJP, sends 80 representatives to the Lok Sabha.

But with counting ongoing, the NDA was leading in only 36 seats in the state, compared to 43 seats for the INDIA bloc.

The NDA won 64 seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2019, with the BJP alone winning 62.

This year, the Samajwadi Party, a Socialist party popular in the state, was leading in 37 seats in the state.

Smriti Irani, the firebrand BJP leader and Minister of Women and Children Development, lost to Congress’s Kishori Lal Sharma in the state’s Amethi constituency.

Ms Irani defeated Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Mr Modi’s main opponent, in the same constituency in 2014.

In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, the Telugu Desam Party swept the polls as part of NDA. It is expected to be a crucial player in the formation of a BJP-led government.

The TDP was also leading in the state legislature election, held simultaneously with the parliamentary vote, against the incumbent YSR Congress party.

The BJP achieved its maiden victory in Kerala, the southern Communist-ruled state where actor-turned-politician Suresh Gopi defeated communist candidate V S Sunilkumar in the Thrissur constituency by more than 74,000 votes.

Kerala, which is India’s most developed states and has the highest literacy in the country, has traditionally swung between the left and the Congress.

However, the BJP failed to win a single seat in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, a crucial state with 39 seats.

Mr Modi had made ten trips to the southern coastal state. The BJP has struggled to make inroads in the state that has rejected the party’s hardline Hindu politics. It won only one seat in 2014 but drew a blank in 2019.

Congress leader Mr Gandhi, who was contesting in Wayanad in Kerala, won by more than 364,000 votes while defeating Dinesh Pratap Singh from BJP in their bastion of Rai Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.

Mr Gandhi thanked the voters for "saving the country’s constitution”.

He has accused Mr Modi and the BJP of undermining India’s democratic system, damaging law enforcement and the judiciary while targeting journalists and dissenters in a widespread crackdown.

"The country has unanimously told Narendra Modi and Amit Shah that we don't want you running this country," Mr Gandhi told reporters.

The latest results and trends have bolstered the Congress party, which was almost written off by political pundits against the Modi juggernaut that many commentators had claimed was almost invincible under the strongman.

“This is a well fought battle by a combined opposition. This is the first time the opposition came together with the right kind of spirit and the chemistry showed and people realised there was something serious at stake,” Prof Apoorvanand, a Delhi-based political commentator, who goes by one name, told The National.

“It is encouraging to see the return of the idea of Congress which is expansive and accommodative, where all voices can find their place. Rahul Gandhi has encouraged this idea by introducing the element of social justice and economic equality,” he said.

Political analysts have attributed unemployment, inflation and the BJP’s divisive politics and aggressive push for the agenda of Hindu supremacy as the reasons for its dismal performance.

Hinduism forms the majority religious group in India, with about 80 per cent of the population following the faith, but the country has significant numbers of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

But since first coming to power a decade ago, Mr Modi’s government has been increasingly pushing the plank of Hindutva – the Hindu hegemony agenda propagated by the right-wing ideology.

The Hindu nationalist leader often invoked majoritarian identity during his poll campaigns where he called Indian Muslims “infiltrators” and “baby producers”, stoking sectarian divides for political gain.

“This is a firm rejection of the BJP to turn Indian democracy into majoritarian, totalitarian state, firm rejection of the anti-Muslim platform that Modi has used to seek mandate for himself and the party,” Prof Apoorvanand said.

“What do we seek from our governance? To manage our economy, to create jobs, opportunities and enhance the wealth of the nation and wellbeing of people. It is a message to do a job expected to do and not engage in cultural renaissance or utopia of Hindu Rashtra,” he said.

Updated: June 04, 2024, 5:36 PM