Never since Indira Gandhi’s famous 1971 electoral triumph had an incumbent prime minister returned with a majority. Never since 1984 had a party crossed the 300-seat mark.
The BJP, at the time of filing this report, was leading in 303 seats, and in 353 seats along with its allies.
The last time a party crossed the 300-seat mark was in 1984, when the Congress won more than 400 seats in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
The scale and spread of the BJP’s victory are impressive. Apart from winning an unprecedented majority, the BJP vote share in 12 states is more than 50 per cent, including in big states such as Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In Uttar Pradesh and Tripura, the BJP vote share is 49 per cent.
The Congress, expected to challenge the BJP at least in some of the Hindi heartland states after its Assembly poll successes in December, won or was leading in a mere 52 seats. It had won 44 seats in 2014.
No one from the Congress may get the status of the leader of the opposition party in the Lok Sabha — for the second time in succession — because it does not have 10 per cent of the strength of the House.
The Congress could not win a single seat in as many as 14 states including Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana. In bigger states such as Madhya Pradesh, UP, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Maharashtra, the Congress could win or was leading in one seat each. To rub salt into its wounds, the BJP’s Smriti Irani defeated Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his stronghold of Amethi by over 55,000 votes. Gandhi, who won his other seat from Kerala’s Wayanad, has offered to quit as his party's chief.
In states like Uttar Pradesh, where some had expected the ‘mahagathbandhan’ of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal to stop the BJP’s juggernaut, it not only won or was leading in 64 seats, along with two of the ally Apna Dal, but bagged a staggering vote share of 49.6 per cent.
In effect, the BJP in UP improved significantly on its 2014 vote share of 42.3 per cent. In 2014, the BJP alliance had won 73 seats, including two of the Apna Dal. The mahagathbandhan could win or was leading in only 15 seats, with the Bahujan Samaj Party winning 10 and Samajwadi Party five. However, BSP chief Mayawati thanked her allies, indicating the alliance was likely to continue for the 2022 UP Assembly polls.
The BJP made inroads into states it had termed its “final frontiers”, including West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana. In West Bengal, the BJP won or was leading in 18 seats against the Trinamool Congress’ 22, with a vote share of 40.2 per cent. In Telangana, the BJP won four seats. Nationally, the BJP is on its way to increasing its vote share from its all-time high of 31 per cent in 2014 to nearly 37 per cent.
At the BJP’s victory celebrations in the national capital in the evening, Modi appealed to his workers to exhibit humility in what is the “greatest electoral triumph since the independence in 1947”.
“We have to move ahead. We have to take everyone with us, even our opponents. We have to work for the benefit of the country,” he said, adding he would not do anything with bad intent even though he might at times commit a mistake on the job.
According to sources, the prime minister is likely to ask all his ministers to prepare a 100-day agenda for the government. The BJP will hold its parliamentary party meeting in the central hall of Parliament on Sunday, where the newly elected MPs of the party will elect Modi their leader. The President would subsequently invite Modi, and his council of ministers, to take oath of office. In 2014, the swearing-in took place on May 26. The Cabinet will meet on Friday to recommend the dissolution of the current Lok Sabha to the President.
The BJP’s win will be interpreted in various ways in the days to come.
In a statement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, said the election was between two “ideas of Bharat”, one that believes in its “ancient spiritualism based on integral, holistic and all-inclusive worldview” versus the un-Indian worldview of looking at society through the prism of identities and exclusion.
At the celebrations, BJP chief Amit Shah introduced Modi as one of the most powerful leaders of the world. Congratulatory messages poured from leaders across the world, including from Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
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The PM is set to visit Bishkek to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in mid-June, when he is set to meet Xi and Khan.
The PM’s immediate challenge would be to revive both consumption and investment in the economy. There would also short- as well as long-term ramifications of the BJP’s win. The Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government in Karnataka could face trouble, as could the Congress’ Madhya Pradesh government, which has a slim majority in the state’s Assembly.
In his speech, while Shah congratulated Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Andhra Pradesh’s YSR Congress Party on their respective wins in the Assembly polls in the two states, he warned that the BJP would soon conquer West Bengal.
While the BJP now has a brute majority of its own in the Lok Sabha, it still needs the support of its allies in the Rajya Sabha to get key bills passed. The BJP can hope to have numbers that are more comfortable in the Rajya Sabha by 2022 to push through, with the help of its allies, constitution amendment bills, which require passage by two-thirds of the members of the two Houses.
In its second term, the BJP could also pursue with more intent its core agenda of abolishing Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives Jammu and Kashmir special status, constructing a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and implementing a uniform civil code.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir remains a challenge for the new Modi government. The opposition to the BJP could come from the parties in southern Indian states. The BJP has now emerged a challenger to K Chandrasekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samiti and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has swept the polls in Tamil Nadu.
In his speech at the BJP headquarters in front of supporters unfazed by the drizzle, the PM said the BJP respected India’s constitution and federalism, but was deeply committed to its ideological tenets. He likened the electoral battle to that of Mahabharata, and thanked the people for their support to him, who is a simple fakir, or ascetic.
Amid cries of ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, Modi said the BJP’s inspiration was its commitment to nationalism, but also said the electoral triumph belonged to the poor, who have benefited from his government’s social welfare schemes.
He renewed his promise to provide housing to all by 2022. The PM said this was a rare election where inflation and corruption were not electoral planks. He said the electoral verdict of 2019 had dealt a blow to those who exploited caste for electoral benefits. “Now, there are only two castes — one of the poor, and the other of those who can help uplift those who are in poverty,” he said.