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Results 2024: What Lies Ahead For India

June 13, 2024 09:01 IST
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'The 2024 election results will lead to much intense targeting of Modi, more intense debates, many more breakdowns in Parliament and many more movements on the streets.'

'The results have hit Modi's standing, and the politics of the Opposition parties will be sharply focused to ensure that Modi doesn't get back his charisma of being 'invincible' with help of State power.'

Sheela Bhatt looks at the political situation through the prism of the 2024 Lok Sabha election results.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi at the swearing-in ceremony of the Union council of ministers at Rashtrapati Bhavan, June 9, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

A Rashomon effect is visible in the various interpretations of the setback to Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha Election 2024.

One of the ways to look at this election is from the fundamental political fights that are ongoing at three levels in India after Indira Gandhi.

The Fight Between Two Ideologies


There is no full stop here.

In the first quarter of the 21st century, the Indian political sphere has narrowed down to a fight between two ideologies.

At the national level, the Congress represents the Nehruvian vision.

It talks about a plural India where no one religion, culture, language gets prominence or dominant political position and where governance remains 'secular', where all public events are kept away from religious rituals in a country with a highly religious people.

In the past the Congress has flouted these secular ideals many times but in theory, at least, it largely represents 'secular India'.

The other ideology is based on establishing Indian cultural nationalism that is prominently based on Hindu culture and traditions.

This pro-BJP/RSS side wants high visibility for Hindu culture in India, in Indian governance, in India's global image.

Hindi, Hindu aur Hindustan has been their maxim.

They claim that they want to protect the glorious legacy of Hindu civilisation.

They want to ensure that in matters of politics, economy, society and culture, 'India' and 'Hindu' become almost synonymous.

This clash of ideologies is a slow-moving great game that the world watches with interest.

What makes India interesting is that in between the these two ideological poles many variations and shades -- from moderates to radicals -- thrive.

Let's test the result of 2024 to judge which side has won in this gigantic ideological divide.

The results of 2024 once more suggest that India has been the motherland of so many religions, languages and communities that in this clash there is no possibility whatsoever of a conclusive end.

If we take all that is happening on social media platforms no side is down and out.

Those who would like to declare a victory of 'secular forces' in the 2024 election should also list the issues that were dominating on the ground before and during the election.

Viewed strictly from the side of anti-BJP voters, the list of things that have gone wrong is very long.

IMAGE: Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi with Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge at a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party, June 8, 2024. Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

The excessive use of CBI-ED and IT; Modi's personality cult; New Delhi's tension with non-BJP states; inescapable arrogance of the Modi government; weakening of federal ethos; allegation of using spying tools like Pegasus against adversaries; higher unemployment rate; farmers agitations; controversial ways of collecting party funds through electoral bonds; weakening of regional parties by putting their leaders in jail; woes of demonetisation and Covid; GST's unfriendly structure for small businessmen; nominating hyperactive governors; BJP's media blitz; and the PM's sensational speeches against the Congress's appeasement of Muslims during the election were more than enough reasons to hit the BJP hardest.

Importantly, the Congress opposed the abrogation of Article 370, the G20 summit and its expenses too.

Also, never before have Muslim voters demonstrated perfection in the art of preferring candidates who can defeat the BJP as cleverly as they did this election. Their polarisation against the RSS-BJP was at another level.

Still, in view of so many controversies, if the BJP won 240 seats on its own, it shows that the secular-liberal supported Congress-led Nehruvian ideology is less impactful than the religion identity-based politics propounded by Modi.

While Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal (where out of 122 seats the BJP won 45) gave Modi's standing a big blow, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha gave 84 out of their 87 seats to the BJP.

And in Kerala (16.68%) and Tamil Nadu (11.24% without the support of the Dravidian parties) the BJP secured a respectable vote share.

In UP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan caste politics played havoc for the BJP but their national vote share has been reduced only by 0.7%.

IMAGE: Samajwadi Party Presient Akhilesh Yadav being welcomed by party workers after his victory from the Kannauj Lok Sabha seat. Photograph: ANI Photo

In short, a deeper analysis suggests that the fundamental ideological war, mentioned above hasn't been as pivotal in the BJP's political setback on Raisina Hill as much as the masterstroke by Akhilesh Yadav in the distribution of tickets while undertaking new social engineering to beat the BJP at its own game.

However, as the BJP has not lost power it is unlikely to tweak its ideology and unlikely to change its ideological stance.

The results of the 2024 election will lead to much intense targeting of Modi, more intense debates, many more breakdowns in Parliament and many more movements on the streets as neither side has surrendered throughout the election campaign.

The next five years of Indian politics will be more democratic, noisier and it will be intended to divide people on either side.

The divide between the ruling and Opposition parties has gone deeper and there will be no bridge available that could reduce hostility.

The results have hit Modi's standing, and the politics of the Opposition parties will be sharply focused to ensure that Modi doesn't get back his charisma of being 'invincible' with help of State power.

In the BJP's thought process the 'bone of contention' is that all anti-BJP parties are getting unstinted, unconditional support of Muslims in the elections.

The BJP would continue to 'expose' the 'appeasement politics' of these parties.

At the Union council of ministers's swearing-in ceremony on June 9, I met a young RSS worker, a data scientist who lives in Noida.

While discussing the results, he said, "More than Modi Shivraj Singh Chouhan (the former MP chief minister and India's new agriculture minister) can deal with Muslims severely."

Most of the BJP-RSS cadres were talking about "Hindu ne Hindu ko Uttar Pradesh main haraaya (Hindus have defeated Hindus in UP)."

Believe it or not, this ideological fight has arrived at a decisive turning point after the 2024 results.

IMAGE: Rahul Gandhi at an election meeting in Pune. Photograph: ANI Photo

In the next five years India will decide how aggressively and democratically this ideological fight will be carried on in the second quarter of the 21st century.

Next year, when the RSS celebrates its centenary and occupies the state of the art headquarters in Jhandewala in New Delhi, it will be a reminder that the RSS will survive much beyond the Modi cult.

Evidently, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat's astute statements on 'election campaigning being devoid of standards' and the urgent need for improving the Manipur situation is a distancing of the RSS from the BJP's setback.

The RSS machinery that works slowly will keep in mind the net gain.

In 2004, when then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost to the Congress the BJP had 22.16% of the votes. The Congress gained power with 145 seats.

Strictly viewing from the RSS point of view, from 2004 to 2024 the BJP has increased its voter base from 22.16% to 36.6%.

It is a net gain for believers of Hindu dominance in the Indian polity.

The Congress's vote share in 2004 was 26.53%. The Congress has 21.19% vote share now.

The BJP has achieved far more in its ten years (2014 to 2024) of power than what the Congress gained in its ten years (2004 to 2014) of rule.

This expansion of the saffron vote-base has to be largely credited to the Modi cult.

In this election Modi has made losses in his accrued profits of the last ten years.

In 2004, the BJP had the backing of 86 million voters, now it has 235.9 million Indians backing it (the Congress has 136.7 million voters) at a time when its caste-based social engineering has failed in UP and in many other states.

This battle of ideologies is real and very harsh on Indian society, on the Indian poor and on people who believe in the middle path.

It has divided the country permanently and irreparably.

However, fortunately, when any side goes ultra extreme and turns haughty, Indian democracy strikes.

Since the last few years, Indian democracy is on an auto-correct mode.

IMAGE: Akhilesh Yadav at an election rally in support of the Samajwadi Party candidate from the Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency, Awadhesh Prasad, in Ayodhya. Photograph: ANI Photo

Fight Between National Parties And Regional Powers


BJP on weaker ground

The Congress, even in its good times, and the BJP since 2014, find it difficult to take on regional powers.

Both parties' aim is the same. Both want regional powers to diminish, eventually.

Both want a two-party system to dominate India.

Provincial asmita, regional language and regional leaders have been thriving in many states even when the Modi cult was bringing the best of results for the BJP in the last decade.

Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party's regional roots and the backdrop of its birth in the Mandal politics of 1990s, Mamata Banerjee's strong Bengali appeal, Ashok Gehlot being the tallest Rajasthani leader belonging to the Mali caste, and Sharad Pawar's colossal Maratha image and groundwork of more than 60 years in Maharashtra have all played a magical role in giving a setback to Modi in UP, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, respectively.

IMAGE: BJP supporters celebrate in New Delhi, June 4, 2024. Photograph: Ritik Jain/ANI Photo

The national leaders versus regional satraps fight started in the late 1990s and is not over yet.

Pitting Mandal versus Kamandal or vice versa is the only route to success. For regional players, stoking of caste identities and regional pride are the only way to success.

In the Modi era most of the selected BJP regional leaders were without a mass base and much weaker in representing their regional asmita.

That politics of New Delhi has cost dearly in the long run.

Modi's image was kept glowing without strong regional leaders in his party. When Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje were downsized, the BJP got weaker at the regional level.

In 2014 and 2019 the BJP mastered Mandal politics by distributing tickets to non-Jatav Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs.

Mandal plus Kamandal politics resulted in the creation of the Modi cult.

In this round, Akhilesh Yadav did the unthinkable and paid back Modi and Amit Shah in their same coin.

Talk to BJP candidates who lost the election in urban and rural UP and you know the real hero of this fight in the 2024 election campaign is not Modi, BJP, Rahul Gandhi or Congress. It is Akhilesh Yadav!

IMAGE: Samajwadi Party supporters at an election meeting addressed by Akhilesh Yadav in Azamgarh, May 22, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

What Rahul couldn't do since 2004, Akhilesh did singlehandedly with his masterstroke in distributing tickets.

To produce a counter-strategy when Modi is strong and snatch away his votes requires native understanding and regional and political muscle that politics based on caste identity gifts a leader.

It is clear now that if the BJP doesn't give a substantial pie of power to Dalits and OBC in UP, it will find 2029 insurmountable.

The biggest humiliation for the BJP is that it is not even the single largest party in UP.

The Samajwadi Party, a caste-based regional powerhouse, has 37 seats, four more than the BJP.

IMAGE: A Congress supporter at an election rally addressed by Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. Photograph: Mohd Zakir/ANI Photo

Fight To Provide Leadership To Aspiring India


Most crucial to India

Since P V Narasimha Rao brought in economic reforms in 1992 and opened up the Indian economy, a new era began.

Since then, cutting across all castes, classes, regions and urban-rural divide, young India aspires to make life better for themselves.

Since 2001 Modi has tried to capture their imagination.

In that sense Modi has been the most successful mascot of RSS ideology in its 99 years.

Without underplaying Hindutva issues Modi attracted aspiring youth.

To add to it, Modi conveyed: Hindutva hi vikas hai.

Now, the real fight to capture the caste of 'aspiring Indians' will intensify between the Congress and the BJP at the national level.

Both national parties will have to face the regional parties in the states.

In this crucial fight Left-leaning civil society groups are helping the Congress to tone up its muscle and take on Modi.

The mission to help realise the dreams of the aspiring class belonging to the Pasi community who defeated the BJP candidate in Ayodhya is the need of an hour for the BJP, but simultaneously Modi's BJP will have to cater to the OBC youth who defeated BJP candidates in Kairana and Muzaffarnagar.

To join the struggles of the youth of India is a much bigger priority than ideological issues or the fight to retain Indian caste or regional identities.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024