The Indian voter has endorsed the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi most unambiguously and emphatically, in a result as clear as daylight. This is the first time in five decades that a party has won an absolute majority twice.
His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to return with a majority all on its own, without even having to rely on its allies with which it forms the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to form the next government.
Just about an hour after counting began and the trends started pouring in the final picture began emerging rapidly – and from the get go, the ruling NDA began extending its lead over its main opposition, the Indian National Congress-led UPA.
Within a matter of hours, the gap between the seats in which the NDA was leading and the others widened to a chasm, with any hope of catching up slipping away as though facing an avalanche. And it was not long after that the celebrations in the leading alliance’s offices began.
While the complete final result is as yet unavailable at the time of going to press, going by the leading trends there is no doubt whatsoever that Narendra Modi and his BJP have been swept back to power in a most decisive manner by the inscrutable Indian voter.
That inscrutability of the Indian voter was what had caused widespread doubt on the near unanimous verdict that multiple exit polls had thrown up after the last phase of polling was over last week. Though almost all of them predicted the final result, exit polls have proved unreliable, reflecting in part the hard-to-read mind of the Indian voter.
This time, however, the Indian voter appears to have spoken their mind and cast their votes in like manner, as the closeness of the exit poll shows to the emerging final result.
NDA footprint grows but south stymies clean sweep
The NDA has undoubtedly improved on its showing over 2014, making gains in states where it faced headwinds the last time around. This improvement was in part due to the deft handling of alliance equations by the BJP’s electoral negotiators, who have now developed a reputation for forging winning alliances.
The most impressive gains for the NDA were made in West Bengal (mostly the northern constituencies) denting Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Party’s pride severely. The North Eastern states too have won handsome gains for the NDA.
Uttar Pradesh did lose its lustre from the last outing but it was hardly as bad as it was touted to turn out by some pundits. The alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra also paid rich dividends. The BJP consolidated even further in its pocket boroughs of Gujarat and Rajasthan, despite the assembly election results showing a markedly different result not so long ago.
However, the NDA was effectively stopped from sweeping south of the Vindhyas, so to speak, with Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and even West Bengal in the east showing a preference for regional parties that were not aligned to either the ruling dispensation or the opposition.
In Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) appears to be making a clean sweep and so are Telangana’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and in Andhra Pradesh, the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party.
Big names wiped out
The decimation of the big names from the UPA abundantly shows that the old equations of loyalty and the sense of entitlement that pervaded some leaders who represented constituencies and that were erstwhile royal kingdoms and those that seemed permanently attached to them politically are changing fast.
For instance Gwalior royal Jyotiraditya Scindia was trailing in the family bailiwick of Guna in Madhya Pradesh while Rahul Gandhi has lost in Amethi, the long time Nehru-Gandhi family stronghold, hitherto thought to be infallible.
Rahul Gandhi’s defeat at the hands of the firebrand Smriti Irani itself threatens to become a story as big as that of the return of Narendra Modi in this election.
Other big names that have been pounded to the ground are Karnataka Congress leader and ideologue Mallikarjun Kharge, long time Congress stalwart from Madhya Pradesh Digvijaya Singh and Bollywood film star Shatrughan Sinha (who defected from the BJP) and his wife Poonam as well as Chandrababu Naidu in the south, among a host of others.
The Congress diviners had obviously read the tealeaves well in advance and backed up Rahul Gandhi with a safe seat in Wayanad in Kerala, from where he expectedly won with a major margin. But the world knows that was a ‘backup’ victory and has no political heft whatsoever.
The Congress failed to win a single seat in several states, with Rahul Gandhi stating that he took “100 per cent responsibility” for the disastrous result. It is likely to only marginally improve its showing from the 44 seats that it won in the 2014 elections.
The result also put paid to any further complaints and doubts raised by the opposition of the electronic voting machines (EVM).
Result gives the lie to the media narrative
Over the past couple of years, the mainstream media has been scathingly critical of the NDA’s policies. In the main, its narrative projected widespread discontent among large swathes of Indian voters mainly because of the woes caused by demonetisation, the introduction of the GST, high rates of unemployment and unending problems caused to millions of farmers, among a slew of others.
That narrative has been given the lie with the NDA making even greater inroads deep into rural India, which was supposed to have borne the brunt of all these policies. It is obvious that the media narrative was wrong and based more on ivory tower guesswork rather than reading the pulse on the ground.
The negativity, peddled in large part by the Congress-led opposition, spread internationally with the American weekly magazine Time running a cover featuring Modi describing him as ‘Divider in Chief’ in an issue that hit the stands in the middle of the election. The result has emphatically rejected that label, with the Indian people appearing to have actually united behind him like no other leader in the past several decades. Indeed, Modi has proved a ‘uniter’ rather than a divider.
This has once again gone on to prove that media stories can no longer sway the Indian voter, who now has recourse to a plethora of social media platforms to stay closer to ground realities through their network of peers, without urban interpreters trying to read the tea leaves sitting in distant offices.
Indian voters’ maturity shows
The way the Indian voters’ voting patterns have gone in the past few elections shows that that they are able to make a clear distinction between local, regional and national issues.
The assembly elections in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in the last little while during Modi’s first term might have had their electoral strategists worried, with the BJP’s reduced showing in those polls.
However, in yesterday’s results they came out blazing in support of the BJP in a most emphatic manner. What this demonstrates is a maturity in the way Indian voters now think – they make a clear distinction between local and national politics, clearly demarcating issues in their mind as being of local, regional and national importance.
The result also shows that the Indian voters have all but rejected the politics of divisiveness, not heeding to certain parties’ and media narrative of the ruling party’s agenda to divide the country along religious lines, while making a pretence of secularism and egalitarianism for social justice but based solely on caste rather than economic status.
Global leaders fete Modi
As the trends consolidated, congratulations poured from all corners of the globe, with Israel President Benjamin Netanyahu among the first to send his felicitations. Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump, Chinese Premier Xi Jin Ping and dozens of other leaders have sent in their messages.
For one, the scorching pace that the Modi government set in developing relationships in the international arena will continue and so it appears will the pace of economic, social and infrastructural development that the government set domestically in the past five years.