India's Elections: Modi Celebrates Victory with Fewer Seats

Narendra Modi Secures Third Term Amid Coalition Dependence

by Faruk Imamovic
India's Elections: Modi Celebrates Victory with Fewer Seats
© Getty Images/Dan Kitwood

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, celebrated a historic third-term victory in the national elections on Tuesday evening. Despite the jubilant atmosphere, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fell short of its ambitious goal of winning an unassailable majority. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by Modi, won 292 seats combined, with the BJP securing 240 seats. This result left the ruling party reliant on coalition partners, marking a significant shift from previous elections where the BJP achieved a clear majority.

Addressing a crowd of cheering supporters at his party headquarters in New Delhi, Modi proclaimed, “Today is a glorious day… National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is going to form the government for the third time, we are grateful to the people.” He emphasized that this victory represented a success for the world’s largest democracy. However, the inability to secure a 272-seat majority dealt a personal blow to Modi, who had previously vowed to achieve a 400-seat supermajority.

Opposition's Resurgence

The election results also marked a resurgence for India’s opposition parties. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Indian National Congress, portrayed the outcome as a rejection of Modi’s divisive leadership style. “The country has unanimously and clearly stated that it does not want Modi and his party to run the country,” Gandhi asserted outside his party’s headquarters in New Delhi. Despite failing to topple Modi, the opposition succeeded in denting his aura of electoral invincibility, particularly by making gains in BJP strongholds.

These results have wider implications for Modi’s ability to push through aggressive economic reforms. The Indian stock market reacted negatively, with stocks plunging as investors expressed concerns about the future stability and direction of Modi’s government.

Modi’s Popularity and Controversies

From April 19 to June 1, more than 640 million people cast their votes across India. Although voter turnout dipped slightly from the record levels of 2019, Modi’s ability to secure a third term underscores his enduring popularity among millions of supporters. To many in the Hindu-majority nation, 73-year-old Modi is seen as a transformative leader whose policies have significantly impacted their lives.

“No one can do for us what our Prime Minister Modi can,” said BJP worker Rajgopal Kashyap. “He has come to us as an instrument of God. He will take our country forward and is the only one who can run the country.” This sentiment reflects the widespread admiration for Modi’s efforts to upgrade India’s infrastructure, including the construction of highways, power plants, and subsidized housing for millions of families.

Worlds Largest Democratic Election Concludes In India
Worlds Largest Democratic Election Concludes In India© Getty Images/Elke Scholiers

However, Modi’s decade in power has not been without controversy. His decision to ban 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes in 2016 sparked panic in India’s cash-heavy economy. In 2019, massive protests erupted as farmers demanded guaranteed prices for their crops. Critics also accused Modi of mismanaging the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in over half a million deaths according to official figures.

Religious and Social Tensions

Religious persecution and Islamophobia have surged under Modi’s leadership, with accusations of tacit endorsement of sectarianism to bolster his party’s Hindu-nationalist agenda. Critics argue that Modi is steering India away from its secular foundations towards a majoritarian Hindu state, an evolution with potentially profound implications for a nation with a history of inter-communal violence.

Despite these controversies, Modi’s supporters remain steadfast in their belief that he is the best person to lead India. Political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot noted, “There’s a feeling that Modi makes Indians proud again. There is a sense in India of vulnerability, lack of self-esteem. So, to be recognized as a great power despite everything is attributed to him.”

Global Implications

Modi’s victory is not just significant for India but also for the international community. Given India’s strategic position in Asia and its burgeoning economy, the election results have captured the attention of global powers like the United States, China, and Russia. Washington views New Delhi as a crucial regional ally against an increasingly assertive China, while India’s close ties with Moscow, especially its purchase of cheap Russian oil despite Western sanctions, highlight its complex foreign policy.

As Modi embarks on his third term, his focus will be on deepening his vision of transforming India into a developed nation by 2047, the centenary of its independence from British colonial rule. Despite his reduced mandate, his supporters believe he remains the best leader to fulfill these economic promises and elevate India’s status as a major global player.

Surjeet Singh, a driver in New Delhi, encapsulated this sentiment: “For us middle-class people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only one who has done anything, who has shined India’s name abroad.”

Narendra Modi’s third-term victory is a testament to his enduring appeal among millions of Indians. However, the reduced majority signals significant challenges ahead, both domestically and internationally. As Modi continues to navigate these complexities, his leadership will undoubtedly shape the future trajectory of India in profound ways.