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A chastening of Modi and BJP by their masters

A chastening of Modi and BJP by their masters

Historic is a description that would more suit the Opposition’s comeback than the BJP’s return to power.

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Last Updated : 05 June 2024, 03:42 IST
Last Updated : 05 June 2024, 03:42 IST
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The BJP-led NDA is set to come back to power in the country for the third time, and it should normally be considered an historic occasion. Only once in the past has the country seen a ruling party come back to power for a third consecutive term. That was under Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962. But it was a weakened Congress and Nehru who had gone into those elections. It was a strong BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both at the peak of their power, that went into the 2024 Lok Sabha election. The declared aim of the NDA, which in effect was only the BJP, was to win 400 seats, and for the BJP to win two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha. The party has fallen much short. Indeed, it has not even secured a simple majority. So the outcome of the election is a moral and political defeat for the BJP, and a personal defeat for Narendra Modi, even if they form the next government.  

Historic is a description that would more suit the Opposition’s comeback than the BJP’s return to power. The Opposition fought back from a position of extreme weakness, after it was hit, harassed, oppressed, persecuted and deprived of resources. It did not have its governments in most states. Its leaders were targeted by central agencies like the ED, the CBI and Income Tax. Some of them were sent to jail. Many institutions of State and the bureaucracy were suborned and made to subserve the government. The Election Commission itself seemed powerless against the BJP’s top leadership. It is a historic feat for the Opposition to come back from the pits and to mount a challenge to the government and the ruling party which were sure of winning not just this election but future elections, too. The I.N.D.I.A grouping has made a great advance where no one had realistically expected it to.

The BJP had worked for a Congress-mukt and even an Opposition-mukt India and had declared that to be its goal. But the Opposition has come back into real reckoning in the country and in parliament. The Congress has almost doubled its seats in the Lok Sabha, though from a low base. It has increased its vote share also though it contested fewer seats than at any time in the past. All other Opposition parties have gained seats. The I.N.D.I.A grouping did not get into proper shape and was disjointed and disorganised. Some of the parties contested against each other. Still it made gains in every region of the country. The BJP, which wanted to decimate the Opposition, lost seats in all regions, though it too made inroads into areas where it had not been a force. It has now been reduced to a position where it can form a government only with the help of allies, mainly Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP and Nitish Kumar’s JD (U). 

Beyond the parties, it is India asserting itself against a narrow idea of it, propagated and practised to divide the country and society rather than to unite it. This is true even though the Opposition has not won decisively and the BJP has not lost power. Modi had resorted to the most polarising and divisive campaign against Muslims and vilified all Opposition parties, especially the Congress, for plans and policies that he falsely said would promote only Muslims’ interests. It should be noted that TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu, whose support will be crucial for the BJP, had refused to agree with Modi’s view of politics. This view, and actions like the building of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, did not have the appeal that the BJP thought they would have. Issues like price rise and unemployment, which the Opposition highlighted in their campaign, were in focus and would have influenced voters across the country. This is clear from the fact that the Opposition gained most of its seats from rural and semi-urban seats where distress and livelihood issues are more real than in urban areas.  

Ultimately, it is a victory of democracy. There was sustained pressure and assault on democracy, its practices and institutions in the past 10 years. Electoral mandates were upturned, governments were toppled, parties were split, and constitutional and human rights of citizens violated. Critics and dissenters were targeted for attack. Opposition voices were sought to be suppressed even in parliament. The present vote should be taken as the voter’s warning against attempts to undermine democracy, authoritarian excesses of power, highhandedness in office, and arrogance. The Indian voter has never brooked attempts to curb the freedoms and rights of citizens and has punished authoritarianism of any form. This election is another example. 

The verdict is also a verdict against personality cult, hero worship, and the rise of an individual above party and society. Democracy recognises leaders but does not accept self-proclaimed superhuman beings and gods. It cuts them down to size. Towards the end of the election campaign, Modi even believed that he had not been born biologically but had been sent by God with a mandate. The people’s mandate has now brought him down to earth and made him a diminished person, with much less authority.  

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