THE recent general elections in India have dealt a significant blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stated ambition of getting an absolute majority in the legislature. The election campaign, which had been kicked off with the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in January, witnessed a symbolic setback as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced defeat in Ayodhya itself.

The elections marked a notable change for the BJP, which, after a decade of dominance, now has to make do with a simple majority within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Despite expectations, the BJP failed to galvanise its base, including the voters of its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The atmosphere of fear created by Modi and his close associates alienated even the RSS from the campaign. Modi’s usual tactics of leveraging Hindutva and making sarcastic remarks about Muslims proved ineffective this time. He barely managed to retain his seat in Varanasi. The BJP’s decline can be attributed to rising inflation, unemployment, contro- versial military recruitment reforms, and Modi’s aggressive and divisive electoral campaign, in particular.

Modi’s ability to govern unilaterally will be curtailed. This development bodes well for a stronger opposition that can actively challenge government actions. The results also suggest a resurgence of the Congress party, which is positive news for secular India, providing relief to minorities who have been distressed by Hindutva rhetoric and discriminatory policies.

For the people of occupied Kashmir, too, the results offer a glimmer of hope. The BJP-led administration has inflicted severe repression since the revocation of the occupied valley’s special status, and the outcome of the elections may lead to some reassessment of these harsh policies.

Gulab Umid
Turbat

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2024

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