Modi won a third term in the Indian election with closer results than expected

Suddenly, the aura of invincibility surrounding Narendra Modi was shattered.

In an Indian election in which his party’s slogan promised a landslide victory and Mr. Modi even repeatedly claimed to be God-sent, the results announced on Tuesday were shocking. surprised.

Mr. Modi, 73, appeared to have won a third consecutive term as prime minister, a feat only one other Indian leader has achieved, and his Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, won many seats. than any other party.

But instead of winning a landslide victory, the BJP lost dozens of seats. Now they must turn to coalition partners – including a politician notorious for his frequent switching of sides – to maintain power, a dramatic reversal after a decade in office Mr. Modi’s transformation.

When the results came out, the domestic stock market plummeted. Opposition parties, newly united in what they called a bid to save the country’s democracy, rejoiced. And India, while expanding Mr. Modi’s steady grip on power, has learned that there are limits to his political potential, even as he carries elections, often fought one seat at a time, Be honest about yourself.

Mr Modi took a more positive stance in his statement on X claiming his coalition had won a third term. “This is a historic feat in Indian history,” he said.

For Mr. Modi, a generous reading of the outcome would be that only through his personal efforts could his party overcome its unpopularity at the local level and survive. Or it could be that his carefully cultivated brand has now reached its peak and he can no longer overcome the anti-incumbency sentiment that eventually comes to almost every politician.

It is unclear how Mr. Modi will react – whether he will step up efforts to eliminate any challenges to his power or be punished by the electorate’s verdict and the need to work with coalition partners did not share his Hindu nationalist ideology.

“Modi is not considered a consensus figure. However, he is very pragmatic,” said Arati Jerath, a political analyst in New Delhi. “He will have to moderate his hard-line Hindu nationalist approach to the issues. Perhaps we can hope for more moderation from him.”

Yet few doubt that Modi will try to deepen his already significant mark on the country over the next five years.

Under his watch, India, the world’s most populous country, has achieved new prominence on the international stage, reformed its infrastructure to meet the needs of its 1.4 billion people and absorbed imbued with a new ambition as it tries to shed the legacy of its long colonial past.

At the same time, Mr. Modi has attempted to transform a largely diverse country held together by a secular democratic system into an openly Hindu state, eliminating the country’s large Muslim minority.

His critics say his increasingly authoritarian tendencies – with a crackdown on dissent that has created a chilling environment of self-censorship – have upended India’s tumultuous democracy. closer to a one-party state. And the country’s economic growth, although rapid, has mostly enriched those at the top.

Mr. Modi came from a humble background, the son of a tea seller, and became India’s most powerful and popular leader in decades by building a cult of personality and spending heavily on the grassroots. infrastructure and welfare, and tilted India’s democratic institutions in his favour.

The ultimate goal is to consolidate his position as one of the most influential prime ministers in India’s nearly 75 years as a republic and make the BJP the only legitimate force governing the nation of the country.

But Tuesday’s results represent a dramatic shift for India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, which was widely seen as irreversibly weakened after major defeats in two years. previous election.

The once-dominant Congress, long at the heart of India’s politics, has struggled for years to find direction and offer an ideological alternative to the BJP. But the Congress and its coalition partners have found traction in this election by attacking Mr. Modi’s government on issues like unemployment, social justice and the prime minister’s relationship with billionaires. Indian rich.

Last year, when Rahul Gandhi, the public face of the Congress Party, sought to boost his profile by leading long rallies across India, the BJP trapped him in a court case that led to he was charged. expelled from Congress. He was later returned to his seat by India’s highest court and is expected to be re-elected on Tuesday.

Speaking as the early returnees arrived, Mr. Gandhi, 53, said the fight was not only against the BJP. But also against all government institutions that have stood alongside Mr. Modi in trying to hamper the opposition through arrests and arrests, he said. other punitive actions.

“This is about saving the Constitution,” he said, lifting a small copy that he carried with him and displayed during his campaign speeches.

The poll was released on Saturday, after more than six weeks of voting in the world’s largest democratic exercise, showed Modi’s party heading for an easy victory. But there were signs during the election campaign that Mr. Modi was worry about the results.

He crisscrossed the country at more than 200 rallies in about two months and gave dozens of interviews, hoping to use his charismatic appeal to shore up any weaknesses in his party. In speeches, he often steered clear of his party’s message of one rise India rejects accusations that he privileges business and caste. Instead, he also abandoned the subtle dog-whistling aimed at India’s 200 million Muslims. directly smear themby name.

When the dust settles, Mr. Modi will need at least 33 seats from his allies to surpass the minimum threshold of 272 seats to form a government.

In particular, two regional parties will be the leaders: the Telugu Desam Party, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, with 16 seats, and the Janata Dal (United) party in the eastern state of Bihar, with 12 seats.

Both parties are openly secular, raising hopes among Modi’s opponents that their influence could slow India’s race to transform democracy into the first Hindu nation. his fairy.

Some of Mr. Modi’s biggest losses occurred in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh in the north, with about 240 million people. His party leads the state government and won 62 of the state’s 80 seats in the Lower House of Parliament in the previous election in 2019.

As the counting of votes entered its final phase on Tuesday evening, the BJP was leading with just 33 seats there. In his own constituency, Varanasi, Mr. Modi’s margin of victory fell from half a million last time to about 150,000.

The debacle in the Faizabad constituency, in particular, tells the story of how some of the prime minister’s biggest organizations have struggled to connect with voters.

The constituency is where there is Luxurious Ram temple in Ayodhya, built on disputed land between Hindus and Muslims. Its construction was the foundation of the nearly century-long Hindu nationalist movement that brought Modi to power. He hopes that the grand inauguration just before the election campaign begins will both unite his Hindu support base and attract new supporters to join.

Some BJP workers say the party’s display of the temple may have upset a large section of Hindus at the bottom of the rigid caste hierarchy. The opposition says Modi is pursuing an upper-caste agenda that denies underprivileged Hindus the opportunity to reverse centuries of oppression.

“Because of too much emphasis on the Ram temple issue, the opposition united”.

To offset potential losses in his Hindi-speaking northern stronghold, Mr. Modi has set a lofty goal for this election: gaining a foothold in the country’s more prosperous south.

He broke some new ground in Kerala, a state dominated by the political left and long hostile to his ideology. But overall in the South, he struggled to improve on the 29 seats out of 129 his party won in the last election.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for the BJP in south India is that it once again appears to have failed to win any of the 40 seats in Tamil Nadu, a state with a strong cultural and linguistic identity.

Mr. Modi campaigned hard there, even visiting a coastal town to meditate for two days as voting neared its end.

Modi and the BJP’s antics cannot win my Tamil heart,” said Mr. S. Ganesan, a waiter at a hotel in Kanniyakumari, the town Modi visited.

Mujib Mashal, Alex Travelli, Hari Kumar And Sameer Yasir Reporting from New Delhi, Suhasini Raj from Varanasi, India, and KB pragmatic from Bengaluru, India.


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