Lok Sabha Election Results 2024: BJP Finds Itself On Sticky Wicket

Lok Sabha Election Results 2024: BJP Finds Itself On Sticky Wicket

Narendra Modi, who has staked claim to form the government, has been trying to paint the election results as a huge mandate for the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that it leads.

Premangshu RayUpdated: Thursday, June 06, 2024, 09:49 PM IST
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“Religion is the opium of the masses”, German philosopher Karl Marx said in ‘Introduction to the critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’ in 1844. Close to two centuries later, the potency of religion to woo people seems to have reduced drastically and has left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with little reason to go over the top with its celebrations after the announcement of the Lok Sabha election results. The party has got the maximum number of seats but has lost face on several counts and now finds itself on a sticky wicket.

Narendra Modi, who has staked claim to form the government, has been trying to paint the election results as a huge mandate for the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that it leads. However, the reality is far different. Modi and several other BJP leaders kept chanting only one slogan — Ab ki baar, 400 paar (This time it will cross 400) — trying to exude a sense of confidence that the coalition led by the party will do so well in the elections that the opposition will not be of any consequence. Simultaneously, it tried to imply the Congress would be wiped out.

The results tell us a very different story. Far from crossing or even reaching 400, the NDA has not managed to touch even 300 seats. The Congress, on the other hand, has fared far better than it did in the last elections. This has left many BJP leaders red faced.

What has undoubtedly hurt the most is that the BJP fared poorly in Uttar Pradesh and lost the contest in Ayodhya where the Ram temple was built and the consecration held with much fanfare. Hordes of people, other than the VVIP invitees, flocked to the temple but these numbers do not seem to have translated into the requisite number of votes.

The temple establishment of the temple and the consecration were also seen as an attempt to consolidate Hindu votes for the BJP and ensure that it gets a sizeable number of seats across the country in these elections. However, that did not happen.

This gives rise to the thought that the people in Ayodhya in particular and the country in general seem to have chosen to keep religion out of politics.

This separation of religion and politics seems to have impacted voting in several states, especially in view of the openly Hindutva stand taken by the BJP and also against the backdrop of BJP leaders and supporters being very vocal about the Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath temple controversy and also about the Shahi Idgah mosque and Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura.

Another state in which the BJP’s performance fell way short of what its leaders would have liked is Maharashtra, where the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) got 30 of the 48 seats, leaving the NDA a distant second at 17 with one seat going to an independent. This has also clearly hit the fortunes of the BJP leaders of the state as most of them have failed to deliver.

The third sticky point is Punjab, where the NDA failed to win even one seat. All the intensive campaigning by the BJP stalwarts could not prevent the Congress from sweeping the state and asserting itself as a force in the region.

The NDA could not do well even in Tamil Nadu, where the BJP did not win even one seat and the very vocal state president of the party, Annamalai, lost the election to the Coimbatore seat to Ganapathy Rajkumar of the DMK.

The BJP also was left red-faced in West Bengal. Top leaders of the party, including Modi and Amit Shah had campaigned vociferously in the state in an effort to pin down the Trinamool Congress (TMC). The campaign, both overt and covert, often centred around pinning down TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee. The BJP had the ambitious aim of wiping the TMC out of the political arena of the state. Even the exit polls seemed to suggest that this would happen. However, the results were just the opposite, with the TMC winning most of the 42 seats in the state and consolidating its position as the numero uno party in Bengal.

This poor showing was compounded by the fate of some of its leaders such as Union minister Smriti Irani, who contested the Amethi seat. BJP leaders implied that former Congress president Rahul Gandhi was no match for Irani and would face defeat if he chose to contest the Amethi seat. Instead, Irani lost to Kishori Lal of the Congress, who the party had dismissed as a Gandhi family aide.

Gandhi, who the BJP said would lose both Wayanad and Raebareli, went on to win both the seats comfortably, rubbing salt in the wounds of his detractors. Shashi Tharoor added the icing to the cake by defeating Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar of the BJP to win the Thiruvananthapuram seat.

As a result of the NDA not even coming close to its stated goal of crossing the 400 mark and the BJP itself not doing as well as it had hoped to, the party now has to depend on the support of the Telugu Desam Party headed by Chandrababu Naidu and the Janata Dal (United) led by Nitish Kumar to form the government.

However, this support is not going to come without a cost. Naidu has already made his demands clear. The TDP leader has sought the post of Speaker, as well as seven Cabinet berths and one MoS post. Kumar has, on his part, sought four Cabinet berths, including Railways, Rural Development and Water. The other parties, including the Chirag Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party and the Janata Dal (Secular) led by HD Kumaraswamy, which are supporting the BJP in government formation have also made demands.

This has muddied the waters for the BJP, which has to accommodate the demands of the allies at least to some extent to ensure that they stay on board and, at the same time, keep enough portfolios for itself to ensure that there is no dissent within its ranks. This will be the real test for the BJP leadership in the days leading up to and the weeks after the formation of the government.

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