Voice of people: BJP’s coalition government

Modi was lauded as the leader who would catapult India into the 21st century as a global superpower. This belief helped the party in 2019; by 2024, fatigue had set in
The times ahead for Modi will be turbulent. If the Congress can get its act together, 2029 is for the asking.
The times ahead for Modi will be turbulent. If the Congress can get its act together, 2029 is for the asking.Express illustrations | Sourav Roy

The outcome of June 4, 2024 has thrown up some interesting trends.  We will try and analyse who lost and who won.  First, let us start with the BJP.

The BJP had captured almost all institutions in this country and the mainstream media was depicting Modi as the best thing that happened to India. This had benefic and malefic effects, both short term and long term.

Every event in which he participated or led in the last 10 years at the national and international level, every action, and all his shenanigans were repeated and magnified.

His speeches lauding his own contributions and in contrast, vilifying in the most acerbic terms the failures of the opposition, in particular of the Congress, were perceived as true. It was as if Modi could catapult India into the 21st century as a global power and deliver for his party, on promises made and dreams sold.

The BJP as a party, with a Teflon-coated Modi image, was seen to be an impregnable fort, almost invincible. Modi made people believe he was their saviour, remedying the historic faults of the Congress since independence. This narrative being played in and out 24/7 had a beneficial effect for his party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. By the time the 2024 elections came around, fatigue had set in.

Blatant and unjust misuse of investigating agencies in prosecuting only opposition leaders including chief ministers, keeping them away from the electoral process, sent a very negative signal during the course of a serious electoral battle. Even the middle class, largely for Modi, did not appreciate the selective prosecution and inaction against those who were a part of or aligned with the establishment though perceived to be highly corrupt. In fact, some of them were forced to defect and join the BJP under threat of prosecution. Such motivated actions may have benefitted the BJP in some states, including Delhi and Jharkhand. Having said that, the Modi monotone was getting counterproductive.

The blatantly biased functioning of the Election Commission of India (ECI) was yet another reason for public disapprobation. Despite Modi’s openly culpable statements in the midst of the elections, the ECI chose not to act. This was not lost to the ordinary voters in the remote corners of the country, thanks to social media. This too impacted the outcome.

The interference by governors in the functioning of the state legislatures, indulging in politics to overthrow elected governments through means which, to the public mind, were corrupt, added to the already simmering disenchantment.

In West Bengal, despite the battle cry aided by the governor trying to queer the pitch, it did not prevent a Mamata victory. Mamata’s popularity coupled with the electoral management made her fortress impregnable. Kudos to her!

Too much of Modi and too little delivery on the ground made Modi a controversial character. His faults were depicted on every social media platform and with mobile phones in almost every hand, the Modi mania had petered out; it was easier to access social media platforms than sit around watching mainstream TV channels. What benefitted him in 2019 hurt him in 2024.

Realising that the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections had not gone off too well, he started making speeches that did not befit the office he occupied. His statement that if Congress came to power, it would shower benefits to those who produce more children sought to create societal divisions, which he thought, would help him in the remaining phases. That did not happen.

His choices in appointment of chief ministers over and above stalwarts and seniors in the party brought about a level of discontent, which ultimately reflected in the statements of Mohan Bhagwat. In other words, even the RSS was concerned that Modi was inconsistent with the culture of the RSS of which he himself is a pracharak. It was Modi versus the rest; it seemed the BJP was subsumed by Modi’s personality. The ‘400 paar’ slogan boomeranged.

The nation has rejected Modi without any doubt because the people of India have not voted for the BJP coming back to power on its own. The vote was clearly for an alternative government.

As far as the Congress is concerned, the response of the people is somewhat mixed. The Congress gained, apart from a few exceptions. Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra brought huge dividends for the Congress, but only when it allied with other major players of the respective states. When it came to states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttarakhand, the Congress lost out. Rajasthan was perhaps persuaded by local factors like Vashundhara not campaigning in all constituencies, having been denied the post of chief minister, apart from a united effort by Congress. In Punjab and Kerala, people had no other option but to vote for the alliance. There were gains in the Northeast because the chief ministers there seemed to replicate what Modi was doing at the national level. The Congress did well in Telangana where it was already in power.

Above all, the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatras, thanks to Rahul, galvanised people. Priyanka’s speeches were focused and combative, fitting replies to Modi’s anti-Congress rants. There were three other factors: one, the handling of the economy with the price rise, which hurt ordinary people.

Two, large scale unemployment where the youth were disenchanted with Modi. And three, that Modi had delivered for the rich—a narrative also fuelled by the electoral bonds judgement of the Supreme Court—which suggested to people that the scheme was meant only to benefit the BJP. It is this mixed result that almost doubled the Congress tally, though not enough to catch the imagination of the people.  

So, the people in fact voted for a coalition government, not for yet another Modi juggernaut. Henceforth, what the coalition partners have to watch out for is to prevent being swallowed, as happened in Odisha. All alliance partners in the past left BJP, including the Akalis, the AIADMK and, of course, the Shiv Shena, to name a few.

The times ahead for Modi will be turbulent. If the Congress can get its act together, 2029 is for the asking.

Kapil Sibal

Senior lawyer and member of Rajya Sabha

(Views are personal)

(Tweets @KapilSibal)

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