The 2024 elections have thrown up a major surprise. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was supposed to have swept the polls. Instead, it has fallen short of majority. It now needs to join with its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to form the government. The era of coalition politics is back in India. Here are some of the main takeaways.

Heartland heartbreak

The BJP’s belief that it would do well in the elections stemmed from its confidence in sweeping the Hindi heartland—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Haryana. This emboldened it to set a target of 400- plus for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). In the event, voters in these states have reminded the BJP not to take their support for granted. In 2019, the party and its allies won 174 out of 195 seats in the above six states. This time around, the NDA is set to win just 122* seats. The BJP’s hardcore Hindutva ideology, polarization of votes along religious lines and building of the Ram temple could not beat the anti-incumbency. People seem to be upset with falling incomes, rural distress and jobless growth.


Modi magic has its limits

After the notification of elections by the Election Commission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held 206 public meetings including roadshows across the country. He led the NDA’s campaign almost single-handedly. While the performance of his government, his personal popularity and guarantees have ensured that the NDA crossed the 272-mark, they were not enough for the BJP to get a majority or repeat its 2019 performance.


A different Parliament

There has been much hand-wringing about the lack of a strong Opposition in the past decade. Congress, the only opposition party with a national presence, was weakened after drubbings in 2014 (44 seats) and 2019 (52 seats). It lacked confidence and respect among other parties. That made the BJP more powerful. People, by giving 99* seats to Congress in the 2024 elections, have revived the party. On the other hand, the BJP with about 240* seats, has fallen short of the 272 required for a majority and will now depend on its allies to form the government. This means the NDA will face a very different Parliament this time around and the BJP will need to take other parties along to pass important legislation.


Regional parties return

The BJP’s comfortable majority in 2014 and 2019 meant that regional parties had little say in policymaking. For instance, the DMK with 38 seats practically had no say in Parliament. That is now set to change. The BJP will depend on its allies such as the Telugu Desam Party, Janata Dal (United) and others to form the government. It may also need to reach out to other regional parties in the opposition benches to get important legislation passed.

Development matters

The people of Andhra Pradesh have voted for development and not cash handouts. The incumbent YSRCP spent 4.56 trillion towards welfare schemes in the last five years. This included 2.71 trillion by way of direct benefit transfers (DBT) and 1.84 trillion towards non-DBT spending. Its leader and incumbent chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy did not give a similar impetus to development. In fact, he painted those who wanted economic growth and development as anti-poor and termed this election as a class war between the poor and the rich. But the lack of jobs and other economic opportunities angered people, especially in the urban areas. Telugu Desam Party leader Chandrababu Naidu fought for development and said without economic growth, welfare schemes cannot be funded. People have given him a massive mandate.

FIIs read voters better

It is ironic that foreign institutional investors (FIIs) seem to have read the minds of the Indian voter better than their local counterparts. Anticipating a sub-optimal performance by the BJP, they pulled out as much as 25,586 crore from the equity markets in May. On the other hand, domestic investors pumped in over 40,000 crore. The stock markets crashed—the BSE Sensex by more than 4,000 points—on Tuesday, as the results began to come in and the possibility of a coalition government became clear. While local investors counted their losses (total market capitalization of listed stocks fell by 31 trillion on the day), FIIs that exited are laughing their way to the bank.


Exit polls off the mark

The performance of exit polls in India has been, at best, patchy. In 2004, they predicted a victory for Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP, but the opposite happened. Since then, their record has improved. They mostly get the direction right while lacking in accuracy. But the 2024 election has exposed the limitation of their predictive models. All of them predicted a comfortable BJP victory and many expected the NDA to get 400-plus seats. The reality was very different. The BJP fell short of a simple majority. Pollsters failed to pick up on the anti-incumbency against the BJP in the Hindi heartland and Maharashtra. The credibility of exit pollsters have hit a new low in India.

(* numbers as of 10 pm)

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