New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with leads and wins in 238 seats until late on Tuesday night found solace in the fact that it is still the single largest party that has been given the mandate to form government with its allies for a third time in a row. It fell short of meeting the target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win over 400 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats.

Representative photo

Party leaders, however, asserted that Tuesday’s verdict that saw the BJP’s electoral fortunes ebb, could not be described as a loss.

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“It should be noted that after 1984, we are the only party that has been given the mandate to rule for the third time,” said a senior party leader, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a post on ‘X’ Modi said, “People have placed their faith in NDA, for a third consecutive time! This is a historical feat in India’s history. I bow to the Janata Janardan for this affection and assure them that we will continue the good work done in the last decade to keep fulfilling the aspirations of people…”

As the opposition celebrated the shrinking of the BJP, party strategists attributed the party’s diminished strength to the cold shoulder from the Other Backwards Classes, the inability to overcome the opposition’s narrative about its intention to scrap caste-based quotas, contain the anger against inflation and job losses and letting polarisation override the discourse of development.

The party’s poor show in Uttar Pradesh, which sends the highest number of lawmakers to Parliament, the loss in Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka and West Bengal dragged the overall tally down and shifted focus on the party’s over reliance on Modi and its loosening hold on social engineering.

Social engineering

OBCs consolidating their support for the BJP and Modi, who is also an OBC, was credited for the BJP’s win in 2014 and 2019.

“There was an obvious pushback from the OBCs in states such as UP and Rajasthan, where they reacted to the domination of the upper caste Thakurs. In Haryana, the party could not pacify the dominant Jats…put together the caste coalitions were not strong,” said a party leader who is counted among its strategist.

The narrative that the BJP will change the Constitution and scrap caste-based quotas also hurt the party and undid its efforts to woo the Dalits through social welfare schemes.

The leader said the BJP will have to begin its overtures towards the SC and OBC community afresh and sustain its social engineering model of bringing together a coalition of castes. The task of balancing the aspirations of the different castes, some of which have been socially and politically hostile, will be high on the agenda said the leader.

“In Haryana, the BJP continued to go with a face to lead the government that is from a non-dominant caste. There is a possibility that the party may have to revisit this policy,” said a second leader.

After removing Manohar Lal Khattar as the CM, the party had appointed Nayab Singh Saini as the new Haryana chief minister in a bid to consolidate the non-Jat communities and the hope that this would see the party overcome a decade of anti-incumbency and unrest.

Saini’s community is part of the OBC community, which accounts for 40% of the state’s population, but the gambit failed. The BJP, which had won all 10 seats in the state, lost 6.


The results have also dragged the spotlight on the leadership, particularly in the states where the performance has been subpar. A rejig in the organisation at the centre is expected, with a new party president to be announced after JP Nadda completes his term this month. He was given an extension in January.

Leadership in the state units will also be reviewed with the appointment of fresh faces expected in states where ties between the cadre and the leadership have been riddled with problems. “In UP for instance there were complaints of groups working in silos. In Karnataka too, the state unit is not a cohesive team, despite the loss that the party faced in the 2023 state polls, where friction between leaders was identified as a contributory factor for the loss,” said the second leader.

Over reliance on Modi to drum up support for the party has also been underlined. The party’s ideological fount, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which has thrown its weight behind the party and the PM, conveyed the need to groom strong leaders in the states who can steer the party through electoral challenges.

“The party has a strong model of targeted welfare schemes, a good record of implementation and delivery, but it needs to have more than just one person doing the heavy lifting. The PM’s commitment and popularity cannot be expected to help weak candidates win elections or beat anti-incumbency against candidates,” said a functionary of the RSS.

The functionary also dismissed the speculation that the verdict will recast the Sangh-BJP ties. “The RSS supports the BJP’s policies; it would have been in the nation’s interest to have an empowered government that could bring in reforms such as the uniform civil code and a population policy,” the functionary said.


With two of the allies, the TDP and the JDU in a position to negotiate for more berths in the union cabinet, the BJP will have to rework its approach towards the allies. It will also have to consider their views before pressing ahead with legislation. In the last five years, the party snapped ties with some of its oldest allies, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiva Sena (UBT); with both parties accusing the BJP of riding roughshod over allies. The party was also blamed for engineering a split in the Sena and NCP in Maharashtra.

Although the BJP did not need the allies to form the government in 2019, it invited all the partners JDU, RPI (A), LJP, SAD and the Sena to be part of the Modi cabinet. The party also denied the allegations that it did not heed the concerns of the allies. The SAD for instance had walked out of the NDA following the passage of the farm laws that were scrapped after a year-long protest.

Narrative and organisation

A nationalist narrative combined with the development agenda that paid dividends in the last two general elections did not yield similar results. Although the party and the Sangh defended Modi’s reference to the minorities in election speeches as a response to the opposition’s policy of appeasement, there is a section of leaders who said sticking to the development agenda would have been a safer bet.

“The focus should have been on rashan and shashan (free food grains and governance) …” said a third party leader, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

The leader said the party failed to read the underlying sentiment of anger against the new recruitment policy for defence forces, against the lack of jobs in rural areas and for not being able to reign in leaders who made controversial statements. Several lawmakers including Lallu Singh, who represented Ayodhya in the 17th Lok Sabha and Jyoti Mirdha the contestant from Nagaur in Rajasthan had spoken about the need to change the Constitution. Incidentally, both lost the elections.

Better interaction between the government representatives and the electorate, particularly women and those at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid will help the party reinforce its credentials said Patna-based political commentator Ajay Kumar Jha.

“For the first time in many years red tape and pilferage was stemmed. Money reached the accounts of the poor and the vulnerable. The systemic reforms that were undertaken have earned the BJP the support of people, particularly the women…,” he said.

The party will also need to factor in worker apathy and fatigue, said party leaders.

“The cadre is dedicated, but after 10 years and multiple elections and organisational work, there is a sense of complacency that has crept in. There is a perception that the cadre was so confident of winning 400 plus seats that they slipped in outreach…there were complaints of booth workers slacking from many places,” said the second leader quoted above.

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