India seems to be headed for a second term for the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with counting trends for the 17th Parliamentary Elections indicating a clear victory for the rightist National Democratic Alliance (NDA). It is projected to win 335 of the 543 seats of India’s lower house of parliament.
While the Rahul Gandhi-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is likely to improve upon its 2014 strength in the Lower House, the gains are not substantial. Until early afternoon, the UPA was leading in 102 seats, while the individual tally of the Congress hovered around the 75 mark. In the outgoing Lower House, the Congress had a strength of 44 members.
The ruling BJP and it’s allies are seen as virtually sweeping across the Hindi heartland states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan while the party is projected to make big gains in the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha and also in Assam and the states of the Northeast.
But apart from Karnataka, which is likely to provide for a rich political harvest to the BJP, India’s five southern states appear to have remained largely untouched by what is called the “Modi magic.” The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress alliance is seen as sweeping the southern state of Tamil Nadu, as the alliance is leading in 36 of the state’s 38 seats where polling was held.
Modi’s 2019 performance is considered more substantial than the BJP’s achievement in the previous 2014 elections, when the then Gujarat chief minister emerged as the challenger to the “scam tainted” United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government-led by Manmohan Singh. The BJP’s vote share in these elections has jumped by approximately 10 percentage points although the NDA’s overall seats tally is likely to come down marginally. In the previous Parliamentary elections in 2014, BJP won 282 seats, while the NDA tally stood at 336. At the time of writing, the NDA is projected to reach a figure of 335.
The big mandate in favor of the BJP is likely to cause a political upheaval of sorts, with opposition ruled states – which have been surviving on razor thin majorities – coming under threat. The state BJP unit of Madhya Pradesh has already petitioned the governor to dismiss the “minority” Congress government led by Kamal Nath. After the BJP’s massive projected win in neighboring Rajasthan (where the saffron party is likely to win 24 of the state’s 25 seats), the Congress state government led by Ashok Gehlot could also get destabilized, observers say.
In Andhra Pradesh – where assembly elections were simultaneously held – Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and incumbent chief minister N Chandra Babu Naidu is reportedly considering the option of resigning. In Karnataka, the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government has come under threat. According to reports, chief minister N Kumaraswamy has convened an emergency meeting to review the possible fallout of the election trends.
The biggest surprise the trends indicate relates to Uttar Pradesh, which sends the maximum number of members to the Lower House – 80. At the time of writing, the BJP was leading in 57 of the 80 seats, while the opposition “grand alliance” comprising the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Lol Dal (RLD) were leading in 19 seats; the Congress led in just one constituency. Congress President Rahul Gandhi was himself trailing in his family pocket borough seat of Amethi, which he held for four terms consecutively.
The Uttar Pradesh trends show that political chemistry rather than arithmetic has prevailed, as the SP-BSP-RLD combination failed to succeed despite the fact that nearly 80% of the caste groups were represented by these parties, on paper. “These parties failed to transfer their votes to one another,” a veteran political watcher surmised.
A factor that may have worked against the grand alliance was the entry of Rahul Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. “ After Vadra’s entry, votes of the minority Muslims got divided between the candidates of the grand alliance and the Congress. The Priyanka factor accounted for a 7% swing away from the grand alliance, according to political observers said.
Meantime, adjoining Bihar, which accounts for 40 seats, has also given thumbs down to the “secular alliance,” as the BJP-Janata Dal (United) alliance is likely to bag 37 seats. The absence of Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad, who is serving a jail sentence in a corruption case, is being considered a major factor for the poor showing of the secular alliance.
While the BJP, in the 2014 elections, had dominated Central and Western India, the saffron party appears to have spread its footprints in eastern India this time. At the time of writing, the BJP was leading in 17 of the 42 seats of West Bengal and 7 of the 21 seats of Odisha. In Assam, the BJP-Asom Gana Parishad alliance was leading in 10 of the state’s 13 seats.
According to the trends, BJP alone is set to surpass its 2014 tally of 282 seats as it leads in 340 seats.