Modi’s “Campaign Punchline” Hurts Overconfident BJP; Puts New Indian Govt At Coalition’s Mercy: OPED

How does one view the results of the just concluded Indian General Elections?  

Well, it is like a glass half full of water. It depends on how the person describes the situation. The positively inclined will emphasize the water content, whereas the fault-finder will point out the half-emptiness in the glass.  

Similarly, this round of Indian elections has quite a few positive aspects for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) supporters and sympathizers

First, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has won three consecutive elections, equaling the record of Congress stalwart and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This is not a small achievement by any means. 

Secondly, with 240 MPs, his BJP has lost the magic figure of 272 to claim the majority on its own. Thus, it is now critically dependent on NDA allies like the Telugu Desam and Janata Dal (U), both of which have not been exactly trusted partners in the past. However, the fact remains that the BJP’s number (240) is still six (6) more than the combined total of nearly 40 partners in the opposition INDIA alliance (234).  

Thirdly, assembly elections in three states that were held simultaneously with the general elections saw the ruling NDA emerging triumphant in all of them – Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Odisha.

Arunachal and Odisha were won by the BJP singlehandedly. In fact, the victory in Odisha with 20 out of 21 Lok Sabha seats and dethroning the country’s longestserving state government led by Naveen Patnaik for over 25 years is nothing less than unprecedented. The BJP is now going to be the sole governing party of the eastern state. It is a feather in the cap of Modi, in whose name the people of Odisha really voted.  

Fourth, by bagging seats in Andhra Pradesh, improving the party tally to be equal with the ruling Congress in Telangana, registering an appreciable rise in the party’s vote share in Tamil Nadu, defending the position as the leading party in terms of the seats in the Lok Sabha in the state of Karnataka that is under a very powerful Congress government, and by making the maiden entry in Kerala and sending a member to the parliament, the BJP under Modi has proved that its influence is no longer confined to the north, central and western India. In fact, the BJP is now the only national party that has a presence in all parts of the country.   

And Now The Minuses

One, though there is no doubt that though Modi remains the most popular leader of the country, there has been a big dent in Modi’s charisma. The significant fall in his victory margin in Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency (from nearly 400,000 in 2019 to only about 150,000 in 2024), is proof of that. There are merits if some people now say that Modi’s “aura of invincibility” has been shattered in this year’s Lok Sabha polls. 

Secondly, more than anything else, the drastic fall in the party number of 303 from 2019 to 240 in 2024 is the unexceptional performance in Uttar Pradesh, Modi’s “political home state,” where there is a very strong and popular chief minister in Yogi Adityanath and which houses the magnificent Ram temple that has been newly built in the birthplace of Lord Ram that housed the disputed Babri Masjid, let alone the dazzling infrastructures that Modi has built in the last 10 years in what is the politically the most important state of the country that sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. 

Thirdly, Modi made some spectacular, out-of-the-box, and visionary decisions in the last 10 years, such as demonetization, digital payments, military reforms, criminalization of triple-talaq, and abrogation of Article 370, which had kept Kashmir out of the national mainstream ever since our independence. These were possible precisely because the BJP, on its own, had the magic figure of 272.

It enabled the lead party of the NDA and its leaders to be less prone to blackmail and compromises as far as the survival of the Modi government was concerned. This stability of the new government of the country is now gone.

Modi would have to carry out or perform what is said to be “Coalition Dharma” and indulge in hard negotiations with the coalition partners on important issues to reach a consensus before initiating any major legislation or reform

Maybe he has to go by what could be “a minimum program” of the coalition that, in every likelihood, will avoid Modi’s promised measures like the one-nation-one poll and uniform civil code. Of course, it is a different matter that many liberals view a weak and coalition government at the Centre in India as ideal for country of such diversity, though that is a highly debatable proposition

Biggest Loser?

Now the question arises as to what the reasons behind such a downfall for Modi. Even though a winner in saving the government for the rare third term, Modi is perceived widely, both inside and outside the country, as the biggest loser of the 2024 poll. One may attempt to find out some of these reasons. 

One, Modi, arguably the greatest political communicator this country has produced in recent memory, failed to communicate his achievements and proposed schemes with the same force and clarity as in 2019 and 2014.

Unlike on previous occasions, Modi’s speeches did not sound inspiring enough and did not generate the same enthusiasm.

Modi was not the same communicator in 2024 as he was in 2014 and 2019. In fact, there are merits in the arguments that the languages in some of his speeches this time were not apt for a PM. 

His overemphasis on the fear of a particular community (Muslims) taking away the fruits of the reservation or, for that matter, the nation’s resources for the poor if the opposition INDIA alliance assumed power was perhaps avoidable.

It not only led to the consolidation of the Muslims in voting Modi out in states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, where the BJP was expected to perform very high, but also alienated the urban, educated urban, many of whom were his erstwhile supporters.

Secondly, in the presidential style of campaigning all over the country that is his USP, his efforts failed this time in countering the narratives of the opposition, particularly that of the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, that Modi would be changing the constitution and do away with the reservations for the OBC, Scheduled castes and Tribes and that Modi is transferring all the national wealth to a select group of industrialists.

This explains why the BJP’s votes from the Dalits, Tribes, and OBCs in the Hindi heartland, like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the party’s traditional strongholds, significantly fell. What is noticeable here is that these charges against Modi were sheer and manufactured lies with no basis whatsoever. But Modi could not eliminate such doubts among the voters’ minds. 

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi/File Photo

Thirdly, in the absence of effective and equally articulate party colleagues, Modi alone was not sufficient to highlight his government’s significant achievements to the people. Even the manufactured charges of corruption against the government were not countered effectively.

For instance, take the case of electoral bonds. Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders went hyper in pointing out how the BJP got illegal funding from corporations, but hardly anyone in the BJP countered this charge in public rallies by asking the Congress who owned the corporate houses that bought electoral bonds for the Congress worth over a thousand crores.             

Fourthly, there is enough evidence to suggest that this is perhaps the Indian election where the foreign interference was of great intensity, directly and indirectly, in working against the Modi government and for the Congress party.

This interference was in the form of building dubious and mostly false narratives against the government in foreign and social media outlets. Many leading foreign NGOs funded liberally these anti-Modi and anti-Hindu narratives.

On social media, Modi and the BJP got the worst possible coverage. Some foreign governments even intervened directly by describing many of the Modi government’s actions as undemocratic and communal. Modi, or for that matter, the BJP, failed miserably in tackling such accusations. 

Finally, Modi’s assertion that the NDA would get more than 400 seats, with his own BJP bagging as many as 370, proved, in retrospect, most unwise. It gave unnecessary scope to the speculations that Modi was trying to change the constitution with such a big mandate. But more than anything else, this assertion of “Beyond 400” was not a sign of confidence. It was perceived, and rightly so, to be a reflection of arrogance.  

Voters everywhere like to be pampered, not ordered. “Beyond 400” was perceived to be an order, not request or appeal. In my humble view, this “order” must have cost Modi thousands of votes.   

  • Author and veteran journalist Prakash Nanda is Chairman of the Editorial Board – EurAsian Times and has commented on politics, foreign policy, and strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. 
  • CONTACT: prakash.nanda (at)
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Author and veteran journalist Prakash Nanda has been commenting on Indian politics, foreign policy on strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. He has been a Visiting Professor at Yonsei University (Seoul) and FMSH (Paris). He has also been the Chairman of the Governing Body of leading colleges of the Delhi University. Educated at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he has undergone professional courses at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Boston) and Seoul National University (Seoul). Apart from writing many monographs and chapters for various books, he has authored books: Prime Minister Modi: Challenges Ahead; Rediscovering Asia: Evolution of India’s Look-East Policy; Rising India: Friends and Foes; Nuclearization of Divided Nations: Pakistan, Koreas and India; Vajpayee’s Foreign Policy: Daring the Irreversible. He has written over 3000 articles and columns in India’s national media and several international dailies and magazines. CONTACT: