Scoring a landslide win in the 2019 general elections, Amit Shah’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has ushered in NDA 2.0 by historic margins. The party defied all criticism and expectations by performing sweepingly, not restricted to the Hindi heartland states and bastion, Gujarat. This dealt a strong blow to the political ambitions of parties like AAP in Delhi, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, and TDP in Andhra Pradesh.
In 13 states, voters have given the BJP and its allies a clean sweep, where the BJP’s nearest opponents have been reduced to single-digit seat tallies.
The national party has also made surprise gains this election, in eastern states like West Bengal, Odisha, and Telangana, which were hitherto considered resistant to saffronisation, and arterial states like Uttar Pradesh where threats from BSP-SP Mahagathbandhan was expected to dislodge BJP’s majority as per exit polls.
The BJP, as of 11 PM on May 23, had won 200 seats and were leading 103 more. This puts its tentative tally at 303, 2 short of the 305-target set by many senior leaders during the campaign. By that math, along with allies, the total of number of seats for the winning NDA crosses 350, over a dozen seats more than its 2014 gains.
Congress, on the other hand, leads in 51 seats; 38 of them have been called so far. The UPA alliance it leads is projected to win up to 92 seats in the lower house this election. Non-aligned parties will hold some 100 other seats.
Reversal within a year
The saffron wave also rippled through all four of the states which Congress jousted out of BJP’s control in last year’s Assembly polls—Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh.
While Pragya Thakur registered a shocking win in Bhopal, MP, Smriti Irani dethroned Congress chief Rahul Gandhi from the party’s decades-old bastion Amethi in Rajasthan. Meanwhile, BJP president Amit Shah is set to break LK Advani’s record, winning by over 5 lakh votes in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
Karnataka, nearly a year after a dramatic post-poll coalition between JD(S) and Congress, returns to BJP. Tejaswi Surya, representing Bengaluru South, becomes the youngest BJP leader to be elected to the Parliament.
Besides the BJP’s 23 seats in Maharashtra, its pre-poll ally Shiv Sena leads in 18 seats, the NCP in four while the Congress, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), and an Independent candidate are ahead in one seat each. Retaining the coalition, after threatening to defect over differences not too long ago, has proven to be political gold for Uddhav Thackeray’s Sena.
Other NDA allies JD(U) and LJP in Bihar have been able to crush challengers like Tejashwi Yadav from RJD and Kanhaiya Kumar from CPI(M)—the coalition leading 39 of 40 seats—while BJP-Akali Dal have swept all 10 seats in Haryana. Sceptics have, however, wondered if allies will be considered as dispensable in the impending term, since BJP has more than an absolute majority in the Parliament all by itself.
Only the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh were untouched by the Modi tsunami. In Telangana too, the BJP is ahead in four seats, the same as KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).
In Tamil Nadu, Congress and the regional DMK’s seat-share alliance proved to be a boon, sweeping almost all the 23 constituencies in the southern state, leaving just one for the BJP and AIADMK alliance. Punjab is the only state where Congress has been able to maintain its stronghold.
Among this year’s regional winners are Odisha’s BJD winning 13 out of 21 seats, with BJP winning 8 of the remaining seats. Last year, the saffron party had managed to get only one seat in the coastal state. Nonetheless, the elections mark a historic fifth term for CM Naveen Patnaik.
Andhra Pradesh has pitched its wholehearted support for YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YRSCP which swept all 25 seats in the state, leaving veteran player Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP high and dry.
The ones who lost
The Congress-led UPA and the CPI(M)-led Left Front have emerged as May 23rd’s biggest losers, with the national party managing to secure 51 seats (7 more than 2014), and the red party losing major ground especially in its southern bastion Kerala where it has won only 1 of 20 seats. The Congress-led UDF has managed to turn Kerala blue, with president Rahul Gandhi notably winning his Wayanad seat by a wide margin.
But this landslide win, also described by some as political wilderness, was offset by major losses for the primary Opposition. Several of its senior leaders are trailing/defeated in high octane seats, including Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot among others.
The MGB in UP comes next, with Mayawati (BSP) and Akhilesh Yadav (SP) clearly failing to put up a united front in attracting the Dalit and Muslim vote. Congress’ presence in the state may have split some of the anti-BJP vote, but that even if Congress (3) and MGB’s votes (16) were put together, they would still be trailing behind the saffron party that leads in 60 of the 80 seats. It also doesn’t’ explain all the exit polls accounting for BJP losing considerable seats in a state that sends the highest number of MPs.
AAP, TMC, TDP suffer huge blows to morale
Another major loss has been faced by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi which has failed to take a lead in any of its constituencies; one of the most bitterly contested battles in the national capital between AAP candidate Atishi and BJP’s Gautam Gambhir has projected a win for the latter.All seven seats look poised to be swept by the BJP.
Despite maintaining a lead against the saffron party, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool (AITC) in West Bengal has had to concede nearly half of its seats to the BJP, where it has emerged as the opposition party ahead of next year’s Assembly polls. The regional party there leads in 22 seats as opposed to BJP’s 19 while the once-red state failed to yield even a single seat for CPI(M); veteran Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury has held on to his Baharampur seat, delivering the grand old party its only consolation there.
Another massive loss was registered by the TDP in Andhra Pradesh. Estranged NDA ally Chandrababu Naidu who has been meeting Opposition leaders to clobber a post-poll coalition over the last week, failed to hang on to a single seat, suggesting the death of dynasty politics.
A lesson in politicking
Other political families that were decimated in the seven-phase LS polls were the Bihar’s Yadavs, MP’s Scindias, Karnataka’s Gowdas. Congress’s Rahul Gandhi has floated the possibility that he may be tendering resignation as party president.
Whether the time to sign his political epitaph has come or not, it is certainly time to bend broken bridges for multi-partisan democratic governance to return to normalcy, after the month-long polarisation that has go on in the name of polls.
It is also time for prudent non-aligned parties to consider joining the NDA, although conventional wisdom says they won’t be entertained, now that BJP has numbers on its side. That said, the party can definitely benefit from being more representative for a “new India.”
More importantly, for the Opposition, perhaps, it is time to reevaluate strategies, priorities, and communication. The absence of a formidable challenger to Narendra Modi-Amit Shah’s populist politicking has never been more transparent before this mandate.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius.