India’s Modi Claims Election Victory, but Coalition Support Needed Amidst Declining Popularity

declared victory Tuesday for his alliance in India’s general election, asserting a mandate to proceed with his objectives even though his party lost seats to a stronger-than-expected opposition, that challenged his mixed economic track record and polarizing politics.

“Today’s victory is the triumph of the world’s largest democracy,” Modi informed the crowd at his party’s headquarters, stating had “demonstrated immense faith” in both his party and his National Democratic Alliance coalition.

Official results from India’s Election Commission demonstrated the NDA won 286 seats, surpassing the 272 seats required to secure a majority but far fewer than had been projected.

For the first time since his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, it did not secure a majority on its own, winning 240 seats —- significantly less than the record 303 it won in the 2019 election.

That implies Modi will require the support of other parties in his coalition — a stunning setback for the 73-year-old, who had anticipated a landslide victory.

The party may now be “heavily dependent on the goodwill of its allies, which makes them critical actors who we can expect will demand concessions, both in terms of policymaking as well as government formation,” mentioned Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Over 640 million votes were cast in the marathon election held over a span of six weeks in the world’s largest democratic exercise.

In the face of the unforeseen decline in the BJP’s support, challengers claimed they had also secured a victory of sorts, with the main opposition Congress party asserting the election had been a “moral and political defeat” for Modi.

“This is the public’s victory and a win for democracy,” Congress party President Mallikarjun Kharge informed reporters.

Despite the setback, Modi pledged to fulfill his election promise to transform India’s economy into the world’s third largest, from its current fifth place, and not waver in pursuing his goals.

He stated he would advance India’s defense production, generate employment for youth, increase exports, and assist farmers, among other initiatives.

“This nation will witness a new era of significant decisions. This is Modi’s guarantee,” he stated, speaking in the third person.

Numerous of the Hindu nationalist policies he’s enforced over the past 10 years will also remain in place.

Modi’s victory was only the second time an Indian leader has retained power for a third term following Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister. Before Modi came to power, India had coalition governments for 30 years.

The opposition INDIA coalition won 225 seats and was leading in five others yet to be declared early Wednesday morning.

Congratulations for Modi from leaders of regional nations including neighboring Nepal and Bhutan poured in, while the commended India for its “vibrant democratic process.”

In his 10 years in power, Modi has reshaped India’s political landscape, bringing Hindu nationalism, once a fringe ideology in India, into the mainstream while leaving the country deeply divided.

His supporters perceive him as a self-made, strong leader who has enhanced India’s status in the world. His critics and adversaries contend his Hindu-first politics have fostered intolerance while the economy, one of the world’s fastest growing, has become more unequal.

For Payal, a resident of the northern city of Lucknow who uses only one name, the election was about the economy and India’s vast number of people living in poverty.

“People are suffering, there are no jobs, people are in such a state that their kids are forced to make and sell tea on the roadside,” Payal mentioned. “This is a critical matter for us. If we don’t wake up now, when will we?”

Rahul Gandhi, the main face of the opposition Congress party, stated he viewed the election results as a message from the people.

“The poorest of this country have defended the constitution of India,” he informed a news conference.

Modi’s popularity has surpassed that of his party’s during his first two terms in office, and he transformed the parliamentary election into one that more closely resembled a presidential-style campaign, with the BJP relying on the leader’s brand.

“Modi was not only the primary campaigner, but the exclusive campaigner of this election,” remarked Yamini Aiyar, a public policy scholar.

Under Modi’s administration, critics assert India’s democracy has come under increasing pressure with heavy-handed tactics utilized to suppress political opponents, stifle independent media, and extinguish dissent. The government has denied such accusations and maintains democracy is flourishing.

Economic dissatisfaction has also simmered under Modi. While stock markets have reached record-highs, youth unemployment has skyrocketed, with only a small segment of Indians benefiting from the boom.

As polls opened in mid-April, a confident BJP initially emphasized its campaign on “Modi’s guarantees,” highlighting the economic and welfare achievements that his party claims have alleviated poverty. With Modi at the helm, “India will become a developed nation by 2047,” he reiterated in rally after rally.

But the campaign became increasingly divisive, as Modi intensified polarizing rhetoric that targeted Muslims, who constitute 14% of the population, a strategy perceived to motivate his core Hindu majority voters.

The opposition INDIA alliance criticized Modi over his Hindu nationalist politics, and focused their campaign on issues of joblessness, inflation, and inequality.

“These issues have resonated and made an impact,” added Aiyar, the public policy scholar.