Narendra Modi loses aura of invincibility as predicted landslide fails to materialise for India’s strongman

Narendra Modi loses aura of invincibility as predicted landslide fails to materialise for India’s strongman

Hannah Ellis-Petersen writes:

India’s elections may return Narendra Modi to power for a third term but Tuesday’s results did not have the flavour of victory for the strongman prime minister.

Indeed, as the early counts of the votes began to roll in, it was clear this was going to be one of the most humbling moments for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in over a decade.

The BJP went into this election, which began way back in April, with a confident swagger and the slogan “ab ki baar, 400 paar”, a target to win 400 seats – more than two-thirds of parliament, a feat only achieved once before. Modi’s return to power, with the same if not stronger majority, was referred to by analysts and pundits as almost an inevitability, given the carefully curated cult of personality that has built up around the leader and his centralisation of power over the past decade. As late as this past weekend, exit polls projected a BJP landslide and tens of thousands of ladoos [Indian sweets], were prepared in anticipation of victory parties across the country.

Yet that sweeping majority has not materialised, and instead a more complicated and diverse picture of India’s political landscape appeared. The BJP as a singular party looks set to lose over 60 seats, bringing its predicted total down to about 240 – not enough to form a majority on its own and making it dependent on its political alliance partners for the first time.

While the BJP’s alliance as a whole has likely won just under 300 seats, enough to form a majority government under Modi, it is with a far more weakened mandate than ever before. Many of its political partners have a far less hardline Hindu nationalist agenda than the BJP and several court support from Muslim voters.

It is likely to make it far harder for Modi to move forward with many of his more radical Hindu-first policies, particularly involving citizenship registration and laws accused of directly discriminating against Muslims. There is also now little chance of the BJP having the parliamentary votes needed to change India’s secular constitution, which had been a potent fear among many opponents. [Continue reading…]

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