There should be no confusion in anyone’s mind: the election results of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls mandate change and not the status quo.

It may be true that the election results show that the BJP is closest to the magical number of 272 and safely bridges the gap through the support of its demanding allies, but it is the INDIA bloc that did the impossible. It ran a coherent campaign led by Congress and its leader, Rahul Gandhi, to defend democracy and the constitution. It also took cognisance of the pain of the millions of unemployed youths languishing without jobs and announced a program to correct the course of a government that had forgotten its responsibilities. Supported by Akhilesh Yadav, Uddhav Thackeray, and MK Stalin, the INDIA alliance came close to clinching the coveted numbers under difficult and attenuating circumstances where their funds were frozen and some of their allies were thrown in jail. If this election had been fought between two equal parties on a level playing field, the BJP would have been decimated.

This wave against the BJP was visible in UP, which was presented as a state that would deliver the goodies or 70 seats for the BJP. Instead, they got only 35. They would have gotten far less if most of the Dalits had voted against the BJP, as a vast majority did.

Everywhere this writer went during the elections, this writer found people enjoying newfound freedom. They were bitterly against the BJP and aired their views unafraid of the consequences for speaking their mind. How did this happen? Did the suffering of the unemployed who had been chased by the irrational UP police in Lucknow, Allahabad, or Varanasi, or the threat to use bulldozers against those critical of the government, take the fear out of the young and the old?

The election results show that the voters in Uttar Pradesh have delivered a resounding rejection not only of the Modi-Yogi factor but also of Hindutva politics and the politics of rhetoric. This shift is starkly evident in Faizabad, the constituency where the Ram Mandir was built. Samajwadi Party’s Awadhesh Prasad triumphed over the BJP’s Lallu Singh by a margin of 54,567 votes. The BJP’s loss, despite the Ram Temple consecration, shows that voters can no longer be swayed by fictive politics. What truly matters to them are pressing local issues like unemployment and inflation.

It is possible that something snapped in ordinary people’s minds and they wanted this government to go. I have seldom seen people (many of them Muslims and poor) seething with anger who were told that their vote might be denied. They said, “We will vote under all circumstances. If they stop us, there will be a bagawat or revolt.”

2024 Election Results: A Call for Accountability and Change

Look at the voter turnout. Despite a campaign by a section of the media to find an excuse for the lower support for the BJP due to a heat wave, more than 60 percent voted in the country. This is phenomenal. Many more would have voted if they had the chance. According to an Election Commission source, 20 percent of the voters from the electoral list were deleted. Worse, the district officials, as pointed out by the Congress General Secretary, Jairam Ramesh, had been helping the party in power. This is a story all over the country. According to an estimate, the BJP garnered 100-odd seats to make itself secure. Otherwise, the rout would have been visible.

What is worse is that although the NDA has crossed the 272 magic figure, the election results are a personal defeat for Prime Minister Modi. Look at his own constituency in Varanasi where he contested. He and his supporters in the party claimed that he would emerge victorious with a thumping majority. Though Modi eventually won the Varanasi constituency for a third consecutive term, his victory margin narrowed to 152,513 against Uttar Pradesh Congress President Ajay Rai. What came as a surprise to even Modi’s detractors was that for over two hours while the votes were being counted for the first few rounds, Modi was trailing.

If elected to power for a third term, which appears likely, Modi will need to adopt a more accommodative approach, a trait that seems contrary to his nature. He will have to prioritise consensus-building, discussions, and deliberations in his decision-making process. The Modi we have observed over the past decade is not known for such an approach. This raises important questions: Even if a government is formed, will it be a stable one? Will he be able to maintain the support and satisfaction of his allies, given his unilateral style of decision-making? The future of his leadership hinges on his ability to adapt and embrace a more inclusive governance style.

The reason why the NDA government should go is that they cannot be allowed to continue, according to the people’s mandate, what they were doing all this while. The punitive power of the state should be taken away from them to assess the harm they have done to society through intimidation, surveillance, and worse. They have also captured state institutions, making a mockery of our democracy. All political parties and individuals concerned about preserving the sanctity of our democracy should come together to find ways to heal the country.

Something similar happened during the elections that yielded a hodgepodge government post the national emergency in 1977. Morarji Desai was made the PM, who saw merit in drinking his own urine. More importantly, he was a strict moraliser and followed the constitution to the T. His period overturned all the harm inflicted by the dictatorial tendencies of Indira Gandhi during the emergency. Former Desai colleagues remember him with great admiration. Though the government did not last long and the greed of his ministers was used by the clever Indira to bring down the fragile arrangement, plenty had been done by then. The Shah Commission and other inquiries against the high-handedness of the regime are a legacy of that short phase.

India needs a return to the Morarji Desai period to bring about an important course correction. While Rahul Gandhi may not be the right person for this healing, it is important that the opposition finds someone in that mould. Sometimes history beckons such people who live up to the expectations of the time.

SANJAY KAPOOR is a Senior Journalist based out of Delhi. He is a foreign policy specialist focused on India, its neighbourhood and West Asia. He is the Founder and Editor of Hardnews Magazine. He is a Member of the Editors Guild of India (EGI) and, until recently, served as the General Secretary of EGI.

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The 2024 election results have signalled a demand for change and reform, with the INDIA bloc’s success challenging the BJP’s dominance. Despite crossing the 272-seat threshold, Prime Minister Modi faces a personal defeat that reflects the voters’ rejection of rhetoric and symbolic politics in favour of addressing real issues like unemployment and inflation.
Election Results: Rage of the Dispossessed Overthrows BJP in UP and Beyond