What went wrong for the INC?
During the campaigns, Rahul Gandhi made attacks against the PM Narendra Modi regarding unemployment, farmers distress, economic crisis, communal issues, Rafale deal, etc. But this did not help him to get the expected results. In fact, days before the final results came out, the exit polls started predicting a massive win for the NDA government. Since then the 22 opposition parties got together in unity to demand EVM checks and 100 percent cross-matching with the VVPAT in the Supreme Court.
The final result has risen many questions for the INC. Has Rahul Gandhi failed as a leader? Why did the entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra make no impacts? What went wrong during the campaign? There is a whole antipathy towards the dynast politics across the country. Rahul Gandhi has no experience in administration. He only has the perks of being the son of former PM Rajiv Gandhi and the grandson of former PM Indira Gandhi.
Likewise, the image of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is also tainted because of the gross land corruption charges against her husband Robert Vadra. Apart from these issues, Rahul Gandhi’s election motto of ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ came out very negative in the public. The INC manifesto came up with Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), a proposed social welfare program which targeted the 20 percent poorest families to distribute allowance of Rs 72,000 yearly. This also failed terribly because the INC workers failed to convey the details to the public.
Last year, the INC won and formed government in three states- Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. It was expected that out of the total 65 Lok Sabha seats in these three states, the INC could win at least 50 percent of the seats. But the INC suffered a humiliating defeat by winning just four seats out of the 65 seats in the three states, leaving the remaining 61 seats to the BJP.
The failure of Mahagathbandhan
There was a doubt in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), whether the BJP will be able to repeat the masterstroke of 72 seats out of 80 in the 2014 elections. The stitching of ties between the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and 10 other parties to form a Mahagathbandhan in order to defeat the BJP backfired.
The Mahagathbandhan expected to win over 50 seats in the state but faced an embarrassing defeat by winning just 15 seats. And the BJP with an increased vote share of 49.56 percent won 62 seats in the UP. With this, the politics around caste has been rejected by the public.
Caste has been a dominant factor to win elections in India. During the election campaigns, there were serious questions raised on the caste of the PM Narendra Modi by the opposition. The foundation of the parties in the Mahagathbandhan hovers around the Mandal Politics. The existence of these parties lies with the sustenance of caste politics.
If caste politics has been rejected totally by the public, these parties now face from an existential crisis. It will be very difficult to survive for such parties if they do not move beyond caste politics and inculcate the dynamism of the changing electoral behavior.
BJP conquers Amethi
One woman surprised us in this election. Smriti Irani from the BJP, who contested against Rahul Gandhi from Amethi constituency did not win in 2014. But in spite of the defeat, she relentlessly continued working for the people of Amethi and contributed for the development of the constituency. This time the people of Amethi blessed Smriti Irani with a victory from the Amethi constituency and defeated Rahul Gandhi by nearly 55,000 vote margin.
Amethi has been a strong Congress-Gandhi Bastion. Since 1980, Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi have been primarily elected from this constituency. The defeat has come as a massive shock to the INC though Rahul Gandhi has managed to win from the Wayanard Constituency in Kerala. With this the opposition has raised a question for Rahul Gandhi- how will a leader who has no confidence in winning from his own constituency lead his party and the country?
Victory for terror accused Pragya Thakur
In what could be another ideological win for the BJP, Pragya Thakur, a terror accused in the 2008 Malegaon bombings won from the Bhopal Constituency defeating the INC leader Digvijay Singh by 3,64,822 votes. Pragya Thakur made many controversial remarks during the polls. She even called Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi, as a ‘deshbakh’. The BJP believes that Pragya Thakur was falsely framed by the then UPA government. Her victory has been seen as a way to clean the tarnished image of Hindu Terror Nationalism.
BJP once again in the northeast region
Before the elections, the northeast region was broiled in protests and strikes against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 and National Register of Citizens. The BJP, in the manifesto, once again showed the conviction that they will implement the bill if they come back to power. Before the elections, many questioned- why will the 25 seats in the eight states of northeast region vote for the BJP which has an agenda against the region’s interest?
But, to what a quite surprise, the BJP alone without its allies has won 20 seats out of the 25 seats in the eight northeastern states. Though from the ground reality, there have been reports of involvement of money and muscle powers, it becomes very hard to decode the behavior of the voters from the northeast states as they still know that the bill will create more issues in the coming years. The role of Himanta Biswa Sarma can not be neglected. The BJP has largely attributed the victory in the region due to the rise of personality and politicking of Mr. Sarma in the region.
No seats for the BJP in Kerala
While the rest of the country was following one wave, Kerala became the only state in the country where the BJP could not win even a single seat. The total vote share for the BJP closed to 12.93 percent. Although Kerala has been considered a strong ground for the left parties, the CPI(M) could win only one seat with a vote share of 25.83 percent. The CPI could not get any seat and had a vote share of only 6.03 percent. This is the only state where the INC swept 15 seats out of the total 20 Parliamentarian constituencies. The INC also registered the highest vote share in the state with 37.27 percent. The Sabarimala issue has been treated as the major reason behind the defeat of the BJP in Kerala.
BJP vs Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal was once a stronghold of the Left parties. This was the state where the CPM ruled for 34 years before the All India Trinamool Congress(AITC) under Mamata Banerjee rooted out the CPM from the state. Now left parties in the state has further decimated. Winning no seats, the CPM dwindled their vote share to 6.28 percent this time from 22.96 percent in the Lok Sabha elections 2014. In this election, Mamata Banerjee took up the challenge to send the same signal to the BJP that it can not make an entry in the state. There were reports of multiple violence during the elections.
Despite these issues, the BJP scripted history by winning 18 of the total 42 seats in West Bengal. The vote share for the BJP increased to 40.25 percent from the previous 18 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This massive jump in the vote share, as well as, the seat share will boost the morale of the BJP in the upcoming state assembly elections in West Bengal. The AITC projected that it will win all the 42 seats in West Bengal but it finished with 22 seats and a total of 43.28 percent vote share.
There is good news for the 17th Lok Sabha. The number of total women members in the 17th Lok Sabha has been increased by 14 percent which translates to 78 women members in the lower house. Because of the sheer size of the seat share, Uttar Pradesh will have 11 women MPs in the Lok Sabha. Similarly, West Bengal will also have 11 MPs in the Lok Sabha. Mamata Banerjee had fielded 41 percent of women candidates from AITC in the Lok Sabha elections. In Odisha, out of the 21 seats, five women won from the Biju Janata Dal and two from the BJP.
The voters have clearly rejected the dynast and caste politics. The election was fought by the BJP in the name of national security. In spite of criticisms in economic growth and unemployment, the BJP won the elections with a massive number. The BJP is blessed with very weak opposition. The country does not have an alternate leader which we can look up for. For now, Narendra Modi and the BJP seems the best option. The INC, if it needs to survive, has to search for better leadership and undergo a structural change. On the other hand, for the BJP, with a massive majority comes with a big responsibility. The world has seen how majority governments take no time to turn authoritarian. Now the Judiciary and the Media will have to play a very important role of check and balance to safeguard from any tyrannical approach of the government.