India election results: Modi's reduced majority suggests Hindu nationalism's waning appeal

The early results of the national elections in India may suggest a significant change in the political landscape as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance looks set to form the government for a third consecutive term, albeit with a narrow victory.

Contrary to Modi's campaign's lofty claims, the numbers fall short of a landslide, and critics say they suggest the waning appeal of his persona and Hindu nationalism — an ideology that has fueled harsh persecution of Christians and other minorities.

“The election results paved the way for a return to a more democratic India,” Dr. Michael Williams, president of the Delhi-based United Christian Forum, told The Christian Post.

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In the seven-phase national election from April 19 to June 1 for 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the BJP, faced the opposition India National Development Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) alliance, led by the Congress party.

The Election Commission of India began counting more than 600 million votes cast by Indians to elect their next national government on Tuesday morning. By evening, the NDA was leading in around 290 seats, while the INDIA alliance looked poised to secure 235 seats.

By Tuesday evening, the BJP did not appear to have enough seats to form its own government without the help of allies. The situation is expected to be clear by Wednesday morning.

As of this publication, the BJP has managed to win about 144 seats and leads in 96 other races, while the Congress Party and its allies have secured about 118 with 104 leads, according to the Election Commission of India.

A party or alliance must achieve a majority of 272 seats to form the government. India's electoral system uses the First-Past-The-Post method, where the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins a seat, regardless of whether they achieve an absolute majority.

Prime Minister Modi has boldly claimed that the NDA will win at least 400 seats.

The results are in stark contrast to the 2019 national election, where the NDA secured 353 seats, with the BJP claiming 303 and the Congress party 52.

In Uttar Pradesh, a state known as a BJP stronghold and hot spot of Christian persecution, the NDA secured only 40 of the 80 seats. This dropped significantly from the 63 seats won in the 2019 elections.

“The people of Uttar Pradesh have told the BJP that they have grossly abused their mandate and that is not what the people wanted,” Williams added.

The 2024 contest was much closer than exit polls had predicted, with the INDIA alliance performing significantly better than expected.

“There is a collective sigh of relief in South Asia's security, human rights and economic circles as the 2024 general elections put an effective brake on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's arrogant campaign to win more than 400 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house. of the Indian Parliament,” Dr. John Dayal, a Christian activist and writer, told CP.

He noted that despite Modi waiting to be called by President Draupadi Murmu to form a third successive government, his political stature has diminished compared to his previous terms. He believes Modi's reduced majority prevents him from pursuing his agenda to change India's liberal democratic Constitution in favor of a Hindu Rashtra (nation), which many feared would disenfranchise religious minorities and undermine the rights of indigenous people.

During the last decade of BJP rule, social divisions have deepened in India, with growing tensions between sections of the majority Hindu community and the minority Christian and Muslim populations.

According to the United Christian Forum, incidents of violence against Christians are increasing, with 2021 being the most violent year for the community. This disturbing trend continued in 2022 and 2023, with more than 600 attacks recorded each year.

Christians comprise only 2.3% of India's population, and Hindus account for about 80%.

Dayal said the resurgent Congress Party managed to form a last-minute coalition – INDIA – with regional parties in southern, western and northern parts of the country representing backward classes and Dalits. The alliance performed far better than expected, showing the waning appeal of Modi's Hindu nationalist agenda.

Williams said the Indian voters “made it clear that religious division and hatred will not be tolerated and the Constitutional vision of India, united in its diversity, must remain.”

“This must usher in an era of religious harmony and Christian citizens and institutions alike will celebrate the opportunity to continue in nation-building without fear of reprisal and persecution,” he continued.

Dayal warned that the BJP still holds significant control over some Indian states.

“Although Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, has seen maximum persecution of Muslims and Christians under BJP rule, reducing the party's strength will not immediately help religious minorities and vulnerable sections,” he said. “The BJP has absolute control over the key central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, which are home to a fairly large number of Christians, and Gujarat and Bihar, which have sizable Muslim populations.”

The BJP's campaign was marked by frequent, negative and divisive references to minority religious communities.

BJP's poor showing comes despite the party having significant advantages over the opposition alliance.

The party benefited from the controversial “election bond” system introduced in 2018, which allowed donors to fund political parties anonymously. Data released by the State Bank of India, following a directive from the Supreme Court of India, revealed that from April 2019 to February 2024, the BJP received nearly 48% of the total electoral bonds redeemed, amounting to approximately $757 million.

The BJP's significant advantage was further enhanced by a pro-BJP bias in popular and mainstream media and support from the country's richest businesses. Further, before the elections, the BJP government froze the Congress Party's bank account and arrested two serving chief ministers of Delhi and eastern Jharkhand state.

However, the re-emerged opposition alliance indicates a possible shift towards a more inclusive and democratic future for the nation.


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