Narendra Modi has retained India's iron throne and reduced rivals to dust
- A historic win will make Narendra Modi the first non-Congress Prime Minister to get re-elected.
- This was the first time since 1984 a majority government has been re-elected.
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The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leading in 353 seats compared to its rival the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that is ahead in 90 seats.
The BJP made history even five years back when it clocked in a full majority, the first for any government since 1984. A full majority twice in a row is an even bigger feat for Modi and the BJP.
No single rival was fighting Modi to win on his/her own. A motley crew of former foes were waiting for the final tally before they could stitch a suitable coalition that would end Modi's reign. However, as the counting progressed on May 23, it became evident very early that the the room for any political manoeuvre was limited, and eventually, even that disappeared.
The Indian National Congress, the only national party other than the BJP, nearly doubled its seat count in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's Parliament, but for Rahul Gandhi, Congress' President, could not escape the embarrassment of having lost a seat, Amethi, that was seen as family bastion for decades.
A grand alliance of regional parties, led by Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati and Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav, pitched itself as an alternative to Modi's strongman vibe. However, the camaraderie failed to strike a chord with the voters of Uttar Pradesh-- India's most populous state that is home to these two parties. The music stopped for the Mahagathbandhan when hoards of people in Varanasi danced to Modi's tunes on April 25. The final result for the grand alliance were 15 Lok Sabha seats.
Modi's rivals cried against the whimsical demonetisation, the peaking unemployment, the mounting farm distress, and the uneasy polarisation, but none of that left as much as a scratch on Modi's chances.
Even the alleged scandal in the government deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets did not cut ice with the country's voters.
The adolescent Indian democracy was looking for a Presidential clash but the opposition could not nominate a powerful alternative to Modi. The writing was on the wall but the regional satraps and national figureheads continued playing hardball with each other, and the potential of a desperate anti-Modi coalition was never fully realised.
The momentum was so strong in Modi's favour that even the terror accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur-- who was also reprimanded for calling Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse a 'patriot'-- won Bhopal with a huge margin.
The north-south divide
The Modi wave was strong and pervasive but it limited largely to the north of India. The wave once again lost momentum south of the Vindhya range of mountains, despite its best efforts.
The BJP definitely improved its tally in Karnataka but it could not make any further headway into the other four major states-- Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.
While the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) swept Tamil Nadu with 31 out of 39 seats, Jaganmohan Reddy's victory in Andhra Pradesh marked the rise of the prodigal son. Reddy's immediate neighbour to the west, K Chandrshekhar Rao successfully protected his territory, Telangana, for a second time in less than a year. Rao called for a premature assembly election in Telangana in 2018 and came out of it with flying colours.
The only other place Modi faced any challenge was in West Bengal. Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mamata Banerjee did not pretend to play nice as BJP marched on to claim the eastern state. The clash of titans stirred the volatile electorate with a long history of violence. The BJP may have ended up second in the state but it bagged 18 precious seats that established the party as a serious player in the state for the first time ever.
None of this was a surprise. BJP smelled the resentment against the local leadership in the east, and invested itself heavily. Modi himself addressed 17 rallies in Bengal, the most after Uttar Pradesh. The party cadre was funded and fuelled in Odisha and the north-eastern states and all of this paid off rich dividends, much on expected lines.
Six months earlier, BJP had to face defeat in state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. The party had just whisked past the halfway mark in Gujarat, Modi's home state. These results rejuvenated the Congress and, may be, made it a bit complacent too.
Within six months, the same states swung back to voting for the BJP. In Modi's home state Gujarat, the BJP is leading in all 26 seats, in 9 out of 11 seats in Chhattisgarh, and in all but one seat in MP-- a stark contrast to the picture of struggle in the assembly elections in December.
In Bihar too, the NDA is miles ahead of competition-- leading in 32 out of the state's 40 seats-- including in high-profile constituencies like Begusarai and Patna Sahib. Debutante politician Kanhaiya Kumar, from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has less than half the number of votes as rival from BJP, the veteran Giriraj Singh, who was also a minister in Modi's government.
In Patna Sahib, sitting Parliamentarian Shatrughan Sinha is trailing Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who has over 55% of the votes. There 17 other candidates in this constituency.
Congress is leading in Punjab and Kerala, while its biggest ally the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is cornering maximum votes in Tamil Nadu.
In Kerala's Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi is ahead with 67% of the votes where there are 20 other candidates. It was a face saver for Gandhi as he lost the family bastion Amethi to the firebrand from BJP, Smriti Irani.
India’s markets celebrated the results. The Sensex hit the 40,000 mark for the first time ever as investors hoped that the stability of continuing policies may the give the economy the much-needed fillip.
His electoral feats and political might notwithstanding, those who care for it will blame Modi for demonetisation forever. Modi may have pitched himself as a pro-business reformer but experts have expressed fear that if he gets a second term, his policies are likely to be more socialist and akin to the proposals of Bernie Sanders in the US, and not like the policies of Ronald Reagan.
Nonetheless, the baton remains with Modi.
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