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India’s shock election result is a loss for Modi but a win for democracy


The unexpected outcome of India’s election has reasserted the unpredictable nature of its politics – and the strength and resilience of its democracy.

The surprise result of India’s election has reaffirmed the unpredictable nature of Indian politics. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has secured a third term, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to achieve outright parliamentary majority, falling well-short of its 370 target (400 with coalition partners) in the 543-seat lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha). Given Modi’s central role as the face of the party during the election, the disappointing result has damaged the Modi brand.

While the BJP government had tried to leverage India’s rising global status and its Hindu nationalist credentials during the election campaign, local livelihood issues ultimately proved decisive for voters.

The BJP’s often divisive Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) rhetoric failed to resonate in large parts of the country, particularly those with a more cosmopolitan and secular outlook, and parts of the country with strong regional identities, such as the south, as well as with India’s religious minorities.

Its messaging on the economy, promoting India as the world’s fastest growing major economy, also fell flat in a country facing high levels of inequality and youth unemployment. Although India is seen as a potential beneficiary of the West’s push to de-risk or diversify supply chains away from China, manufacturing as a share of GDP has stalled while foreign investment inflows have declined. 

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