The ultra long election process has come to an end, and while we await the final confirmation of the results, these are my top ten takeaways:
1. What a win for the BJP! This is the first party to win a majority on its own since Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 (sympathy wave after Indira’s murder). Even Rajiv’s own killing could not lead to a Congress majority. This is the first majority for a non-Congress party in independent India’s history.
2. The Congress has been decimated. Well technically more than decimated as that word strictly implies a loss of 10% of heads. Down to about 45 seats, this is just about one-third of its previous worst tally of 114 in 1999. The party failed to get into double digits in any state in the country.
3. With about 8 seats in Karnataka and Kerala each, the Congress is down to 30 seats from the remaining 27 states of the country – an abysmal average of about one seat per state. Even in Maharashtra (that it has ruled for the last 15 years) it is down to one. In UP it is down to two – Amethi and Rae Bareli – respectively the constituencies of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi.
4. This has been a very polarized battle with state results being all for one party. Gujarat, Rajasthan and various parts of the Hindi heartland have voted nearly 100% for BJP, while many others including such disparate ones such as Assam and Karnataka gave about 70% of the seats to the party. The non-BJP states too voted en-masse for a single party: Odisha (BJD), TN (AIADMK), West Bengal (TMC), Telengana (TRS), Andhra (TDP). With the AIADMK and TMC set to win about 35-39 seats each, the Congress is 5-10 seats away from being the third largest party in the Lok Sabha.
5. The recent trend of the “big two” winning about 320 seats has held. BJP with 282 and Congress with about 45. As I had argued in my piece last month, with opinion polls predicting 100 seats for the Congress we must expect the BJP to win 220. Any lower tally for the Congress would lead to a corresponding higher tally for the BJP. That has happened exactly to script. Also as I had written, the vote consolidated towards the national parties (actually one party) away from the regional ones. What was not obvious then was the collapse of the Congress to a tally under 50.
6. What happens to the states going to the polls in the near term? The Congress was the ruling party in (undivided) Andhra Pradesh. Now it has hardly any seats from the two split states. Maharashtra goes to polls later this year. Will the BJP replace the Congress and the Left as the main opposition in Odisha and West Bengal respectively?
7. Coming to the Left parties, they are expected to make about 11 seats – the worst showing yet. With infighting leading to a loss to the Congress in Kerala (huh!) and being crushed in WB, the communists are now a force only in Tripura.
8. The BJP is suddenly truly looking like a national party. With 13 seats in the North-East, their first wins in West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir, a near first win in Kerala, wins in Tamil Nadu, resurgence in Karnataka – on top of a sweep of the North and the heartland.
9. What is really amazing is that the BJP barely contested 350 seats. That is an amazing win rate.
10. And lastly, the campaign was fought in two ways. The BJP said, “vote for us for development and good governance.” Everyone else said don’t vote for the BJP because of what happened 12 years ago in the Gujarat riots. This probably worked to the BJP’s advantage – their opponents had no positive ideas – and the electorate probably responded to the positive message. The fact that every other candidate sought to define themselves by how different they were from Mr Modi also helped his image as this brilliant article by Shekhar Gupta captured back in August 2013 about the time Modi was made the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister.