India has spoken: The beginning of Modi’s end

Published: December 12, 2018

Supporters of the Congress party celebrate election results. PHOTO: REUTERS

On Tuesday, India made a new tryst with democracy by defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the three heartland states. The margin of the Congress party’s victory might be narrow but the magnitude of the BJP defeat goes beyond regional elections.

Never before has an electoral result given such relief to the masses who have been living under siege ever since the BJP, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assumed office in 2014. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, which together make up the Hindi heartland, weren’t the only things at stake in these assembly elections; India’s soul was as much on the line.

With civil society being pushed to the margin, institutions of democracy under constant attack, minorities feeling completely humiliated and marginalised, liberals and seculars branded as anti-state and prominent public universities being turned into centres of Hindu majoritarianism, Modi’s government was making India an unrecognisable place for its own citizens.

The brazenness with which the BJP started treating its own people was appalling to say the least; manipulating media to propagate manufactured narratives, invading people’s privacy and suppressing political dissent, Modi turned against the very people who brought him in power in the first place.

Hence, given the current political situation of the country, the assembly election results are a landmark outcome. The aura of invincibility that Modi had acquired over the years stands diminished. People have sent a message to the Indian prime minister that he needs to renounce his conceit and stop acting like God.

Never before in independent India’s history has a prime minister refused to talk to his own people and maintained silence on issues that seriously impact the country. Be it the killing of innocent Muslims for eating beef, the murder of a prominent journalist by a radical group or demonetisation and other harsh economic measures, Modi chose to remain silent throughout.

A prime minister hired to further the agenda of development has instead been turning the nation into a laboratory catering to his majoritarian project. Development has in fact become a subset of this ideological agenda. Instead of development, it is division and hostility that has been flourishing in India since 2014.

The recent verdict is therefore a warning signal and a strong disapproval of this brand of politics. The victory of the Congress party establishes the balance of power in the Indian polity. Prior to the Tuesday elections, Congress had been suffering defeat after defeat since 2014. The weakening of Congress was emboldening right-wing political parties and giving them political space that was too intrusive for a secular and multi-cultural republic.

The party leader Rahul Gandhi acquired a whole new aura after delivering three states to the Congress. Ridiculed and maligned by the BJP for very long, the young Gandhi will directly challenge Modi in the General Elections to be held in 2019. This victory comes exactly a year after he assumed office as the party president.

The rejuvenation of the Congress party is a revival of hope in liberal and secular India. The verdict is a reassertion of people’s faith in democracy and the political middle path. People have spoken loud and clear that they want change. It is now the responsibility of secular political parties to come together and create an alternative strong enough to defeat the BJP government.

The BJP government today has a lot of money and takes its campaigning to a whole new level altogether. Winning an election against an opponent with strong corporate backing, very formidable media support and solid backing of state machinery will not be easy. We can only hope that a secular alliance under the leadership of the Congress will be a strong contender for the throne of New Delhi in 2019.

These election results also serve as a lesson for the media. It is important that the media stops serving as a mouthpiece for Modi’s sectarian ideology and divisive agenda. To this end, it is important that the opposition’s voice be heard too. People have voted to claim their own India. They don’t want revolution or radical change; they want their own democratic space.


Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sanjay Lal Congress

    All secular and majority Hindus in India desire for peace and close ties with our neighbours including Pakistan. We feel envious that Pakistan has a progressive leader like Imran Khan who is actually well-liked all over India. He would win elections in India anytime. I think Rahul Gandhi and Imran Khan would get along very well because both are very progressive personalities. That should solve many problems between the two countries. The borders should be opened, visa systems should be abolished and much more can be achieved when both countries have right leadership.Recommend

  • Lalit

    It will be too early to celebrate the election results as the ‘end of Modi rule’….It can , at best be dubbed as a wake up call for Narendra Modi led BJP govt at the centre.MP and Chhattisgarh were being ruled by BJP for last 15 years,with a strong anti incumbency factor working against the ruling party.Rajasthan has a history of swapping govts every next election .In fact the difference of vote percentage between the winning Congress and losing BJP in MP and Rajasthan has been just 0.1 and 0.4 respectively.This is the beauty of first past the post system of democracy.But to rejoice at this moment will be slightly premature as the TINA factor still works in favour of Modi in 2019.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Interesting indeed ….. are these three states and this election really that important as a harbinger for how the rest of India will vote in 2019 ?Recommend

  • kp

    Its not a victory of congress but a failure & hypocrisy of BJP and Modi, BJP discarded its core vote bank(sawarns & obc) and congress silently lured them.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Khan

    The percent of vote in all three states won by Congress is less than one percent greater than BJP, which means that BJP is still a force to reckon with in Lok Sabha elections in those states. This is what my Indian origin friends are telling me.Recommend

  • Anit rai

    You are talking just like a spokesperson of congress. it is very ridiculous.Recommend

  • Sunil

    Some people like going over the top. Latest analysis is that many BJP voters did not vote believing the BJP will win, the margins was very small.

    Bjp lost 34 seats in MP by a margin of 300 or less
    6 seats with a margin of 10 or less And 2 by just 1 vote

    Modi is loved and backed by all of us, we will not allow Congress to win. Pakistan is desperate.Recommend

  • gp65

    In December 2003, BJP won all 3 states and lost in May 2004 elections in center.

    In December 2008, BJP won 2 out of these 3 states but lost in May 2009 elections in the center.

    In December 2013, BJP won all 3 states and won in the center in May 2014.

    conclusion: Victory in these 3 states does little to predict results in central elections.

    I would also point out the thin margins of victory : Bjp lost 34 seats in MP by a margin of 300 or less. 6 seats were lost with a margin of 10 or less And 2 by just 1 vote

    Total percentage of votes polled by BJP in MP was more than Congress. In Rajasthanone heard slogans like (Modi se koi bair nahin, Rani teri khair nahin : Rani referring top Vasundhara Raje the BJP CM in Rajasthan who was an erstwhile royal, implying we will vote against ?BJP during state elections but vote for Modi in 2019.
    We have to wait and watch what happens. What can be said without doubt is that this is a wake-up call for Modi. Reading anything more into these elections is over-reading facts.Recommend