Youth Voices Ring Loud: Modi’s Win, BJP’s Loss and What’s Next

BJP's celebrations on a bulldozer, in Lucknow. | Picture: PTI

Devanshi Batra,

New Delhi: In a riveting electoral showdown, Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi has clinched a remarkable third consecutive term, defying earlier predictions of a landslide victory. Leading the charge, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) secured 293 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats, while the Congress-led INDIA bloc secured 233 seats — leaving the BJP just shy of a solitary majority, prompting the need for alliances to form a government.

Support TwoCircles

For over a decade, Modi’s influence has shaped India’s political landscape. However, the recent electoral outcome marks an unexpected resurgence for the Opposition alliance spearheaded by the Congress party, challenging the anticipated narrative of their decline and defying both exit polls and pre-election surveys.

Youth Perspectives on Electoral Dynamics

Despite its triumph, the BJP faced unforeseen challenges, casting a shadow of underachievement over its victory. Falling short of its ambitious target of 400 seats, it encountered setbacks, notably in Uttar Pradesh, India’s electoral powerhouse, where the saffron party suffered defeats, including in Ayodhya, the site of the recently inaugurated Ram Mandir.

Reflecting on the 2024 general elections through the lens of young voters offers a mosaic of perspectives. While some celebrate Modi’s tenure extension, others express disappointment, yearning for a restoration of democratic values.

As of the 2022 revision of the World Population Prospects, India’s population stands at 1,407,563,842. More than 50% of this population is under the age of 25, with over 65% falling below the age of 35.

Varied Reactions and Insightful Reflections

Anubhooti Yadav, a 20-year-old student of Delhi University, shares her disillusionment, while 22-year-old entrepreneur Aman Grover finds contentment in the outcome.

Several young voters expected the BJP’s resurgence, but they were taken aback by the INDIA alliance’s impressive showing and the emergence of a formidable Opposition.

According to 21-year-old Samiya Raza, a recent graduate, this election was a genuine nail-biter. “It seems that the elections have truly unfolded this time. While no party clinched a decisive majority, it is clear that the Indian electorate recognizes the importance of a government that serves the people, by the people and particularly of the people — rather than catering solely to a privileged few in authority,” she remarked.

Amidst diverse opinions, young voters unanimously uphold the enduring democratic spirit of India, emphasizing the electorate’s focus on substantive issues and development.

Samah Qundeel, 27, expressed contentment with this year’s outcomes. She elaborated, “I see this as evidence that democracy is alive and well, with people prioritizing authentic concerns over divisive and communal agendas. We have seen the repercussions of one party holding excessive power in the Assembly. At least this year signals the end of that quasi-dictatorship.”

“Furthermore,” adds 20-year-old Anubhooti Yadav, “the current administration needed a wake-up call that elections are determined not only by rhetoric but also by actions. These elections have effectively reaffirmed the core principles of democracy. It is a positive stride for democratic values.”

“In a democracy,” emphasizes Gauri Sharma, a 25-year-old history student at the Central University of Punjab, “free and fair elections are paramount, ensuring that citizens have a range of choices. This time around, we had the opportunity for such elections. Within this diversity of options lies the potential for change, underscoring the importance of active citizens considering alternative parties, especially those with capable leadership.”

Analyzing BJP’s Electoral Strategies

Against the backdrop of BJP’s electoral strategies, Aman Grover sheds light on the narrative of securing 400 seats, attributing the party’s losses to the resurgent Opposition alliance and the voters’ appetite for change.

“Securing 400 seats was never the primary objective; out of the 543 seats, over 100 lie in the southern regions, where local parties wield considerable sway. The ‘400 seats’ rhetoric was essentially a tactic to shift the Opposition’s attention from winning the election to thwarting the BJP-led NDA from achieving this arbitrary milestone,” he explained.

He attributed the BJP’s setback to the formidable unity of the Opposition alliance and the Indian populace’s inherent aversion to prolonged hegemony, yearning for competition, akin to their fervor during the IPL final.

Critical Assessment of BJP’s Campaign

Aditi Minglani, a freelance journalist, underscores the BJP’s missteps, citing wrong candidate choices and internal conflicts.

“Four hundred seats represent a significant count. India’s rich diversity encompasses various religious, caste and regional dynamics, with parties like the SP (Samajwadi Party) and the TMC (Trinamool Congress) playing influential roles. The exit polls exaggerated figures, apparent from the wide ranges they offered merely to accommodate the 400-seat narrative,” she said.

She attributed the BJP’s loss this time to several factors, such as candidate selections, internal conflicts between the UP government and the central leadership, the absence of substantial regional representation, excessive dependence on PM Modi to garner all the votes, failure to combat false narratives and underestimation of regional parties like the TMC.

Hope Amidst Political Realignment

Samiya Raza echoes a sentiment of hope, emphasizing the electorate’s prioritization of genuine concerns over divisive agendas.

“Despite all the central government’s efforts to suppress the Opposition through tactics like electoral bonds, arrests and freezing accounts, it emerged stronger than ever. There is a glimmer of hope,” she said.

Magnolia Saha, who is pursuing MBBS from NIMS University, views the 400-seat slogan as a narrative ploy, given the BJP’s failure to even breach the 300-mark.

Young voters lament the BJP’s oversight of critical issues like employment and inflation, highlighting the electorate’s disillusionment, particularly among the youth.

Areeb, 22, calls for a reevaluation of the BJP’s approach, emphasizing the need to prioritize development over religious politics. “I believe the election outcome serves as a wake-up call for the BJP. It demonstrates that solely relying on religious politics is inadequate for winning every election. There is now a critical need for the party to prioritize development and address pressing issues like unemployment, which have become major concerns for young voters.”

As proponents of democracy, young voters stress the importance of a robust Opposition, advocating for inclusive decision-making and accountability.

Unnati, a 22-year-old student, reflects on the necessity of diverse viewpoints in shaping balanced policies, fostering a dynamic and responsive government. “Politics requires a strong and fair opposition. Even in their (INDIA bloc) defeat this time, it feels like a triumph.”

Questioning the BJP’s electoral narrative, young voters scrutinize the party’s tactics in Ayodhya, highlighting the voters’ rejection of religious politics. They underscore the electorate’s focus on substantive issues and their aversion to hate-mongering.

“Continued governance by a single party without leadership changes over several terms can result in stagnation in our developmental approach. Whether for better or worse, the rotation of governments ensures accountability for both voters and candidates,” she added.

Amidst hopes for the BJP government’s future, Grover and Dhruv Sharma, a 24-year-old student, express optimism tempered by surprise at the election results. Acknowledging the improved image of the Opposition, they underscore the voters’ evolving preferences and the vibrant spirit of Indian democracy.

Venkatesh Upadhyay, 23, emphasized, “More significantly, this resistance ensures that impactful debates and discussions resonate in the Lok Sabha.”

A 21-year-old voter, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes that when one party wields excessive, unchecked dominance, it compromises the independence of authorities and undermines constitutional principles and fair procedures. Hence, having a robust Opposition, which significantly influences the ruling government and decision-making processes, is advantageous.

Youngsters argue that by holding the ruling party accountable and fostering debate, a strong Opposition fortifies democratic institutions and enhances the overall well-being of the nation.

Gauri Sharma asserts that when a single party repeatedly assumes power, it gradually shifts the dynamics of a democratic system towards autocracy. “Idolizing the prime minister sets a dangerous precedent, undermining the essence of democracy. This kind of idolization threatens the Constitution and could potentially lead to fascism in our country,” she said.

Impact of Electoral Narratives on Voter Behavior

Quoting famous poet, Rahat Indori, Anubhooti Yadav remarked, “Sabhi ka khoon shamil hai yaha ki mitti mai, kisi ke baap ka Hindustan thodi hai (The soil here contains the blood of one and all, India is not the paternal property of someone, is it?).” “The Hindus of the country are not anti-Muslim; we don’t seek a Hindu Rashtra. India is a secular nation and will remain so,” she added.

Assessment of BJP’s Campaign Strategies in Ayodhya

Questioning the BJP’s electoral narrative, young voters scrutinized the party’s tactics in Ayodhya, highlighting the voters’ rejection of religious politics. They asked why BJP supporters are targeting the people of Ayodhya for not voting for the BJP if the Ram Mandir was genuinely a matter of faith.

“Was it purely for political gain? If not, then why did the BJP anticipate votes in exchange, ostensibly in the name of the Ram Mandir?” asked a 25-year-old voter, wishing to remain anonymous.

“You play with their faith, and use it for your personal gains, so they play with your seats,” said Unnati.

The BJP’s election campaign heavily emphasized the construction of the Ram temple as a major achievement and warned that the Opposition would bulldoze it if they came to power. Despite these efforts, they still lost the Faizabad seat.

“BJP assumed that Ram Mandir would be sufficient to win over all voters, including those in Ayodhya, but it ended up working against them instead,” said Areeb.

“People are waking up to real issues. They do appreciate the Ram Mandir, but they want more than that. They expect their governments to fulfill their elected responsibilities, providing amenities, jobs and stability,” Qundeel explained.

Unexpected Outcomes and Evolving Electoral Dynamics

Many voters expressed surprise at the BJP’s loss in Ayodhya, especially after the inauguration of the Ram temple, which they did not anticipate. They believe that people have rejected divisive and communal politics, opting instead to vote based on genuine issues rather than hate-mongering.

“The BJP’s defeat in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Ayodhya, stands out as the most significant highlight of the 2024 Lok Sabha election results. The BJP had been extremely confident of winning all 80/80 seats in UP, including Faizabad. However, their overconfidence was shattered,” said Magnolia Saha.

“I came across a comment that said, ‘Our Ram and Modi’s Ram are not the same’. People of Ayodhya have rejected religious politics,” she added.

“BJP had won in Ayodhya over the years by consistently dangling the promise of temple construction — a dream that was hung in front of the people so that people could chase it but could never catch it. With the temple now a reality, the people of Ayodhya have begun to confront other pressing issues, including the challenges faced by the marginalized in accessing and worshiping in the temple,” noted Koushik Roy, a 23-year-old student.

For Grover, the election results were not unexpected. “I anticipated the outcome of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections; it was clear it would be a close race. I remain optimistic about the BJP-led NDA government. The Opposition has shown significant resurgence after their unexpected defeat in the 2019 elections.”

Dhruv Sharma, a 24-year-old student who voted for the BJP, shared Aman’s hope for the BJP government but was taken aback by the results. “My prediction was closer to reality than the exit polls, yet I did not foresee the BJP losing so many seats in UP while gaining ground in the South. The Opposition’s image has notably improved compared to before,” he remarked.