QBullet: NDA Returns With Crushing Win, Cong Turfs Out in Amethi
1. India Keeps Faith in Modi
In the intense, long-drawn out, and often confrontational campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the most optimistic Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters borrowed a slogan first used ahead of the 2017 state elections in Uttar Pradesh: Ab ki baar; teen sau paar (This time, over 300).
On Thursday, 23 May, the party did just that. It had won or was leading in more than 300 seats (of a total of 542 polled) till midnight.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had returned to power for second term, and how.
Modi led his party to a higher vote share (37%) as compared to 2014 as well, achieving outright political dominance in large parts of north, central, west, and east India.
The electorate has decisively rejected the Opposition, reducing the Congress to a mere 52 seats (won or leading at midnight), just eight more than what it won in 2014. Party president Rahul Gandhi himself lost from the family pocket borough Amethi to the BJP’s Smriti Irani, though he won from Wayanad. The 2019 mandate has also come as a huge setback for several regional players, from Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh to Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal to Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra. It is only in south India - where barring Karnataka and to some extent Telangana - that the BJP faced a strong opposition.
This is the first time since 1971 that a Prime Minister has been re-elected to office with an outright majority.
2. Electoral Gains in Bengal Help BJP Make Up for a Drop in 2014 UP Tally
The mahagathbandhan of the Samjwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh was expected to be the biggest roadblock to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) road to power in 2019. In the end, the BJP has more than compensated its Uttar Pradesh losses with just one state, West Bengal.
The BJP won 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2014. It has won 62 in 2019. It has increased its seat tally in West Bengal alone by 16 seats, thus more than offsetting its Uttar Pradesh losses. These two states, also among India’s biggest – Uttar Pradesh being the first and West Bengal being the fourth; and UP sending the most representatives to parliament, and Bengal, the third-highest – in terms of population, were perhaps the most critical components of the BJP’s 2019 strategy (see chart).
How did the BJP manage this feat? It exploited incumbency visà-vis the BJP state government and the Narendra Modi factor in Uttar Pradesh. In West Bengal, the BJP engineered a big consolidation of the opposition vote.
3. Volatile Sensex Hits 40,000, Plunges 1,300 Pts Intra-Day as Investors Book Profits
The BSE Sensex skyrocketed by over 1,000 points to touch the 40,000-mark for the first time ever following the BJP-led NDA’s thumping electoral victory. However, with the investors rushing in to book the profits, the Sensex plunged 1,314 points, or 3.27 percent, from the record intra-day high of 40,125.
The Sensex finally closed 298.82 points, or 0.76 percent, lower at 38,811.39, while the Nifty settled 80.85 points, or 0.69 percent, lower at 11,657.05. In terms of points, the Sensex fall was the biggest intra-day slide since January 2008.
The rupee also gave up gains and closed 36 paise lower at 70.02 against the US dollar after investors shifted focus to macro-economic developments that will set the tone for the forex market in the coming months.
4. Lok Sabha Election Results: Turfed Out at Home, 19 States/UTs, First Rumblings in Congress
Drawing a blank in as many as 19 states and Union Territories and managing only 52 seats elsewhere, the Congress Thursday suffered a humiliating defeat yet again in the Lok Sabha elections. The strongest pointer to the rout and decimation of the Congress was the loss of Gandhi stronghold Amethi after 15 years where party president Rahul Gandhi was defeated by Smriti Irani of the BJP.
His win from the second seat of Wayanad ensured Gandhi’s passage to Lok Sabha but his party was trounced, not managing to touch double digits in any state barring Kerala. As he took responsibility for the drubbing, there were indications of unrest within the party, many targeting Gandhi’s team. There were also indications that he could offer to step down when the Congress Working Committee meets.
5. BJP Decimates Cong-JD(S), Sets Eye on Karnataka
The humiliating defeat of the Congress-JD(S) combine in the Lok Sabha elections with the coalition partners winning a seat each has put the year-old coalition government on the exit mode in Karnataka.
The BJP, which won a stunning 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats, is the largest party in the assembly with 105 seats, having won one of the bypolls on Thursday. It needs eight MLAs to form a government for a simple majority of 113 in a 224-member House. The fall of the dissidence-riven government of CM HD Kumaraswamy is imminent — it’s a question of when, not if.
The biggest winner is state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa. “We’ll wait for two days for the Congress and JD(S) to spell out their decision on continuing in office. If they don’t, then we’ll take a decision,” a jubilant Yeddyurappa told reporters. While a good show by the BJP was expected, nobody took Yeddyurappa seriously when he said BJP would win 22 seats.
6. Relentless Shah is the Most Valuable Player of 2019
When Amit Shah took over as BJP chief in 2014, the party was still in a celebratory mood over its victory in the Lok Sabha elections. But the man who played a key role by delivering 73 of the 80 seats in UP for the party, and was adjudged “man of the match” by Narendra Modi, was in no mood to pause.
Even as he harvested Modi’s popularity to lead the party to victories in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, Shah had already set his sights on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He calculated that BJP might find it difficult to repeat its performance in the vast swathes of north, west and central India and, therefore, needed to focus elsewhere to compensate for any dip in tallies in its strongholds.
On Thursday that worry did not come to pass but the safety net Shah had stitched held the party in good stead. He had chosen to focus on the 120 seats the party had lost despite 2014’s Modi wave. The constituencies were divided into 25 clusters and each placed under a senior party leader. BJP then decided to concentrate on 80 of them; on results day, the party appeared to be heading to net at least half of them, with Shah’s resolve the main driver.
7. Chemistry With the Most Backward Helps BJP Move Forward in UP, Bihar
What could explain BJP’s romp through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar: states where it was pitted against the Opposition’s attempt to consolidate the backward communities?
The extent of BJP’s sweep in pockets of UP suggests that the weaker backwards, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to by introducing himself as an ati picchda (extremely backward) person, did not side with the dominant Yadavs and instead voted for the party with upper castes as its core support base. It is in line with BJP’s now tested strategy of weaning away non-Yadav OBCs from the consolidated Mandal bloc, which had marked the rise of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav in the late 1980s.
It has happened for the third time since 2014 (BJP’s sweep of the 2017 UP elections being the second instance) and implies that a larger phenomenon is at work. Has the MBC vote become caste-neutral or is it being successfully subsumed in the larger Hindutva umbrella; or is it defining itself and seeking identity in opposition to its numerically stronger ‘forwards among backwards’?
8. Zakir Musa Believed to Have Been Killed in Encounter in South Kashmir
Zakir Musa, the so-called chief of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, was believed to have been killed in an encounter with security forces on Thursday in a village in Tral of South Kashmir, officials said.
They said two terrorists were killed in the encounter but there was no confirmation about their identities as the bodies were yet to be retrieved. However, Musa's family confirmed that he was present at the site.
There has been no firing for quite sometime at the encounter site, but security forces are taking precaution before approaching the debris, they said.
Spontaneous protests broke out in Shopian, Pulwama, Awantipora and downtown Srinagar, with people raising slogans in favour of Musa.
9. India has Ended Iranian Oil Imports, Says Envoy to US
India has ended all imports of oil from Iran, its ambassador in Washington has said, becoming the latest country to grudgingly comply with threatened US sanctions.
India had already sharply decreased its imports from Iran and bought one million tonnes of crude in April, the last month before Washington stepped up its pressure campaign against Tehran and ended all exemptions to sanctions, Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla said. “That’s it. After that we haven’t imported any,” Shringla told reporters during a briefing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory.
He said that energy-hungry India has also ended all imports from Venezuela because it considered itself a partner of the US - but said the shift had caused pain at home, with Iran formerly supplying 10% of India’s oil needs. Calling Iran “an extended neighbour” of India with longstanding cultural links, Shringla declined to say if New Delhi shared President Donald Trump’s concerns about Tehran. “This is an issue that has to be dealt with, really, between the United States and Iran. We are only, in many senses, looking at it as a third party,” he said, adding, “We would not like to see a move towards any escalation in any way in that area, for the simple reason that we depend very heavily on stability in that part of the world.”