Fault Lines

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Indian voters delivered a rebuke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the country’s massive parliamentary elections, with the leader’s Hindu-nationalist party losing its majority in parliament, the Washington Post reported.

The BJP secured only 240 seats in the 543-member lower house of parliament, down 63 seats from 2019’s tally and 32 shy of the majority needed to form a government, the BBC reported. The party now needs help from the Telugu Desam Party and Janata Dal to create a coalition.

With counting ongoing Wednesday morning in Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state and a BJP stronghold – results also indicated Modi’s party as neck-and-neck with the INDIA opposition alliance, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The outcome of 642 million votes cast nationwide over six weeks marks a major setback for Modi and the BJP, which have dominated India’s politics since they first came to power in 2014 on a wave of national anger over corruption. They also defied exit-poll predictions that showed the Hindu-nationalist movement would win more seats than in the previous elections and Modi’s own claim of winning some 370 seats.

India’s stock market was also affected by the results, dropping six percent on fears that the pro-business BJP might fall short of expectations. Meanwhile, shares in Adani Enterprises – led by billionaire and Modi ally Gautam Adani – dropped 19 percent.

Political analysts said the results indicated displeasure among voters over inflation, unemployment and the government’s attempts to curb dissent.

Before the election, the opposition Indian National Congress party faced a series of tax-related actions, while another opposition party leader was arrested on corruption charges.

Some voters complained about the decline of government job openings, while those working in farming areas – which employ almost half of India’s workforce – lamented that the BJP-led government did not deliver on its pledges to double rural incomes.

Observers also pointed out that comments made by Modi and other BJP members attacking India’s Muslim community infuriated some voters.

The results have also prompted questions about whether the prime minister will be able to push forward with his agenda to pass labor reforms to make it easier to hire and fire employees, help local entrepreneurs and welcome foreign investment.

Meanwhile, the Congress party and other opposition groups celebrated the results as an indictment of Modi.

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