India’s democracy is not as dead as we thought: World media says aura of ‘invincibility’ around PM Modi ‘shattered’ in India elections

Major US newspapers had been critical of Modi during the election campaign and said that the country was headed towards a authoritarian regime


Published Jun 05, 2024 | 9:07 PMUpdatedJun 05, 2024 | 9:32 PM

How Opposition performed in Lok Sabha elections

The “aura of invincibility” around Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been “shattered” by the Indian voters who gave the Opposition a new lease on life: This is how the international media described the outcome of India’s general elections.

According to the results for all Lok Sabha constituencies, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 240 of the 543 seats and the Congress 99. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has comfortably crossed the majority mark of 272 in the 543-member Lok Sabha though the BJP lost its outright majority.

India’s election results appeared as the top news among influential mainstream newspapers in the US. The New York Times (NYT) started its report by noting, “Suddenly, the aura of invincibility around Narendra Modi has been shattered.”

Terming the results as “unexpectedly sobering,” it noted that they were a “sharp reversal a decade into Mr Modi’s transformational tenure.”

“Modi’s Party Wins, but it’s far from a landslide,” said the second lead story on the front page of NYT. “A sobering result for a Prime Minister on the Cusp of a 3rd term,” the daily said on its front page which carried a picture of Modi at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi after the election results were out.

Related: Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu: As INDIA bloc registers 100% strike rate, a look at how alliances fared

‘India’s democracy is not as dead as we thought’

“India’s voters rebuke Modi,” said the lead story of The Washington Post, which is now owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and added that the election results were a rare setback for Hindu nationalists.

For the past decade, India has been “synonymous internationally with its prime minister, Narendra Modi. But on Tuesday, as final election results poured in, the electorate appeared to show dissatisfaction with the status quo and placed the serial winner onto shaky ground,” The Post wrote.

There was “tepid support for his Hindu nationalist party, piercing the air of invincibility around the most dominant Indian politician in decades, it said.

“Modi Declares Win but faces Setback,” said the lead story of The Wall Street Journal which also had a picture of the Prime Minister at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi along with the party president JP Nadda amidst showering of petals.

Notably, all three major US newspapers had been very critical of Modi during the election campaign and said that the country was headed towards a majoritarian and authoritarian regime. The exit polls and opinion polls before the election results had said that the BJP would easily cross the 300 mark in a Lok Sabha.

Tuesday’s results showed that “India’s democracy is not as dead as we thought; that is for sure,” Devesh Kapur, a political scientist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies was quoted as saying by The Post. “This electoral surprise shows that voters still have an independent mind. Otherwise, this juggernaut would not have stalled,” he said.

The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal, in its editorial, said the election result suggests that Indians have high expectations for their leaders, and have again used the world’s largest democracy to warn those leaders to do better.

“The question now will be whether Mr. Modi takes this election warning to heart, or retreats into even more sectarian and authoritarian methods,” it said.

“While Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party finished first and is still well positioned to form a government with its allies in the coming days, the BJP’s performance paled in comparison to its showing in 2014, when Modi swept to power on a wave of national anger over corruption, or 2019, when he was buoyed by nationalist sentiment over a border clash with Pakistan,” The Post wrote.

Tuesday’s result is a humbling moment for a leader whose lead in the polls was lauded by supporters as unassailable, CNN commented.

Related: How BJP-led NDA fared in the home constituencies of chief ministers in Southern states

Brand Modi has lost some of its shine

The election results show that Brand Modi has lost some of its shine, indicating that even Modi is susceptible to anti-incumbency. In other words, he is not as invincible as many of his supporters believed. This offers renewed hope to the Opposition, the BBC said.

“This election is undoubtedly a rebuke for Modi and the BJP,” Time magazine quoted Milan Vaishnav, the Director of the South Asia Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as saying. “After ten years in power, it was in many ways a referendum on its track record in office and there are clearly many Indians who are feeling restless and uneasy. Modi now faces a more powerful Opposition than at any point over the past decade,” it said.

“His (PM Modi) poorer performance will have political ramifications. At a minimum, the BJP will have to depend more on the junior members of its existent multi-party alliance.” The election results indicated Modi had not achieved the landslide victory many had predicted, a piece in The Guardian commented.

“The Opposition alliance appeared to far outperform expectations,” the UK-based newspaper added.

CBC News said the Congress Party was given ‘a new lease on life’ in the election. India’s election shows the world’s largest democracy is still a democracy, Vox Media, a US-based mass media company emphasised.

“If the basic test of whether a country remains a democracy is that the party in power can still suffer a setback at the ballot box, India passed on Tuesday. Results from the nation’s parliamentary elections — the largest in the world — indicate a shocking electoral setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” it said.

“Modi will continue to be the dominant force in Indian politics (and a significant force in global politics) for years to come, but his rise looks less inevitable and invincible than it did just a few days ago, and the world’s largest democracy’s politics look just a bit more democratic,” it said.

In his third term, the Modi-led government might shift its focus to domestic issues, prioritising public welfare and fair distribution of growth benefits, and even adopting a softer stance on Hindu nationalism, state-run China Daily said, citing analysts.

“Modi’s victory, even if diluted, is certainly not a good omen for Pakistan. Relations between the two countries hit a new low under the two previous Modi governments. It’s not surprising that the Indian prime minister had upped the ante against Pakistan on the election trail,” the Dawn newspaper wrote in its editorial titled ‘Weaker but still lethal’.

India should reach out to Pakistan, and the state should respond positively to any Indian overtures. Naturally, rebuilding trust will take time, but long-term peace in South Asia is impossible without better Pakistan-India ties, it noted.

“India cannot skirt around the Kashmir question; both sides should at least start talking, even if they agree to disagree. Let India’s incoming government start afresh with Pakistan,” the leading Pakistani newspaper hoped.

Related: Priyanka Gandhi: Congress’ talisman who countered PM Modi in Lok Sabha polls

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, and intro of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)