Modi 3.0: Early signs and mischievous misinterpretation of the 2024 Indian election outcome

[Editor’s note: Clifton D'Rozario, from the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, will be speaking at Ecosocialism 2024, June 28–30, Boorloo/Perth, Australia. For more information on the conference visit]

First published at CPI(ML) Liberation.

Against the spirit of the 2024 Mandate, the BJP-led NDA continues to hold on to power, thanks to the crucial support extended by two key allies, TDP from Andhra Pradesh and JDU from Bihar. Narendra Modi is back as Prime Minister for his consecutive third term. Back with him as his number two is Amit Shah. Most other key members of Modi 2.0 are also back, largely with their erstwhile ministerial portfolios. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar's party is projecting him as the 'Kingmaker', but as of now there is hardly any reflection in the allocation of portfolios of the 'kingmaking' impact of either JDU or TDP. It now remains to be seen if the TDP is able to ensure a non-BJP Speaker for the new Parliament.

Modi is of course aware that he has to run a coalition government and in his inaugural speech after being elected NDA leader he was careful enough to avoid delivering a speech soaked in Modi-centric megalomania. But while ostensibly speaking on behalf of NDA, he said pretty much the same things he had been saying against the Congress and the INDIA coalition all through the elections. True, he could not repeat his 400-paar jumla and the arrogant prediction of the Congress winning less seats than Rahul Gandhi's age did not come to pass. But he found a new way to express his arrogance by saying that the BJP has still won more seats than all the seats won by the Congress since 2014. By all indications Narendra Modi and his coterie will try to stabilise the new dispensation by paying lip service to the NDA and making nominal adjustments to accommodate NDA allies while continuing with their aggressive fascist agenda and expedition, even if there is a slightly slower pace at first.

Modi's aggressive slogan of 'Congress-mukt Bharat' and the sinister design of 'opposition-free democracy' have clearly fallen flat. The Congress has nearly doubled its tally and INDIA has emerged as a powerful opposition bagging more than 40% seats in the Lok Sabha. What stands out is the 'minority mukt' profile of the BJP and NDA. Not just the BJP, the entire NDA has not a single Muslim, Christian or Sikh MP. The BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate and now there is not a single Muslim face in the Modi 3.0 cabinet. The number of Muslim MPs has reached an all time low of just 24 MPs in a house of 543, less than 5 per cent representation for India's biggest minority community which accounts for more than 14% of India's population. This acute underrepresentation of Muslims in India's parliamentary democracy is only an electoral reflection of a deeper and systematic marginalisation of Muslims in India in the Modi era.

One of the key and most reassuring takeaways of the 2024 Lok Sabha election outcome is the rejection of the anti-Muslim polarisation, especially right in the region around Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Yet there is a concerted mischievous attempt to misinterpret the outcome and use it to fuel the hate campaign against Muslims. Prashant Kishor, the much-hyped election strategist who cut a sorry face with his loud and stubborn prediction of BJP returning to power with bigger numbers than in 2019, is trying to explain the opposition, especially Congress vote share in terms of 'minority vote bank'. In an interview with BBC India he repeatedly overstated the Muslim population share as 18% (current population trends estimate it to be a little over 14%) and described the Congress/INDIA benefiting from a 'free minority vote bank' of 20%. And predictably, the BJP grabs this falsehood to argue for greater Hindu consolidation, asserting that just as Muslims have voted en bloc against the BJP, Hindus must vote en bloc for the BJP!

Of course, nothing could be a more mischievous misrepresentation of the 2024 outcome than this claim that the opposition vote is a communalised vote. The farmers' movement, the dalit-adivasi-bahujan campaign in defence of the Constitution, the youth movement for secure employment, the employees' movement for restoration of the old pension scheme, the campaign for diversity and federalism, the civil society initiatives for freedom and democracy - all the major factors contributing to the current election result are rooted in the unity of the Indian people and not in any kind or degree of Hindu-Muslim divide. The mischievous interpretation of the poll outcome also seeks to put the onus of Muslim underrepresentation on the political choice of Indian Muslims.

It is the BJP which must be chastised for its systematic and declared attempt to shun Indian Muslims. This is the Indian version of political apartheid. The choice, nay compulsion, of Indian Muslims to vote predominantly against the BJP is driven by the BJP's politics of virulent Islamophobia and not by any religious consideration. Asking Muslims to vote for the BJP is asking them to submit permanently to institutionalised persecution and oppression. Denial of Muslim rights and representation is a key feature of Indian fascism and Muslim voters are absolutely right to join hands with the entire range of anti-fascist forces to try and defeat it.

Marginalised communities can only fight back by forging greater solidarity and waging a more determined and united battle. As part of the project of building a political force representing every fighting section of Indian society, it is of course incumbent on anti-BJP parties to accord due space and recognition to all these sections, which includes directly and consciously countering the marginalisation of Muslims from politics. Just as powerful people's movements made possible the opposition's encouraging gains, they must continue to hold opposition forces accountable, while remaining alert to the renewed offensive of the fascist forces which we will no doubt see unfolding in the coming months.