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June 7, 2024

Rural Discontent Costs Modi Decisive Win in Lok Sabha Elections

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced a significant setback in the recent Lok Sabha elections, losing a third of its rural parliamentary constituencies. This decline reflects widespread discontent in rural areas over issues such as lack of jobs and high inflation, according to a voter analysis.

The BJP’s poor performance in the rural heartland led to the loss of its parliamentary majority. Consequently, Modi now relies on regional allies to secure the simple majority needed to govern the world’s most populous country. In the previous election, the BJP held 201 rural constituencies in the 543-member parliament. However, in this election, the party retained only 126 of those seats.

The analysis excluded regions such as Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh due to recent reorientations of constituencies, which made direct comparisons with previous election data impossible.

Rahul Verma, a political expert at the Centre For Policy Research in New Delhi, noted that the BJP particularly lost ground in the major heartland states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. These states lag behind the more prosperous southern and western regions of India in terms of economic development.

“The rural distress would have played a factor,” Verma stated.

Under Modi’s leadership, India has emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, the rapid growth has not translated into sufficient job creation for the millions entering the workforce annually, leading to uneven economic development. Rural Indian families, who constitute 60% of the country’s 1.4 billion population, have seen their incomes halve. They struggle with rising living costs and limited job opportunities.

Modi’s campaign focused on his record of rapid economic growth, government programs aimed at assisting the poor, and a brand of muscular Hindu nationalism designed to appeal to the party’s conservative base. Despite these efforts, the election results showed the BJP losing ground in the 344 rural or semi-rural seats to opposition parties. These opponents highlighted employment, inflation, and income disparity as their core issues.

Verma suggested that the BJP’s overconfidence before the elections might have contributed to its poor performance. “Perhaps BJP was confident before the elections, that’s why it did not make any major announcements for the rural parts in its interim budget, and that could have played a role,” he added.

The unemployment rate rose to 8.1% in April from 7.4% in March, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, a private think-tank. This figure stood at 6% before the COVID-19 pandemic. The BJP has acknowledged that employment was a significant factor in the election, with party officials stating that “whatever best can be done is being done.”

The BJP’s vote share in the 126 seats it managed to retain dropped by about three percentage points. Modi’s average margin of victory in these seats decreased to 15.6% in this election, compared to 22.9% in 2019.

In contrast, the BJP performed better in urban areas, retaining 78 of the 90 urban seats it won in the last election out of a total of 179 urban seats.

A post-election survey by Lokniti-CSDS, published by the Hindu newspaper, revealed that voters were concerned about inflation, unemployment, decreasing incomes, and the government’s handling of corruption and fraud. These issues evidently played a significant role in the election outcome, highlighting the challenges the BJP faces in addressing the needs and grievances of rural voters

Read more Politics news related news on R9 News

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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