The national elections wound down to an exciting finish with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning 301 seats, placing it comfortably in the 17th Lok Sabha where 272 seats were needed to hit the half-way mark. The party’s win doesn’t come as much of a surprise given most exit polls had predicted such an outcome. Still, the results weren’t without drama and unexpected turns. Some prominent candidates, mostly of the opposition, lost the contest as Modi swept back to power with a win even bigger than his 2014 victory.
The shocker was from Amethi, a long-time bastion of the Congress, where Rahul Gandhi lost to BJP’s Smriti Irani by a margin of 43,755 votes. The loss would come as a setback for his party which had never lost the seat since 1971, except in 1998. Jyotiraditya Scindia lost his bastion of Guna to BJP’s Krishna Pal Singh by 1,24,750 votes. Milind Deora suffered a similar fate, losing the south Mumbai seat by more than one lakh votes. Digvijaya Singh, a former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and Congress veteran, was beaten in Bhopal by BJP’s controversial candidate Pragya Singh Thakur, whose comments on Nathuram Godse caused widespread outrage, prompting even Prime Minister Narendra Modi to condemn her views. Shatrughan Sinha who recently switched over to the Congress from the BJP lost from Patna Sahib. Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar also was defeated from Begusarai. The BJP too had its share of upsets. Actress-turned-politician Jaya Prada suffered a stunning blow in Rampur. Sambit Patra, a former national spokesperson of BJP and a prominent face on television debates, initially trailed Biju Jaanat Dal’s Pinaki Misra in Puri, but later overtook him to win by a small margin.
While it may be early to determine with certainty the reasons for the defeat of some of the opposition’s big guns, BJP’s nationalistic pitch in the wake of the Balakot air strikes seems to have been at play. This, by no means, implies anyone should start writing political obituaries. Recall how Indira Gandhi had lost from Rae Bareli in 1977 after facing a popular backlash following her decision to implement the Emergency. But she won again in 1984. Perhaps there is a lesson to learn.