Now You Can Understand India’s General Elections

I would like to share my views and opinions on the Indian general elections, which can be quite confusing to non-Indians.

Updated HeadshotBeing a hotelier I meet many global guests at my hotel and get an opportunity to discuss politics with them over drinks or dinner.

It doesn’t surprise me when I get questioned by multiple nationalities about speculations, my personal view and summary on the historic Indian elections. After all, Indian general election did make a whirlpool of global attention this time.

I have never met any senior politicians; I am just writing what I read in newspapers and watch on TV.

My article might help all those Indians who have less knowledge about Indian politics (and on a lighter note maybe will save Alia Bhatt from embarrassing moments on Coffee with Karan) as well as help the global audience understand details without getting confused, as the Indian political system can be quite complicated.

Here is the situation as it stands today.

543 seats in the Lok Sabha
272 seats needed for a majority


R GandhiModi






LeaderRahul GandhiNarendra Modi
Leader’s seat
  • currentAmethi —
  • contestingAmethiVadodaraVaranasi
Last election28.55%, 206 seats18.80%, 116 seats
Current seats92226


current survey



Looking back at Indian elections results can provide a vivid picture of the governing scenario in our country. 2009 was the year when our last elections were held.

There are two national parties: The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and there are allies, most of which are regional parties (the Left, whatever it may claim, is in truth a force only in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura ); and Mayawati may have national ambitions, but the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) remains mostly corralled in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress has three allies who it can rely on to some extent: Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, the National Conference in Kashmir, and Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar.

The BJP has two: the Akalis in Punjab and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. It certainly can’t think of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), as a reliable ally, though at one time its JD(U)-BJP alliance that ruled Bihar.

The chiefs of several of the regional parties believed that after the 2014 Lok Sabha election, they had a shot at becoming prime minister. Mulayam Singh Yadav certainly did, so did Nitish Kumar and Mayawati, and who knows, even Mamata Banerjee.

The BJP managed 116 in 2009, and currently has projected Narendra Modi as its prime minister candidate. Doubtless, the math whizzes in the BJP backroom are tracking public response to everything that Modi does and running complex statistical predictive models. Questions were asked like can Modi bring the urban middle class—especially women and youth—to the voting booth—and to the BJP? Of course he did.

Another question asked is assuming an extreme scenario in which Modi is that great inspirational force that appears in Indian politics only once in a while, could he drag the BJP beyond the 150-seat line? Well he did.

The Congress has given its best shot to 2014, by projecting Mr. Rahul Gandhi as its prime minister candidate. Sources close to Gandhi believe Congress could win 100 seats, an improvement on other numbers it had expected a few weeks ago and a potential obstacle for Modi forming a government. This all has proved wrong.

But I am sure there is a Plan B ready, which is easy because Congress has done it several times before. Support whatever third front appears post-election; a combination of regional parties from outside, and wait for the opportune moment to withdraw backing. So, look at 2016, not only 2014.

Trouble is, the BJP may also be thinking the same. It, too, has done it once before, with the V.P. Singh government.

The man with a problem is Nitish Kumar. He believes that if he has to retain Bihar, he has to cut ties with a Modi-festooned BJP rath (chariot), because he will lose the Muslim vote in his state, and Lalu Prasad will be back out there in full cry. On the other hand, if he goes alone, he loses the higher caste vote, which will surely this time go to the BJP. Some terrific caste calculations will be called for here, and one hopes Nitish has people to work all those Excel spreadsheets.

The latest buzz is that Modi could face a challenge in his campaign to become India’s next premier from his own colleagues, according to senior Bharatiya Janata Party sources.The party’s president Rajnath Singh has a burning ambition to be prime minister, the sources claimed, adding that he is likely to put himself forward if the BJP and its allies fail to win a majority when the general election ends next month.

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They believe Modi’s reputed dictatorial style of leadership and his failure to stop the massacre of Muslims in the 2002 riots in Gujarat, where he remains chief minister, will be an obstacle to the Hindu nationalist building a broader coalition to reach the 272 seats they need for a majority.

Speculation about Singh’s ambitions was fuelled during his visit to an Islamic shrine in Lucknow on Tuesday. Muslim leaders compared him with India’s last BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was admired across the political spectrum and regarded as a “unifier.”

For INC Indians has also been debating that Mrs. Gandhi may be a better politician than her brother, but if the result in Amethi proves much tighter than last time—which it almost certainly will—they both should rethink how they conduct politics, and even reconsider whether to remain in it. They should note, for a start, the strong motivation and idealism within the Amethi office of an upstart movement, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), formed barely two years ago.

AAP is crammed with young volunteers, many from Delhi, who are likely to appeal to those most angry with years of corruption and rotten government services. The AAP inspires young, urban, educated and aspiring middle-class voters who are unwilling to switch to the BJP. Congress has many failures, but one of its most glaring is the neglect of this rising block of voters that is not loyal to any one party. They are helping to reshape Indian politics, and the ruling party has failed to appeal to them.

BJP feels rather more confident now. In recent days Modi has made more boastful claims about how well his party will do in the election. He talks of Congress being reduced well below 200 seats and seeing a fight for the leadership that might get the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty ejected.

He claims that his party and his closest allies might themselves get 272 or more seats, enough to form a majority in the lower house of parliament. Certainly his foray into Amethi was intended to project an aura of confidence in the “Modi wave” that he says will sweep into eastern Uttar Pradesh, to Varanasi and beyond, in the coming days.

The last voting takes place there, on May 12, with results due on May 16. In addition to the overall outcome, there will be many individual constituency races to watch with interest. For example, might the BJP’s potential finance minister, Arun Jaitley, stumble in his first-ever attempt to be an elected MP, in Amritsar? On the Congress side, if Gandhi’s margin were massively cut—let alone if he were to lose the election—the humiliation will be strong.

Let me also add that he entire “wave” and aura, created so impressively for Modi as prime minister of India, has been constructed by the business community of this country. They are systematically projecting Modi as India’s future prime minister with the agenda for our country’s growth. They know that it is only Modi who can turn around the lands that are full of coal and minerals.

They know that it is only Modi’s model of development that would get them global .They know that no one other than Modi can ensure them loan of five times than the calculated total cost of the project and that also at 0.1 percent rate of interest. And that is why they are pumping huge money on image creation of Modi as the only savior for India of 21st century.

I have only started following politics for last two years, I have my attachments with some parties due or one or the other good candidate, however this time I would personally like to see the change and let our country be lead by Modi for a while.

Rachna Sharma is an expert hospitality professional. A gold medalist from Mangalore University with a Bachelors in hotel management, she was awarded “Leading Women Hospitality” in a Women Leadership Summit and is brand ambassador for “Red Light to Violence against women in India,” a socio-cultural project supported by UNESCO, UNICEF, Kerala Tourism, ICCR, Instituto Cervantess & Spanish Authorities. Read other articles by Rachna.