Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister of India for the third consecutive time

Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrates his third consecutive election victory.

Even the scorching sun, hot winds and temperatures beyond 110°F did not deter Indian voters from participating in the world’s largest electoral process, as more than 600 million voters cast their votes to elect their Prime Minister for the next five years. The incumbent candidate Narendra Modi and his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were elected to power for the third consecutive time, albeit with a weaker mandate.

“Today is a glorious day… [the] National Democratic Alliance [NDA] is going to form the government for the third time. We are grateful to the people,” said Modi in a speech at BJP’s headquarters, referring to his alliance with the NDA. “This is a victory for the world’s largest democracy,” he added.

The voting took place in seven phases from April 19 to June 1. The voter turnout was around 66%, and the results were declared on June 4.

About 968 million people—nearly thrice the population of the United States—were eligible to vote for electing candidates that will serve in the Lower House of the Parliament called the Lok Sabha. It has 543 seats, representing a total of 543 constituencies in the country. The candidates are usually affiliated with a political party, although independent candidates are not unheard of. 

Any party or alliance of parties that wins at least 272 seats in the Lok Sabha is invited to form the government and choose a Prime Minister. The government’s term lasts for five years. 

The BJP and its alliance with NDA were opposed by the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) party, which consists of more than two dozen opposition parties, including the Indian National Congress (INC).

Unlike the exit polls, which predicted a thumping victory for the BJP, the party surprisingly failed even to reach a majority of seats. Although it was the single largest party with 240 seats, it had to rely on its alliance with the NDA to win 272 seats and form the government with 293 seats. 

This is uncharted territory for Modi and the BJP as they will lead a coalition government with the NDA for the first time since coming to power. In the 2014 and 2019 elections, BJP won 283 and 303 seats, respectively. Thus, they were able to govern solely under their agenda. 

This time, however, the BJP’s allies will play a significant role in how the government operates for the next five years. The NDA’s demands will be accommodated and their consent to make every decision will be sought. If neglected, they can also withdraw their support and topple the government. 

The BJP will be “heavily dependent on the goodwill of its allies, which makes them critical players who we can expect will extract their pound of flesh, both in terms of policymaking as well as government formation,” said Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

There is jubilation in INDIA’s camp. Though the party failed to form the government, they prevented the BJP from garnering a majority. INDIA won 234 seats. INC, the largest party in the alliance, won 99 seats and has nearly doubled its tally from 52 seats in 2019.

“This is [the] public’s victory and a win for democracy,” INC President Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters in a press conference after the results were declared.

The BJP asked for votes in Modi’s name, who had an approval rating of 75% in February 2024 after ten years in power. He is known for his polarizing rhetoric. According to experts, building the Ram Temple in Ayodhya would boost support for Modi nationwide. 

INDIA raised the issues of rising unemployment and inflation in the country. According to a 2022 World Bank report, India’s youth unemployment rate was 23.2%. The BJP candidate’s failure to win the Faizabad seat, which houses the Ram Temple, showed that the surge of support in the area that many expected from the temple’s construction did not materialize. 

“One could feel the magic of democracy. The people anonymously but unitedly sent a message to the ruling party,” said Professor Shatakshee Dhongde, who was in India during the last week of elections. “They have confidence in the ruling party, but that confidence should not be taken for granted. If the government does not perform well, the people will choose other leaders to replace them,” she added.

Modi is the only Indian leader after Jawaharlal Nehru to have been elected Prime Minister for three terms. He took oath on June 9 and announced a 71-member cabinet the day after. Modi faces a significant task as he seeks to leverage India’s high economic growth rate and geographical location to its advantage on the world stage.