The tryst of Indian democracy: Will the established trends of electoral verdicts prevail or a new phenomenon emerges on June 4th, 2024 in the general election results

vote election 1

Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on the occasion of India’s independence, delivered on August 14, 1947, is famously known as the “Tryst with Destiny” speech. It begins with the iconic lines: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom”.  The speech emphasized the aspirations for a new India based on principles of democracy, equality, and social justice, as well as reminded the people of India of the shared responsibilities that came with independence and the need for unity and hard work to build a strong and prosperous nation.

Since our independence 17 general elections to the House of Representatives, the Lok Sabha has taken place and for the 18th Lok Sabha the elections are currently in the last phases. These electoral processes, which is the spine of any vibrant democracy has also helped Indians to enforce their rights on the successive governments as guaranteed by the constitution of India. The process has empowered the underprivileged populations such as Dalits, OBCs and other such communities to exercise their choice for the leadership, which has seen the rise of socialist leaders specifically representing these communities. Since these communities form the majority of India, they have become the substantial force to decide who should govern the country. They have the potential to tilt the balance of power, that is wherever they go, the power goes with them. Like every elections, this election also awaits their verdict. The incumbent BJP government has enjoyed an overwhelming support bringing them to power in 2014 and allowing them to retain the power in 2019 general elections. Previously, they have been the core voter support of Indian National Congress as well granting them multiple opportunities to govern the country.

In the current scenario when the six out of seven phases of elections have already been concluded, we observe a very sharp contradiction between the opinions of various election analysts or media persons with regard to the outcome of this election to the 18th Lok Sabha. There are three major hypothesis that are floating: One that BJP will get the similar or more number of seats as in the previous election of 2019 and retain the power; Second, that BJP will see a decline in the number of seats but will still get the numbers to retain the power; and the third, that the BJP will see decline in the fortunes and lose the elections. Can we test these hypotheses based on the peoples’ verdict in the previous general elections for Lok Sabha 1-17? A short analysis is presented below which reflects on the decisiveness of the electoral process in the past:

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Lal Nehru’s Tenures:

1st Lok Sabha (1952-1957)

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Lal Nehru – Congress: 364 seats

2nd Lok Sabha (1957-1962)

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Lal Nehru- Congress: 371 seats (similar to the previous election); Congress retains the power

3rd Lok Sabha (1962-1967)

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Lal Nehru- Congress: 361 seats   (similar to the previous election); Congress retains the power

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Tenures

4th Lok Sabha (1967-1970)

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi- Congress: 283 seats  

5th Lok Sabha (1971-1977)

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi- Congress: 352 seats   (more than the previous election); Congress retains the power

6th Lok Sabha (1977-1980)

Congress-154 seats (less than the previous election): Congress lost the power

7th Lok Sabha (1980-1984)

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi- Congress: 353 seats: Congress captures the power again under the leadership of Mrs. Gandhi.  

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Tenure

8th Lok Sabha (1984-1989)

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi- Congress: 414 seats  

9th Lok Sabha (1989-1991)

Congress-193 seats (less than the previous election): Congress lost the power

Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s Tenure

10th Lok Sabha (1991-1996)

Prime Minister Narasimha Rao- Congress: 232 seats  

11th Lok Sabha (1996-1998)

Congress: 140 seats (less than the previous election): Congress lost the power

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Tenure

12th Lok Sabha (1998-1999)

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee – BJP: 182 seats

13th Lok Sabha (1999-2004)

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee – BJP: 180 seats (similar to the previous election); BJP retains the power

14th Lok Sabha (2004-2009)

BJP: 138 seats (less than the previous election); BJP lost the power

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Tenure

14th Lok Sabha (2004-2009)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh- Congress: 145 seats

15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh- Congress: 206 seats (more than the previous election); Congress retains the power

16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019)

Congress: 44 seats (less the previous election); Congress lost the power

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Tenure

16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi- BJP: 282 seats

17th Lok Sabha (2014-2019)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi- BJP: 303 seats (more than the previous election); BJP retains the power


Based on the previous records of the electoral process it is quite clear that the poll verdict of Indian voters has been definite and decisive in the past for all the incumbent prime ministers who have gone to the people seeking a next consecutive term in office. The first hypothesis can pass the test of the previous electoral verdicts and if the BJP will get the similar or more number of seats as in the previous election of 2019, it will retain the power. This will be similar to Prime Minister Nehru (1957)/ (1962), Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1971), Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1999), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (2009) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (2019) as in all cases the incumbent prime ministers secured the similar or more number of seats and retained the power. The second hypothesis that BJP will see a decline in the number of seats but will still get the numbers to retain the power fails the test of the past electoral verdicts. There has not been a single instance in the last 70 years of general elections in which an incumbent prime minister secured lesser number of seats compared to the previous election and still retained the power. On every occasion when the number of seats have declined for the prime minister, the power has slipped from the treasury to the opposition, as was the case of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1977), Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1989), Prime Narasimha Rao (1996), Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (2004) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (2014).  Therefore, these results support the third hypothesis that if the BJP see a decline in the fortunes, it will lose the elections. In conclusion, first and third scenarios are more likely to emerge on June 4, and the second one is unlikely to happen. However, if it does happens, that will be a new phenomenon to emerge in the peoples’ behavior of electoral verdicts. 

Mohammad Fahad Ullah, PhD, MRSC, Professor, Mississauga, ON L5B 0K4, Canada

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