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The snubbing of BJP’s big faces: “400 paar” punctured

After India's most powerful political party’s call for 400+ seats out of 543 fell on its face, here are some of the stalwarts who suffered a humiliating defeat.

Though the BJP targeted 400 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it could only manage 240, and many of its stalwarts faced a poll snub.

Several top candidates of the BJP suffered setbacks in 2024

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections’ results not only busted the bubble of “Ab Ki Baar, 400 Paar” (This time, we win 400) slogan of Narendra Modi’s incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but it has also displayed how some of the stars of the saffron camp have crashed. In a rare exemplification of public discontent, Mr Modi’s victory margin against his nearest rival in the Varanasi constituency also fell drastically vis-a-vis the 2014 and 2019 elections.

The BJP’s main rival, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc, with the Indian National Congress’s (INC) Rahul Gandhi at its core, has showcased played the role of a giant killer in several constituencies. Other INDIA constituents like the All-India Trinamool Congress (AITC), the Samajwadi Party, the Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar), Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) and the Dravida Munettra Kazhagham (DMK) had also donned David’s attire. 

Propelled by the BJP’s 240 seats, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has crossed the magic figure of 272 seats in the lower house of the Indian Parliament, while the INDIA bloc has secured 232 seats. INDIA is promising a tough opposition to Mr Modi, who gave a clarion call to eliminate the Opposition by winning 400+ seats for the NDA. 

While the INDIA bloc member parties increased their tally vis-a-vis the 2014 and 2019 performances, they made the BJP bleed in several high-profile constituencies and seized control of the crucial Faizabad Lok Sabha constituency, which houses the much-hyped Ram Mandir (temple of Lord Rama, a Hindu deity), inaugurated by Mr Modi himself in January, in the holy town of Ayodhya.

The magic of religious polarisation couldn’t help the BJP even retain its 2014 tally.

Smriti Irani

One of the prominent BJP leaders and former Union minister Smriti Irani was too confident about winning the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency. Mrs Irani, an actor-turned-politician, whose journey in the BJP started by opposing Mr Modi’s rise, always had been a heavyweight contender.

A long-time Gandhi family confidant, the INC’s Kishori Lal Sharma, defeated Mrs Irani in Amethi, where she had defeated Mr Gandhi in 2019. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Mrs Irani secured 468,514 votes vis-a-vis Mr Gandhi’s 413,394, winning with a lead of 55,120 votes.

This year, Mr Sharma has secured 539,228 votes against Mrs Irani’s 372,032, securing a lead of 167,196 votes.

It’s noteworthy that though the INC candidate, who was downplayed by the BJP as a “personal assistant” of the Gandhi family, managed to secure the support of the Samajwadi Party, Mrs Irani saw an erosion of 96,482 votes, which can be credited to anti-incumbency factor.

INC leader Priyanka Gandhi congratulated Mr Sharma and said that she didn’t have “any doubts” that he’d win the people’s hearts. 

This fight over the Amethi constituency was one of the prestigious battles in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. After suffering a humiliating defeat from Amethi in 2019, Mr Gandhi contested from Raebareli this year and fielded Mr Sharma from Amethi.

Mrs Irani, who is criticised for being ‘arrogant’ by the opponents, took to X to share her thoughts.

“Such is life… A decade of my life going from one village to another, building lives, nurturing hope & aspirations, working on infrastructure – roads, naali, khadanja, bypass, medical college and more. To those who stood by me through loss and victory, I am forever grateful. To those celebrating today, congratulations. And to those asking, ‘How’s the josh?’ I say- it’s still high, Sir,” she wrote on X.

K Annamalai

BJP’s Tamil Nadu state president K Annamalai lost the Coimbatore constituency to DMK candidate Ganapathy P Rajkumar by 118,068 votes. Mr Annamalai, on whom the BJP and Mr Modi pinned their hopes in their bid to open the saffron camp’s account in the southern state, polled 450,132 votes against Mr Rajkumar’s 568,200 votes in Coimbatore.

The engineer-turned-IPS officer made his political debut in this poll and was confident in garnering electoral gains for the party. The prominent face of the BJP in the south, Mr Annamalai’s defeat is a big disappointment for the party, which has been attempting to build a fortune in the Dravida heartland.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

In a high-profile contest, BJP leader and former Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar lost to INC’s three-time member of the Parliament (MP) Shashi Tharoor in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram constituency. Even though the trends for Mr Tharoor showed a downfall for some time, he regained the lead quickly overtaking Mr Chandrasekhar.

Mr Tharoor has won the Lok Sabha elections by securing 358,155 against Mr Chandrasekhar’s 342,078.

Ajay Kumar Singh Teni 

Ajay Kumar Mishra Teni, former Union minister of state for home, who has been infamous for the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, in which his son is accused of mowing down protesting farmers and killing them, lost from the Kheri constituency to SP candidate Utkarsh Verma Madhur.

Mr Teni was set to run his third term in Lok Sabha from the Kheri constituency, but he has been defeated by Mr Madhur with a margin of 34,329 votes.

Mr Teni’s nomination from the Kheri constituency was seen as an arrogant move by the BJP, which wanted to downplay the farmers’ fury after it managed to secure the state in the 2022 Assembly elections.

Narendra Modi

Mr Modi contested from Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi constituency for the third time in a row and won against state Congress chief Ajay Rai. However, his victory was pretty narrow with a margin of 152,513 votes compared to the 2019 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

While Mr Modi had a lead margin of 479,505 votes in 2019 against his nearest rival, the Samajwadi Party’s Shalini Yadav, the BJP planned to increase the lead margin to a million votes in 2024.

However, instead of increasing the margin, Mr Modi’s lead shrunk by 326,992 votes, which is quite a significant erosion in the BJP’s vote bank.

The loss of several high-profile candidates, especially from the BJP’s citadel of Uttar Pradesh and the erosion in Mr Modi’s vote bank show that it has lost the steam with which it ascended to power in 2014 and 2019. Growing anti-incumbency due to inflation, high unemployment and lack of inclusive development can be considered as factors that punctured the vessel of “Ab Ki Baar, 400 Paar”.

A journalism student interested in national and international news. She aspires to highlight the concerns of the people through her writing.

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