Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for the first time since coming into power in 2014, failed to win a majority of seats in parliamentary elections that saw more than 600 million Indians cast their votes. 

When the Election Commission of India on June 5 released the results of the elections, held from April 19 to June 1, to choose the 543-member Parliament, the hopes of the ruling BJP for a larger majority for Modi’s third term were dashed. The BJP decreased its representation to 240 seats, down from 303 in 2019.

The BJP will now have to form a new government with other partners in its coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Modi was elected the NDA alliance leader on June 5.

The big surprise of the election has been the emergence of the opposition alliance named I.N.D.I.A. (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) led by the Congress party, which has ruled India for decades, winning 234 seats in the Parliament. 

Despite polls that forecast a massive BJP victory, the opposition coalition decimated the BJP in India’s two biggest BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. In other states, it increased its majority, claiming that their victories were attributed to a vote “against Modi.” 

“The verdict shows [that] voters don’t want Narendra Modi… to run the country,” Rahul Gandhi, leader of the I.N.D.I.A. Alliance, told a news conference in New Delhi following the secular coalition’s breakthrough.

At the I.N.D.I.A. coalition meeting on June 5, Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge described the election results as a “moral and political defeat” of Modi and called his bid to form the next government “subverting the will of the people.”

With the I.N.D.I.A. coalition also seeking the support of other parties to form the next government, the political situation remains up in the air until the new government is sworn in by the titular president of India.

This dilemma has led the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) to refrain from making a statement about the election results. Father Robinson Rodrigues, a spokesperson, told CNA that the CBCI will issue “its reaction after the government formation only.”

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“The big story of this election is that arrogant Prime Minister Modi has been cut to size by the people’s verdict. We will be seeing a different Modi if he gets a third term,” John Dayal, an outspoken Catholic columnist and activist, told CNA.

“Though the Hindu nationalists are in a better position to form the next government, I am thrilled that the shocking verdict against Hindu nationalists has restored the strength of people in democracy,” noted Dayal, who is based in New Delhi.

“The minorities certainly need not be as fearful as during the last 10 years under Modi with even fundamental rights violated with impunity. There will be greater accountability and pressure on the new government,” Dayal said.

The widespread relief among Christians was manifest in the comment in a WhatsApp group of Christian journalists titled “Scribes for Christ.”

“The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers,” one of the group members wrote, quoting Isaiah 14:5, on the “defeat” of the BJP regime led by Modi.

In another positive development for Christian political activists, opposition candidates for Congress in the troubled Manipur state took both Parliament seats from the state’s ruling BJP. Manipur has been wracked by a bloody ethnic conflict, and there have been reports that voters were intimidated and even assaulted by the Meitei militia who were supported by the ruling BJP government of Manipur.

Since May 2023, Manipur has been simmering with a protracted violent clash between the majority Meiteis, most of whom are Hindus, and the Christian minority Kukis that has left more than 230 dead, according to the official conservative death toll. More than 50,000 Kuki Christians have been chased out of the Imphal valley along with over 10,000 Meiteis who were driven out from Kuki strongholds.

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During the unrest, over 600 churches — the majority of them Kuki — as well as 247 churches attended by Meitei Christians, were destroyed. The violence is seen as an attempt to stop Meiteis from embracing the Christian faith.

During the election fight for the Inner Manipur parliamentary seat, which is dominated by the Meitei community, the Wire news portal reported that the Meiteis were “upset with the BJP, particularly with Prime Minister Modi for not even visiting the state even when it was burning for over a year.”

“We are surprised by the verdict of the people. This shows even the Meitei people are fed up with the callous response of Prime Minister Modi failing to take steps to resolve the situation,” a senior official of the Imphal Archdiocese told CNA.

But the elections have not cheered the Christians in eastern Odisha state, with the BJP winning 20 of the 21 Parliament seats from the state as well as the majority in the state Assembly for the first time.

“We do not know what is going to be in store for us,” said a senior priest of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese, which comprises the Kandhamal jungle district that witnessed widespread anti-Christian violence in 2008.

Over the last 15 years, Kandhamal has witnessed an amazing turnaround, as illustrated in the documentary “Good News of Kandhamal,” with many assailants embracing the Christian faith.

The Church in the Christian heartland of Kerala suffered an embarrassment with Suresh Gopi, a popular film actor and BJP candidate, winning the Thrissur Parliamentary seat — BJP’s first parliamentary victory in the state.