Written by 16:59 World

Narendra Modi Fell to Earth After Making It All About Himself

When everything became about Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, his party and its century-old Hindu-nationalist network were propelled to unimagined heights.

On the back of his singular charisma and political skill, a onetime-fringe religious ideology was pulled to the center of Indian life. Landslide election victories remade India’s politics, once dominated by diverse coalitions representing a nation that had shaped its independence on secular principles.

But there were always risks in wrapping a party’s fortunes so completely in the image of one man, in inundating a country of many religions, castes and cultures with that leader’s name, face and voice. Voters could start to think that everything was about him, not them. They could even revolt.

On Tuesday, Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., fell back to earth. After having promised their biggest election romp yet, they lost more than 60 seats. Mr. Modi will remain in office for a third term, but only with the help of a contentious coalition of parties, some of which are opposed to his core beliefs and want power of their own.

With the result, India’s strained democracy appeared to roar back to life, its beaten-down political opposition reinvigorated. And after a decade in which Mr. Modi’s success in entrenching Hindu supremacy had often felt like the new common sense, India is seeing its leader and itself in a new light, and trying to understand this unexpected turn.

Most fundamentally, the opposition, newly coalesced for what it called a do-or-die moment as Mr. Modi increasingly tilted the playing field, found a way to use the cult of personality around him to its advantage.

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Last modified: 6 June 2024
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