The people have spoken and the NDA which claimed 294 Lok Sabha seats is set to return for a third term but the mandate is not exactly what Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who spearheaded the BJP campaign, may have hoped for.

Contrary to exit polls that predicted a landslide for the ruling alliance, the BJP Tuesday fell short of a majority on its own – with 272 as the halfway in the House of 543, it won 240 seats – and appeared heavily dependent on alliance partners especially the TDP and JD(U), ending a decade of single-party dominance and heralding the return of a coalition government at the Centre.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing party workers at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi in the evening, hailed the mandate for the NDA and a successive third term: “For the first time since 1962, a government has returned for the third time after completing its two terms.”

Promising to build a Viksit Bharat, Modi said, “Our Constitution is our guiding light. I want to assure that the NDA government will work with all states, irrespective of the party in power there, to work towards our resolve to make India a developed country. We have no time to stop or feel tired. It’s time to work together in the nation’s interest and move forward. We have to take new decisions for the country’s progress… In the third term, the country will write a new chapter of big decisions and this is Modi’s guarantee.”

He thanked the people of Odisha for giving the BJP a clear mandate for the first time “in the land of Lord Jagannath”. He also thanked TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu and Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, his NDA allies, for the electoral successes in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

The BJP, which had aimed for 370 seats for itself and 400-plus for the NDA, suffered major reverses, from the East to the West, the heartland state of Uttar Pradesh, and could not make expected gains in the South.

The BJP is down 63 from its 2019 tally of 303. Its vote share has also dipped a little – from 37.7 per cent to 36.56 per cent. The NDA, however, has crossed the halfway mark.

There was cheer in the Opposition INDIA camp although it could not cross the halfway mark on its own.

While the Congress fell one short of the three-digit mark, up from 52 last time, the SP cruised to 37 from a mere 5 seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2019.

The TMC improved its 2019 tally of 22 seats to 29 in West Bengal, and the DMK maintained its sway over Tamil Nadu by posting leads in 22 seats.

The NCP faction of Sharad Pawar, too, led on 7 seats and the Shiv Sena (UBT) of Udhav Thackeray on 9 seats. The RJD was ahead in 4 constituencies in Bihar and the AAP and JMM in 3.

The biggest upset for the BJP was in Uttar Pradesh where it had won 62 seats in 2019 and 71 seats in 2014. The BJP’s numbers almost halved as it won and led in just 33 seats. The remarkable comeback of the SP, ahead in 38 constituencies and the Congress in 6, left the BJP stunned.

The BJP also faced setbacks in several states where the party dominated in 2019. Among them were Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan and Karnataka. The party took a hit in West Bengal as well.

The only good news for the BJP came from Odisha where its tally jumped from 8 to 19, leaving one each to the BJD and the Congress. The BJP also ousted the ruling BJD in Odisha, ending the long run of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The BJP opened its account in Kerala and doubled its seat tally from 4 to 8 in Telangana.

In Maharashtra, the BJP’s tally came down to 9 from 23, and in Rajasthan 14 from 25. It had won all the 25 seats in Rajasthan in 2014 and 2019 and returned to power in the state just a few months ago.

In Karnataka, where the BJP had 25 of the 28 seats, its tally came down to 17. In Haryana, the BJP lost 5 of the 10 seats it won. In West Bengal, where the party was hoping to make major gains, it could win only 12, down from 18 in 2019. In Bihar too, the BJP suffered reverses as its tally came down from 17 to 12.

The BJP will now be dependent on its allies, key among them being the TDP and JD(U). While the TDP was ahead in 16 seats, the JD(U) led in 12.

Veterans Naidu and Kumar, who have worked with the Opposition bloc in the past, are now set to emerge as decisive political players at the Centre along with Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena (7) and Chirag Paswan-led LJP (Ram Vilas) (5).

In the South, the BJP opened its account in Kerala and doubled its tally of 4 in Telangana.

In Tamil Nadu, where the BJP was projected to pick up some seats, the party could win none. Its vote share, however, crossed the 11 per cent mark compared to 3.62 per cent last time.

In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP led in 3 seats, up from zero last time. Three regional parties, the BJD of Naveen Patnaik, the BRS of K Chandrashekar Rao and Mayawati’s BSP, faced a rout. While the BJD was leading on just one Lok Sabha seat, the BRS and the BSP drew a blank.

In MP, the BJP was making a clean sweep, with former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was eased out of his post despite the BJP’s victory in the state Assembly elections months ago, was leading by a whopping margin of over 8.21-lakh votes. In Gujarat too, the BJP was ahead in 25 out of the 26 seats in the state. (IE)