On June 4, Nripendra Chauhan had settled in front of his laptop at 8.30 am in eager anticipation. Chauhan, who runs a security service firm in Noida, did not work all through Tuesday even though he was in his office.

Instead, he was following the Lok Sabha election results on YouTube and through social media updates.

Chauhan, a life-long supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was surprised by the initial counting trends – like other party supporters across India.

Around 2 pm, it dawned on him that the BJP was unlikely to secure a majority in the Lok Sabha, he told Scroll.

“Still, I kept up false hopes that the BJP would make a late comeback in some seats,” he said, laughing. “But by early evening, I had resigned myself to reality.”

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is set to form the government for the third consecutive time, but with a reduced mandate. Contrary to most exit poll predictions that the BJP would better its 2019 performance, the party lost 70 seats, winning a lower tally of 240 seats in all – 32 seats below the halfway mark.

For BJP supporters, the verdict is bittersweet: many of them who spoke to Scroll said they were relieved that Narendra Modi would return as prime minister for a third time but felt that the party not winning a majority was a setback.

Others said it was good for democracy and sent a message to the BJP on the mistakes it had made on the campaign trail. On social media, however, several posts and users blamed “Hindu voters” for not voting en masse for the BJP.

Good for democracy, bad for reforms

Chauhan said he had been a BJP supporter long before Narendra Modi’s reign elevated the party to its hegemonic position in national politics in 2014. “I am ideologically aligned with the party,” he said, adding that its emphasis on nationalism resonates with him.

While he was initially disappointed with the election results, he now thinks it is good that the party lost its brute majority. “Such checks and balances are necessary in a democracy,” he said. In the run-up to the elections, BJP leaders had claimed the party needed 400 seats to amend the Constitution.

Mayur Munne, a public health professional based in Nagpur, who comes from a family of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party supporters, said he supported the BJP for what he felt was the development of essential infrastructure, especially roads and toilets, in and around his native village near Nagpur under the BJP governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra since 2014.

He said that he did not expect the BJP to match its 2019 tally but was certain that it would at least cross the half-way mark in the Lok Sabha. The reduced mandate was a surprise, he said, but added: “Any single party getting 400 seats is not good for democracy.”

Delhi-based entrepreneur Priyatna Basu echoed the sentiment, arguing that the results showed that “the election was conducted fairly” and that “the country’s opinion is divided and that not everyone is happy with the BJP government”.

However, she was relieved that there would be some political continuity. She said she wants the government’s policies and push for Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises and skill development to continue. “Political stability is good for business and investment,” she said.

Others were concerned about the return to a coalition government after 10 years. “Coalition governments are not good for the country,” said Munne. “Parties in coalitions work only for themselves and their regions.”

Chauhan agreed. “Now, a uniform civil code and other major reforms will not happen,” he said. In its manifesto, the BJP had said that in its third term in power, it would replace religion-based personal laws with a civil code. However, this proposal is now likely to stall since the BJP’s allies might be opposed to it, given its association with Hindutva politics.

BJP failed to include all

Some supporters pointed out that the verdict was a reality check for the BJP, indicating that its widespread popularity had faded.

Mohammad Rafi Dinda Gujjar, the chairperson of the International Gurjar Mahasabha and a member of the Uttarakhand BJP Minority Front’s executive body, said: “The result is definitely a setback for the BJP, especially in Uttar Pradesh.” The BJP’s tally in the politically significant state fell from 71 of 80 seats in 2019 to 33 this time.

Gujjar, a resident of Narendranagar in Uttarakhand, has been a BJP member since 2014, when he was 20 years old. He joined the party after he had been in contact with local BJP leaders and was drawn to its BJP’s policies, he told Scroll.

According to Hyderabad-based health sector worker J Ch Kiran Kumar Reddy, the verdict showed that the BJP’s decisions and policies were not popular among some sections of society.

“The party should focus on the development of every social group and community,” he said. “It should promote leaders from all parts of the country, and not vest power in only those from Gujarat.” Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are both from Gujarat.

Reddy, a Christian and a BJP supporter since the late 1990s, said the party was unpopular among members of his religious community. “There is insecurity among Christians due to the anti-minority rhetoric of some BJP leaders,” he said.

For Gujjar, too, the results were a message to the BJP to bridge the communal divide. The party should also focus on farmers’ grievances, he said.

‘Hindus to blame’

Other supporters, however, sought to downplay the extent of voter disenchantment with the BJP. Chauhan blamed the consolidation of Muslim voters behind the Opposition INDIA bloc for the decrease in BJP’s seats. Munne pointed out that the party had underperformed only in certain states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Haryana. “Voters’ dissatisfaction is based on localised and state-specific factors,” he said.

Chauhan agreed, saying it seemed that “Uttar Pradesh’s voters had not been able to distinguish between national and state politics.” In a significant defeat in the state, the BJP candidate from the Faizabad Lok Sabha seat, where Ayodhya and the Ram Temple are located, lost to a Samajwadi Party candidate.

On social media, several users and accounts put up angry, resentful posts, even blaming “Hindu voters”, especially in Uttar Pradesh, for not supporting the BJP. Some also blamed the INDIA bloc for polarising voters on the basis of caste. There were also hateful and abusive posts attacking “Hindus” for not supporting the BJP.

Others even blamed the BJP for trying to allegedly appease Muslims, Dalits and farmers and blamed members of these communities for not voting for the party in return.

Arrogance, complacency

The party’s supreme confidence and complacency among its voters were among the other reasons cited for the subpar performance. “BJP leaders made comments against the RSS and alienated the Rajputs,” said a government clerk from Haryana’s Rewari. The clerk, a member of the Rajput community, has been a part of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh since childhood. The Sangh is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.

Gujjar agreed, saying that the “arrogance of some BJP leaders” was why it lost seats in key states. Similarly, Chauhan found Modi’s statements during the campaign “boastful” and said that the prime minister fought the election on his name while disregarding the advice of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath and the local BJP leadership. Due to this, wrong candidates were given tickets in the state, claimed Chauhan.

The Rewari-based clerk agreed, alleging that there was some conflict behind the scenes between Shah and Adityanath. Shah ignored Adityanath’s advice on whom to give Lok Sabha tickets in the state, alleged the clerk.

Note: The Jaipur Dialogues is a pro-BJP account that has amplified falsehoods and misinformation in the past.

Munne, however, said that BJP supporters might have become complacent and “didn’t vote in enough numbers”. Chauhan, too, said BJP supporters in urban areas did not vote in sufficient numbers. The extreme heat may also have been a factor, according to him.