Here are the Indian Kingmakers who will shape Modi’s future


(Bloomberg) — After failing to win a majority in India’s elections, Narendra Modi’s future now rests in the hands of two notoriously unreliable allies.

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Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was in the lead with 240 seats, short of the 272 needed for an outright parliamentary majority. He can still form a government if his National Democratic Alliance stays together – but that is not a certainty.

India Election Results 2024

Modi claimed victory for that coalition on Tuesday, calling it a “historic achievement in the history of India” and indicating he plans to return as prime minister.

Two key allies in his coalition with the most seats – Telugu Desam Party in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh and the Janata Dal (United) in the eastern state of Bihar – are led by two experienced politicians who have switched sides many times over the years . And both only rejoined Modi’s coalition in the months leading up to the 2024 elections.

“All these coalition partners are relevant because they are kingmakers now,” said Irfan Nooruddin, who researches Indian politics at Georgetown University. “Without them, the BJP cannot form a government and Modi cannot become prime minister for the third time.”

Here’s a closer look at some of the kingmakers who could decide Modi’s fate:

Nitish Kumar, leader of the Janata Dal (United)

Kumar joined the BJP-led alliance just a few months before the elections began in April. Since 2010, he has changed political allegiance four times.

He has ruled Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, for almost 18 years by building alliances that allowed him to remain as the state’s chief minister. In 2022, he broke with the BJP and became one of the architects of the opposition alliance before returning to Modi’s camp.

With Modi’s party falling short of a majority, social media is full of memes of Nitish Kumar, who is on the verge of winning 12 seats. He met Modi at his residence on Monday, the day before votes were counted.

N. Chandrababu Naidu, leader of the Telugu Desam Party

Naidu is another leader who has changed sides several times. Naidu’s TDP, a member of the BJP-led alliance, claimed victory in the simultaneously held parliamentary elections in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. His party also leads in 16 of the 25 seats the state sends to parliament.

Last year, Naidu was arrested over allegations of embezzling government funds, but he is expected to return as the state’s chief minister even as his party has confirmed its alliance with the BJP.

“It is a pre-election alliance that will continue,” Vijaya Kumar Neelayapalem, a TDP spokesperson, said on Tuesday. “On that basis, the party manifesto and the distribution of seats were decided.”

Some local newspapers reported that Modi, as well as Home Minister Amit Shah, spoke to Naidu over the phone on Tuesday.

Mamata Banerjee, leader of the All India Trinamool Congress

A long shot is India’s only female Prime Minister, who is part of the opposition INDIA alliance.

Banerjee, a fierce Modi critic, is unlikely to work with the BJP. But in India, unlikely alliances have been forged after other close elections, and she does have some history with Modi’s party: about 20 years ago she was a minister in a BJP-led federal government.

Banerjee’s relationship with the main opposition Congress, which she quit to form her regional group, is also fraught with tension. The apparent partners are contesting against each other in various constituencies in the state.

–With help from Akriti Sharma and Advait Palepu.

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