The results of India’s general election show a big lead for the Congress Party and its allies, although they are 12 seats short of a majority in the 545-seat Lok Sabha.
This is a bit of a surprise, as indications had been that the election would be closer.*
Congress appears to have 205 seats, or 37.6% of the total, to a mere 116 (21.3%) for its main rival, the BJP. When the pre-poll allies are included, Congress reaches 261 (47.9%) and the BJP 157 (28.8%).
The much-vaunted Third Front (which includes various left and regional parties) continues to show the potential that it presumably always will have, managing 80 seats (14.7%).
The Fourth Front, made up for former Congress allies, won only 27 seats (about half what its various component parties had combined for in 2004)** and there are 18 ‘others.’
Given how close Congress and its allies are to a majority and the presence of various independents and regional parties from outside the main alliances, it should be quite easy for the Congress and its pre-electoral allies to form a minority government without any formal agreements. That would mark a departure from recent patterns of governance, as in 1999 the BJP and its allies won an outright majority, and in 2004 Congress formed a minority government with an explicit set of agreements with the Left bloc.
And, speaking of the left, is this the end of an era? Look at the state-level results and, in particular, West Bengal and Kerala. In these redoubts of elected Communist parties, the left support collapsed in these elections, compared to 2004.
* Or maybe not, given how well Congress had done in the last round of state elections.
** The main component of the Fourth Front is the Samajwadi Party, which had flirted with Congress after the Left parties withdrew their support in 2008.