Narendra Modi won an electoral victory on June 4, which can at best be described as a Pyrrhic victory. This term owes its origin to King Pyrrhus of Epirus whose army suffered irreplaceable losses while defeating the Romans in the Battle of Asculum in 279 BC.

Closer to our times and nearer home we have the turn of events after the Battle of Gangwana between the armies of the Marwar Rathores and the combined forces of Jaipur and its Mughal overlord led by Jai Singh in 1741. In this battle the imperial army of over forty thousand massed in a field at Kunchagaon near Pushkar with its fabled artillery guns lined up to force terms on the rulers of Jodhpur and Nagaur.

As it happened it fell upon Bakht Singh of Nagaur and his cavalry numbering about a thousand to take on the imperial forces. But that didn’t deter Bakht Singh and his horsemen charged into the massed imperial forces and quickly punched through Jai Singh's gun line.

The Rathores rode through the Jaipur army, cutting down thousands of men. They lost most of their men but the huge toll extracted demoralised the Mughal forces. After this victory the imperial army soon disintegrated. Jai Singh never recovered his elan and died two years later.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) might have won the 2024 elections but its apparently inexorable march towards establishing a Hindutva theocracy was halted by the combined formations committed to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

The Hindi-Hindutva phalanx that threatened to overrun the federal character of India has been weakened. Most of all in its Gangetic heartland where the BJP led by the Modi-Yogi double engine train has been derailed by the youthful and educated duo of Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi.

The results also cut Modi down to a more realistic size. He won in Varanasi in 2019 by 4.93 lakh votes only to have it whittled down to 1.52 lakhs yesterday. Ironically Rahul Gandhi won in Rae Bareli by over 3.9 lakh votes after being humiliated in another Gandhi family bailiwick, Amethi, in 2019.

This represents a telling reversal of fortunes. Modi is irrevocably on the decline with both biological and historical times against him. His swagger at the BJP’s “victory” meeting was visibly contrived and forced. He tried to weave his oratorical magic with his usual mix of hyperbole and half-truths but failed to enthuse the faithful.

For instance he claimed to have made India the world’s second largest manufacturer of mobile phones. The truth in this is only skin deep. India now assembles Rs.4.4 lakh crores of mobile phones but the value addition is only 16%, while China manufactures more than six times that with a value addition of almost 100%.

India exports as much diamonds and jewellery by its value addition is even lesser. India exports even more petroleum products (over $70 billion), mostly from the Reliance refinery in Jamnagar but its value addition, hence the contribution to the national economy, is a thin sliver. These numbers are due to Modi’s focus on the big and visible, but what is the national benefit?

Similarly, Modi highlighted the spruced up and long nosed Vande Bharat Express trains, but over 95% of passengers still travel in crowded and grimy trains piled up on each other usually without minimal facilities. But he tried to convince people that their lives had improved.

The perceived standard of living is a relative concept. How does a passenger in a typical second class bogie view the passenger zipping by in a plush Vande Bharat Express?

I wrote here on April 17 that I don’t see the ‘Modi Express’ going much further than the halfway mark. But the electronic media’s relentless barrage of Modi positivism and their flood of concocted polls cooked Modi’s goose by making over 400 the new norm.

Modi himself contributed to the high expectations by imperiously dismissing Rahul Gandhi to less than fifty. He accorded the same gracelessness to Akhilesh Yadav, M. K. Stalin, Mamata Banerjee and Tejaswi Yadav. They all fought back and whittled him down.

In the last 82 days Modi crisscrossed the country in his IAF Boeing 777 aircraft addressing 206 rallies, making people like me wonder if the country was running on auto-pilot? No political leader anywhere in the world spent so much time campaigning as Modi did in a decade.

A leader's post is akin to a pulpit which is meant to preach, convince and motivate. Modi instead used his platform mostly to hurl political invective on his opponents and rivals. When he spoke of achievements he hugely exaggerated. In the end more voters saw through him than believers.

Modi’s political climb has been driven by such exaggerations but results yesterday tell us that the bubble has been pricked. By its own estimations the Modi led BJP fell short of its declared goal by over 150 seats (ab ki baar char sau paar).

The BJP seat tally diminished in all its dominant states and increased only in Orissa and Telangana. The BJP is still the largest party in Parliament, but it has been cut to size. Inside the party Narendra Modi too has been cut to size.

The BJP, which despite the malign influence of the RSS, used to have a vigorous inner party democracy with debate and discussion animating it, had been stifled for a decade. Modi ran it by diktat along with a bunch of faceless and callow aides who can no longer continue to do so.

The party now knows that the path is fraught with consequences. It may not revert back to the days of Vajpayee and Advani, but the days of Modi and Shah will become the days of Modi and Shah with Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and others speaking up. It might tone down his hubris with humility?

The new NDA will now be heavily dependent on the two most notorious political about-turn artists on the national stage: Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu. Both have raged and railed against Narendra Modi individually till the recent past.

The arithmetical balance (Janata Dal-United 12, Telugu Desam Party 16) requires them to function in tandem to upset the BJP applecart. It is difficult to see political events that will align their actions, but they will constantly be breathing down Modi’s neck. That might force Modi to be a more conciliatory person. Which might not be a bad thing for the government?