There are striking similarities between the outcomes of the recent Indian and French parliamentary elections. For one thing, in both, the extreme Right Wing suffered a telling blow.

In India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to get a simple majority on its own after claiming that it will get 370 out of 545 seats in the Lok Sabha. It was forced to form a coalition government with allies known for their flip flop opportunistic politics

In France too, the Far Right “National Rally” was expected to be the single largest party and get at least 289 out of 577 seats. But in the end the National Rally came third. The Leftist New Popular Front got the largest number of seats, followed by the Centrist Ensemble.

In both India and France, political pundits and the mainstream media got it all wrong. Virtually none of them had a clue about the real feelings among the voters. Their estimate that the BJP will sweep in India and that the Right Wing National Rally will sweep in France was way off the mark.

The BJP got 240 on its own and together with its allies in the National Democratic Alliance it secured 292. In France, the Far Right, which is the equivalent of the BJP, got 143 plus 68 and came third; the Centrist Ensemble (Macron’s party) got 163, and came second; and the leftist New Popular Front got 182 plus 11 and came first.

Besides there were 10 others to take the grand total of National Assembly members to 577.

Like the Congress-led INDIA alliance in India, the New Popular Front in France promised to improve ordinary people’s lives. This was an effective and economically sound alternative to the agenda of the Far Right, said Julia Cagé and Thomas Piketty in their article in The Guardian.

As in India, in France too, many argued that the Far Right is here to stay and the population should accept it as a fait accompli. Also, another disincentive for attempting to bring about a change was that the Right Wing was on the ascendant in Europe, as in Italy and the Netherlands and therefore it is the current irresistible trend.

But Congress-led INDIA and the National Popular Front rejected the policy of meekly submitting to the Right Wing. They viewed a far-right victory as a major threat to the constitution, the basic social contract and liberties.

Like INDIA, the National Popular Front was against implementation of Right Wing policies that discriminated against foreigners, migrants, women, minorities, workers and the poor.

“Because it has no credible economic platform, the Far Right will revert to the only thing it knows – the exacerbation of tensions and the politics of hate,” Julia Cagé and Thomas Piketty said in their article.

Julia Cagé and Thomas Piketty have published a book on elections in France from 1789 to 2022.

The National Popular Front had ambitious policies to improve the purchasing power of the poor and the lower-middle-classes, just like INDIA. These reforms included employment generation, a substantial increase in the minimum wages, increased public spending on infrastructure in sectors like health and education.

In France, labour productivity under the Macron regime had declined by 5% since 2019, reflecting deteriorating social and economic conditions.

“The National Popular Front’s plans were the complete opposite of the path pursued by Emmanuel Macron since 2017. His agenda exacerbated both income and wealth inequality, while there had been no change in investment, job creation or growth,” Julia Cagé and Thomas Piketty said.

This is exactly what happened to India under Narendra Modi’s rule.

Despite the fact that the Left in India and France did not get a majority to form a government, the poll results kindled hopes of a revival of left wing, liberal, secular, inclusive and non-violent politics to fight right wing politics marked by manufactured animosities, illiberal thought and the revival of primordial hierarchies based on race, religion and caste.

But despite the improved post-election atmosphere, there is a fear that the BJP under Modi will continue to wield power in the same ruthless manner as before. The BJP continues to have the levers of power in its hands. And it could misuse them as brazenly as before.

In contrast, the French Right Wing is not in power in Paris, though it can use its strength in the National Assembly to pressurise the government to follow its line.

In India as well as in France, the Right Wing is supported by a growing section of society with political and economic clout. Both have extra-constitutional (irregular forces or storm troops) to enforce its will.

The post-election scenario in both France and India is marked by doubt as to whether the governments in Paris and New Delhi will survive. While coalition governments have not been uncommon in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has no experience of heading a coalition government. He is presently on crutches provided by the likes of Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party and Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal United, who are known for switching sides opportunistically.

In France, there is no clarity about who will be Prime Minister. President Emmanuel Macron has the power to appoint anyone as Prime Minister. His appointee need not be from the single largest party. He need not even be a member of the National Assembly. His cabinet could well be made of outside “experts.”

Reinforcing his position, President Macron has authority over key ministries like Foreign and European Affairs and Defence. He is the one who negotiates and ratifies international treaties.

At any rate, Macron is not expected to make up his mind about the Prime Minister till he returns from the NATO summit in the US. But a decision has to be made by July 18, when the new National Assembly is due to meet.

The National Assembly is only one of the houses in parliament. There is the Upper House, the Senate, also. At the moment the Senate is dominated by conservatives who support Macron.

While hung Houses are not uncommon in other European countries, modern France has never experienced a parliament with no dominant party. Therefore, decision making will be contentious in France. Such a situation requires lawmakers to build consensus across parties. But France’s fractious politics and deep divisions over taxes, immigration and Mideast policy will make consensus building a challenging task.

With the Left in a strong position, Macron's Centrist allies in the Assembly won't be able to implement their pro-business policies.

Macron is expected to avoid the Far Right National Rally and woo the Left instead. Last week he suspended a decree that would have diminished worker’s rights to unemployment benefits. Such measures could help form a sort of alliance with the Left.

It remains to be seen if Marcon and Modi will reach out to legislators, across parties, to run the government smoothly.