Modi will win again. But India may well end up the loser

Apr 17, 2024
Ballot unit of the direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machine used for Indian general election 2024, Election Commission of India.Lok sabha election

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to win a third consecutive term in office in general elections in which voting begins on April 19 and runs over seven days.

The results will be known only on June 4, given that 960 million Indians are eligible to vote. April 26, May 7, May 13, May 20, May 25 and June 1 are the other six days on which voting will be held.

Modi’s Hindu-fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party won 282 seats in 2014, and increased that tally to 303 in 2019. Along with its partners in what is known as the National Democratic Alliance, it is being projected to win 399 seats or 75% of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha or lower house of India’s parliament. The BJP alone is expected to win 342 seats.

Under Modi, India has increased its global influence to the point where many countries, from the US downwards are trying to establish security and trade deals. The US is trying to embrace India in a deeper security relationship, in the hope that it can be a bulwark against China.

The European Union is trying to negotiate a free trade pact given the size of the Indian market, while France is looking to sell more weapons to the subcontinental giant. Germany and the UK, too, are waiting in line, looking to woo Modi.

As Modi’s has cemented his power in India, like all politicians who gain in popularity, he has also grown ambitious to demonstrate his clout abroad.

The alleged assassination of an Indian Sikh nationalist leader in Canada and a bid to neutralise another have been both laid at India’s feet. Modi has also reacted robustly to reports about the country which he deems to be against India, blocking reports from the ABC.

There are fears among many Indians that the country is tilting towards becoming a democracy in name only. In Foreign Affairs, well-known Indian journalist Ramachandra Guha wrote that the Indian National Congress, the party of the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, “was committed to religious pluralism, in keeping with the Indian constitutional obligation to assure citizens ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship’.

“The BJP, on the other hand, wishes to make India a majoritarian state in which politics, public policy, and even everyday life are cast in a Hindu idiom.”

Guha also pointed to some signs of the deterioration in the country’s systems. “Parliament is no longer an active theatre of debate, in which the views of the opposition are taken into account in forging legislation,” he noted.

“Many bills are passed in minutes, by voice vote, with the speakers in both houses acting in an extremely partisan manner. Opposition members of parliament have been suspended in the dozens —and in one recent case, in the hundreds — for demanding that the prime minister and home minister make statements about such important matters as bloody ethnic conflicts in India’s borderlands and security breaches in Parliament itself.”

British journalist Simon Tisdall pointed to the level of hubris that had been reached in India by pointing to some musings of the Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. India’s priorities should be to “engage America, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring Japan into play, draw neighbours in, extend the neighbourhood and expand traditional constituencies of support,” this worthy wrote.

Guha expressed the fears of many Indians, saying, “Modi and the BJP seem poised to win their third general election in a row. This victory would further magnify the prime minister’s aura, enhancing his image as India’s redeemer.

“His supporters will boast that their man is assuredly taking his country toward becoming the Vishwa Guru, the teacher to the world. Yet such triumphalism cannot mask the deep fault lines underneath, which — unless recognised and addressed — will only widen in the years to come.”

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