By Gurbir Singh:
In the largest election the world has ever seen, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP), Hindu nationalist leader, Narendra Modi has been swept back to power in India with a thumping victory.
A ‘polarising figure adored by many but also blamed for divisions’ the 68-years-old, Modi exceeded all expectations, and secured another five-year term after his crushing victory over a disparate group of opposition parties, including Congress.
More than 600 million people of the 900 million eligible voters, voted in the six-week long contest for 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament. More than 2,000 parties and 8,000 candidates contested 542 seats(polling in one seat was cancelled). A party or coalition needs at least 272 MPs to form a government and 350 seats have been won by BJP and its alliance parties.
Modi was swept to power five years ago in 2014 when the nation was desiring a change and believed that he could transform the economy and create millions of jobs of a country of more than 1.3 billion people.
Such expectations, according to the Washington Post, remained ‘unfulfilled’, and in this election, “Modi instead pushed a message of nationalist pride, telling voters that he was the only candidate who would safeguard the country’s security and fight terrorism.”
Washington Post terms Modi as a “charismatic and polarizing politician” who has stirred voters with a combination of hope and fear, mixing a desire for national greatness with perceived threats from enemies internal and external.”
Times Magazine also had featured India’s PM, Modi on the latest cover of its international edition with the title ‘India’s divider in chief’ and ‘a politician who has failed to deliver’.
Some detractors, including Washington Post, alleged his commitment to giving more power to the country’s Hindu majority has struck fear in the Muslim minority and is pulling the country’s delicate social fabric apart.
The results of this election, however, have silenced all his critics.
The country voted for ‘Modi’, not the party candidates. This Hindu nationalist leader has emerged from his humble origins as the country’s most formidable politician in decades.
National security became an arguably greater issue over the course of the election campaign. He identified and called himself as India’s ‘chowkidar’ – watchman, to safeguard the nation, and that clicked with voters.
For the first time during his term, he was seen as corruption-free politician, and demonetisation was a big positive step in that direction.
Modi introduced ‘Mann Ki Baat’ a monthly radio programme and used radio as a medium to talk to the public, yet he did not hold a single news conference during his entire five-year term.
His ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ was India’s largest cleanliness drive to date with three million government employees and students from all parts of country participating in 4,041 cities, towns, and rural areas.
Several world leaders, including US President, Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and New Zealand PM, Jacinda Arden have congratulated Modi on his re-election.
In her message, Arden says:
“New Zealand and India have a close and long-standing relationship based on our shared democratic values and Commonwealth heritage, and growing trade, tourism and education links,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“Our relationship is underpinned by New Zealand’s Indian community who engage across New Zealand’s business, government and civil society.
“I look forward to continuing to strengthen the relationship between our two countries in the coming years.
“Arranging for 900 million eligible voters to be able to freely cast their vote is a considerable achievement. The successful delivery of the world’s biggest election reflects a strong commitment to democratic principles that New Zealand admires,” Jacinda Ardern said.
The next five years will carve a new chapter in the history of the world’s largest democracy, India. With Modi firmly in the PM seat, India is likely to emerge as a leading economy and would be a force to reckon with in the region.