In May 2014, there were elections in India, the world’s largest democracy . Of about 834 million eligible voters, 554 million (66 percent) voted for who should sit in parliament and who should become prime minister. There was only one clear prime ministerial candidate: the highly controversial politician Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Modi (63) has been credited with the strong economic growth in the state of Gujarat, but has also been accused of being involved in massacres of Muslims. The election ended with a landslide victory for Modi, who has already taken over as India’s new prime minister.
- Who is the new Indian Prime Minister?
- How big was the election winner?
- What policy does Modi stand for?
- Which India will grow under Modi?
2: A party that lacked a leader
According to SHOE-WIKI, the BJP is one of two dominant parties at the national level in India. It is a right-wing, Hindu nationalist party that grew rapidly in the late 1980s by mobilizing around aggressive rhetoric about the primacy of Hindu culture . At that time, it was especially the large Muslim minority in the country that was highlighted as the enemy. The contradictions were often reinforced by the use of violence . For example, in the early 1990s, the BJP mobilized large crowds to demolish an ancient mosque that was claimed to have been built on the site of an ancient Hindu temple. Today, about 80 percent of India’s population are Hindus.
Towards the end of the 1990s, the BJP moderated and became better known as a party that wanted more economic growth and better conditions for business. With this profile, the party sat with the government power in India from 1998 to 2004. But then they lost power. Since then, BJP has lacked good leaders and also had a somewhat unclear ideological profile. This is where Narendra Modi has come in as a new strong leader that the party has gathered behind.
3: A controversial leader
Narendra Modi is a charismatic person, an authoritarian leader and a very impressive political strategist. Very many of India’s top politicians boast a political family tradition, great wealth or great doctorates from abroad. Modi rather plays on the fact that he comes from simple circumstances and has worked his way up on his own. He was active in the Hindu nationalist movement from a very young age and apparently lives a strictly ascetic life in celibacy ; he sleeps little and works a lot.
Modi gradually worked his way up in politics and took on increasingly important roles. In 2001, he became the Prime Minister of the state of Gujarat (a kind of prime minister of the state), and he has been so popular that he has been re-elected three times. It is very unusual in India.
His popularity is largely due to the fact that he has facilitated investment and growth in Gujarat. Among other things, the state government has built better roads, secured the electricity supply to the cities and provided financial support and tax breaks to the industry. The cities of Gujarat have experienced significant economic growth, and the state has a reputation for being a good place to invest. Modi has received much of the credit for this growth.
Modi’s main message in the election campaign was that he should introduce the growth model from Gujarat in the rest of India: many believe he will make it happen. Among other things, the stock exchange in India made a huge leap when it became known that Modi had won the election.
But not everyone is equally happy with Modi’s government in Gujarat. More and more critical voices point out that the poor in Gujarat have benefited little from the growth. The difference between city and country has become greater, and Modi has little support in the countryside.
Modi has a reputation for being both authoritarian and hostile to India’s religious minorities. Above all, he is associated with the religious riots in the city of Godhra in Gujarat in 2002. They escalated when a train of Hindu nationalist activists was set on fire. Rumor has it that Muslim extremists were behind it. The retaliatory actions triggered mass killings of Muslims in Gujarat.
Modi was accused of being involved in planning attacks on Muslims, or at least of encouraging them. He has been acquitted of these charges, but many still believe he is guilty. Among other things, the US authorities chose to deny Modi a visa to the United States after the incident, and the visa refusal was pending until it became clear that he was going to win the election.
There are many indications of political involvement in the acts of violence in 2002, although not by Modi personally so at least part of his party. Some of the Hindus who attacked Muslims brought with them lists showing where the Muslims in the areas lived. This indicates that the attackers were well organized. Many also see it as a sign of political interference that the police spent too much time intervening. A female minister in Modi’s government was even convicted of handing out swords to Hindus and inciting them to fight Muslims.
4: The election in 2014
Modi is the man who won the election in India by a large margin. He made a brilliant figure throughout the election campaign, but was also helped by the fact that the more moderate Congress Party (which has been in power since 2004) waged a miserable election campaign. After 10 years in power, it seemed that they had little energy left. Party leaders have been involved in a number of corruption scandals, and they had a prime ministerial candidate – Rahul Gandh i, great-grandson of India’s first prime minister and grandson of Indira Gandhi – who seemed like he would rather not be a politician.
To a large extent, the choice was about economics and development. After many years of high economic growth, the Indian economy has performed rather poorly in the last couple of years. Rising prices are high for food, among other things, foreign debt is rising and so is unemployment. In addition, Indian authorities are known to be both corrupt and inefficient. Most Indians are therefore tired of the promises of the traditional politicians.
Many have said that they want a more authoritarian government to sort this out and create growth for most people. During the election campaign, more and more people became convinced that Modi was the right person for this job.
The election campaign was strongly dominated by Modi. There have been posters of him everywhere, he has been in all the media and he has carried a clear vision of economic growth for India.
In recent decades, it has been almost inconceivable that a single party would gain a majority in the Indian parliament. Almost everyone therefore took it for granted that there would be a new coalition government after the election. The BJP went to the polls with a small coalition of parties. They were expected to do well, but Modi surprised everyone: the BJP won over half of the seats in parliament alone and a strong majority along with the coalition partners.
Not since 1984 has one party gained a majority in the Indian parliament all alone – and at the time, the Congress Party probably gained a majority just because of the assassination of incumbent Prime Minister Indira Gandhi just before the election – in other words many votes of sympathy.