India - Modi's Challenge

India – Modi’s Challenge

Narendra Modi’s overwhelming electoral victory defeated not only the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty but also the caste parties. A leader who presents himself as moderate, but who must make his extremist past forget and free himself from sectarianism to relaunch the country as an economic power.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi’s victory in the political elections of spring 2014 was not unexpected: what surprised was the proportions.

His party, the Bharatiya janata party (BJP), alone won the absolute majority of seats in the lower house, the Lok Sabha – something that hadn’t happened for decades -, and the coalition he led (the NDA, National Democratic Alliance) will be able to govern with complete tranquility.

The Congress Party has suffered an uncontested defeat, which has ended (for the moment, at least) the rule of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Regional and caste-based parties have failed, with isolated exceptions in Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

It remains to be seen whether this was an epochal turning point, as some with perhaps too much emphasis have commented in the West, or whether it was not an important, but not conclusive, step in the ongoing restructuring of the country’s political equilibrium. Narendra Modi has neutralized the gerontocracy that held the BJP in its grasp with an aggressive tactic. The overt commitment to revolutionize the party in depth has led many of the leaders in perpetual expectation to overcome the initial hesitation to join the winner’s band.

With a hyper-technological electoral campaign and particularly attentive to communication, he managed to intercept the desire for renewal that, albeit confusedly, permeated an electorate tired of the inaction of Congress in the face of the many emergencies in the country. By skillfully playing the cards of his ‘low caste’ origin and the success of the ‘model Gujarat’ (the state he ruled for a decade) in attracting investment and promoting growth, he managed to steal significant shares of votes from Sonia. and Rahul Gandhi and regional and caste parties, giving his traditional national-popular image such a character as to attract the most distrustful urban elites of him.

Distrust not without foundation. Modi has muted his past as an activist of the extremist group RSS (the formation, modeled along the lines of the fascist youth founded by Veer Savarkar, who was an admirer of Mussolini, who constitutes the ‘armed wing’ of the BJP), but the ties continue.

Despite the attempts to open up to the Muslim minority, there remains the shadow of some of its past attitudes and in particular the specter of the events of Godhra when, in 2002 in Gujarat, he passively watched (or perhaps indirectly encouraged) the massacre beyond a thousand Muslims to avenge an accident in which they perished by chance – but this became known years later – many Hindu pilgrims. His nationalism could take the form of a strong affirmation of the country’s interests in the framework of a more marked openness to the world, or it could fall prey to a drift in which the siren of Hindu extremism could lead it to dangerous intolerances.

Of the two, only the first could allow him to consolidate that ‘decade of power to change India’ he aspires to.

India has a historic enemy in Pakistan and a tradition of difficult relations with all its neighbors. By inviting the leaders of these countries – and especially Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – to his inauguration ceremony, Modi showed remarkable tactical ability, responding to those who feared a further tous azimuts hardening of Indian foreign policy. Many of the neighbors have traditions and culture in common with India: focusing on the common matrix for a new good neighborhood policy could be consistent with its vision and would allow India to create on a cooperative basis that area of ​​regional influence that still today it lacks in its plan to become a great global power.

Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi, the loser and the victor, have in common a characteristic of extreme rarity in India: incorruptibility. The new prime minister has played a lot in his electoral message, which has concentrated international attention and garnered consensus within, both enthusiastic in form and often instrumental in substance: corruption represents a generalized model of life and very difficult behavior. to be eradicated in India. Two attempts conducted in recent years had given the impression that the wind could change: the first, the movement of Anna Hazare, soon gave way to indifference after an initial blaze. The second, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP party, after a first success in the elections for the government of Delhi, has practically disappeared from the scene. For India 2004, please check

Modi presented himself as a moderate, liberal and business friendly leader, alien to sectarianism and committed to giving the country the much-needed modernization. The economic reform program of the NDA coalition is ambitious and has been favored by the world of Indian economy and finance (and by the large multinationals interested in the country): from liberalization and the opening of the market, from the fight against inefficiencies and from the elimination of the thousand bureaucratic snares that strangle the economy should result in a growth process that keeps pace with China and produces such redistributive effects as to accelerate the escape from poverty of the country’s six hundred and more dispossessed millions.

The first months of government confirmed the difficulty of translating many of the announced reforms into action. The message of speed launched by the government has had to deal with the many interests that are rowing against innovation in the country and constitute an important basis of consensus for the BJP. An India panting economically and uncertain about its role could fall prey to sectarianism: only by winning the bet on the economy can Modi present himself as the leader of a world power, free from the temptations of intolerance. He would have much more to lose than gain by listening to the demons of his past, and he appears to be too intelligent and cynically skilled a politician to fall into such traps.

Or at least there are reasonable elements to hope for it.

Elections in India

– The dates: the political elections were held over the course of 5 weeks in the various states of India: opened on 7 April, and ended on 12 May.

– Turnout: 66.38% of voters went to the polls, equal to about 551 million Indians.

– The protagonists: the major political forces that challenged each other were those of the Congress Party led by the Gandhi family, and the Bharatiya janata party led by Narendra Modi.

– The Congress Party: founded in 1885, it was a key player in India’s independence, achieved in 1947. Since then the party has dominated politics under the leadership of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

– The BJP: founded in 1980, it is the party of the Hindu conservative and nationalist right.

India - Modi's Challenge