Prime Minister Modi should be a happy man. By, winning two consecutive terms with a full majority a feat previously accomplished only by leaders of the now beleaguered Congress party Modi has joined J. L Nehru and Indira Gandhi as one of the most dominant politicians in Indian history. Importantly, the stunning victory of the Modi-led BJP and allies suggest that a major part of the electorate is satisfied with Indias direction.
But not everyone is celebrating Modis landslide victory. Critics are frightened by the rise of Hindu nationalism. They see it as a threat to Indias traditional secular and inclusive values, embodied by Indias founding fathers, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nehru. In contrast, Modi is depicted as a divisive figure, a supporter of rabid Hindutva, and a poster child of Hindu exceptionalism. He has been accused of building his mandate on the basis of division, extremism, and exclusion.
Nevertheless, Modis wide popularity attests to the fact that India has changed. Like it or not, majoritarian nationalism and calls to national greatness is in favour globally. Indians, by in large, are interested in a seat at the high table of nations. They consider this their right based on the countrys population, economic achievements and military prowess. Idealistic and ethical concerns matter little in the quest to achieve Indias historic destiny.
Indian secularism has been dying for some time. Left and centrist forces have been losing ground to the nationalist juggernaut. If India is poised to become a Hindu state, as some are predicting, then that is the choice that its Hindu majority is comfortable with. Certainly, Hindu extremists, linked to communal violence are likely to feel even more emboldened by the election results. With Jinnahs Pakistan long gone, the end of the India of Gandhi and Nehru, while hurtful for some, is a sign that India has come of age. The partition project is complete!
India lived up to its billing as the worlds largest democracy. The polling was mainly peaceful and less violent than the 2014 elections. Around 600 million people voted for over 8,000 candidates contesting seats in the Parliament. And the turnout was impressive, setting a record high of 67.1 percent. Despite strong emotions, huge numbers, and high stakes, observers considered the elections free and fair with no major allegations of fraud or rigging.
There were reports before the election of discontentment with the governments economic performance, particularly the low growth and unemployment. Yet, both the electorate and investors seem convinced that a Modi government is good for business. Indias stock market shot up to record highs based on the forecast of a BJP victory. In his first term, Modi is credited with simplifying a complex tax system, cracking down on corruption and overhauling Indias corporate bankruptcy system.
The poor and disadvantaged voted for Modi and the BJP once again. They have placed their trust in Modis strong and decisive leadership. They expect that he will tackle their issues of poverty and inequality. Modi has committed to undertake difficult reforms, ensure firm governance, and deliver economic prosperity. The opposition Congress-led alliance didnt excite the electorate resulting in another poor showing at the polls. In fact, the opposition will need to revamp its campaign to ensure that Modi and the BJP dont run away with future elections.
As the BJP has no Muslim MPs, Muslim representation in the new Lok Sabha lies with the opposition. But, despite the obstacles, Muslims have to move into the mainstream of national politics. They cant count on Congress protection anymore. As Indians first, they have to pursue education, enlightenment, and leadership that cuts across party lines. After his victory, Modi has gone on record to support a more inclusive and non-discriminatory India. Muslims must hold him to his promise as they have no other choice.
We shouldnt expect a thaw in India-Pakistan relations. In reality, Pakistan should be prepared that Indias talks and terror dont go together stance will probably continue in Modis second term. It also means that India wont let up on its unrelenting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan or stop preying on its weaknesses. Modis election promise to end the special constitutional status of Indian Kashmir could raise the ante in a troubled region. Still, given prevailing conditions, Pakistan has little leverage to bring India to the negotiating table.
By his reelection success, Modi has demonstrated that he will play a crucial role in Indias future. We cant expect him to abandon Hindu nationalism which is a major plank of the B.J.P. But the reformer in him may conclude that diversity is important to governance and change. The new government may see value in engineering inclusive national prosperity. It could encourage inclusive economic and political institutions that allow and encourage participation by the great mass of people in economic activities. The government must boldly confront the root cause of uneven development extractive institutions and the politics that keep them in place. India, which is home to a third of the worlds poor, will demand nothing less.