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India election: Modi, a landslide victory

The ruling Congress Party, which has dominated Indian politics since independence, suffered a crushing defeat after two terms in office, in the Indian general election held from 7 April to 12 May. The party finished with just 44 of the 543 seats and under 20% of the vote in what was its worst ever performance in the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament in New Delhi. The United Progressive Alliance, the Congress Party-led coalition, won only 59 seats, including those won by the Congress Party. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its coalition led by Mr Modi, a Hindu nationalist and controversial chief minister of Gujarat, won the Indian election with a landslide victory. The Election Commission of India said a record 66 percent of the country’s 815 million registered voters cast ballots.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition won more than 337 seats and the BJP alone, 282.
The May 2014 general election has marked the handover of Nehru and Gandhi’s homeland to RSS-inspired BJP. Power in India will be now in the hands of the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, (RSS), that has established numerous schools, charities and clubs to spread its ideological beliefs in the country. So it was no surprise to hear that BJP’ s leaders, including Narendra Modi, and senior RSS functionaries met to discuss future strategy, before the day of polls counting.

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‘Hinduization’
With regard to foreign policy, many Western governments broke contacts with Modi in the past, after he was blamed by human rights organizations for complicity in anti-Muslim riots that killed about 1,000 people in Gujarat in 2002. In particular the US has denied Modi a visa to give public speeches at universities in the country since 2005. The Indian elections winner has instead good ties with the two Asian powers, China and Japan. Many observers expect, therefore, the Modi government to open its doors to Chinese and Japanese financing for Indian infrastructures, in particular and talks about the new high-speed railway lines seem to be on the way. In short, Modi’ s India could be both a problem for the U.S. and a great chance for China and Japan.

As far as the Muslim world is concerned, Mr. Modi has more than once underlined that he is a Hindu Nationalist first. What kind of relations will he be able to establish with Muslim countries, Pakistan foremost of all, and with the Muslim population in India amounting to 200 million men and women? His political program was based on the ‘hinduization’ of India, meaning by that, appealing to Hindu nationalism among voters, overcoming even caste separation. The formula has apparently worked, but how long will ‘the honeymoon’ last?

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Narendra Modi, however, must not be underestimated. He has already shown undoubted political skills. He secured the most decisive election victory in India in three decades. The Gujarat state, ruled for a long time by the Congress Party, has become the right-wing Hindu nationalists’ stronghold. BJP has crushed the ruling Congress Party. There are several factors, which should be carefully analyzed, behind the Hindu nationalist right’s historic success. One of them is the poor state the Congress Party is in at the moment, due to corruption scandals, or modest leadership and communication skills as well as the power shift from mother to son, with Sonia Gandhi dogged by health issues.

These considerations alone, however, do not explain Mr. Modi’s landslide victory. The inflation affecting India’s several social sectors has been the real reason that made Indian voters shift to the right, along with weak leadership of the Congress Party; and last but not least Mr. Modi owes his victory to the massive support among the Indian business community.

(H.L.)

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