What is Narendra Modi's greatest strength
India's choice and the consequences
New power for modes
In order to keep the reins in hand in parliament, Modi must at least partially keep his campaign promises. He set the bar high: doubling the income for farmers, 175 gigawatts from renewable energies, complete digitalization.
Prime Minister Modi has helped maintain an intact image as an honest, corruption-free statesman and the revival of a previously lost national feeling that goes beyond cricket games. The Indians were given the feeling that they were also receiving more respect internationally. The connection between Hinduism and patriotism in particular proved to be fruitful and unifying across the entire country. But the military attack against a terrorist group on Pakistani territory in the aftermath of an attack (with over 40 dead) in the Indian part of Kashmir in February also shaped the election campaign. The government knew how to take the issue of national security for itself and transform it into votes for itself through skilful staging.
Even if increasing religious polarization has increasingly determined public discourse in India in recent years, the BJP never presented itself as an anti-Muslim party during the election campaign. Rather, their strategy of competing with a local program in each state worked perfectly. So it was even able to unite many votes and win several mandates in Kashmir (where it broke the government coalition only a year earlier) and in other Muslim strongholds - even if only barely.
The electoral structure also shows that the BJP was able to win votes from all regions, castes and population groups. Nonetheless, there was repeatedly a particularly high level of support from Hindu members of higher castes, while the BJP remains unpopular with casteless people, Muslims, Christians and other religions and has hardly or no gains among these voters.
Mistakes made by the opposition
The opposition, on the other hand, lacked a unified strategy. A common, national front against the BJP had not come about. Without characters and clear positioning, there was ultimately a lack of arguments to convince the electorate.
Rahul Gandhi, the grandson of India's longest-serving Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was also unable to bring any major gains to the opposition around his “Indian National Congress” party. Despite additional seats in parliament (from 60 to 93 seats), the party repeatedly fell far short of its own expectations after 2014. Gandhi announced his resignation as party president shortly after the election. The party's renewed significant defeat has also left its mark in Bavaria's partner state, Karnataka: The pressure on the troubled Congress-led government continues to increase.
Future of India between digitization and Hindu nationalism
Modi's election victory, which he dubbed “a victory above all for the people and democracy” in his first address after the election results became known, is to be understood as a leap of faith. The government will have to act on the full-bodied promises from the election campaign, such as doubling incomes for farmers, 175 gigawatts from renewable energies or complete digitization.
However, the BJP or its alliance lacks a majority in the Indian upper house to implement constitutional reforms. There, at least one third of the candidates are re-elected by the state parliaments every two years. The necessary majority in the upper house could be achieved in the election year 2024. In addition to the pending draft laws, the government alliance around the BJP could then enforce the constitutional treatment of Kashmir or a federalism reform.
In addition to pressing problems such as overburdening the judicial system, corruption, environmental degradation, slow economic growth and increasing population growth, the government is also facing major concerns. Civil society organizations are concerned about social peace in India. This could lead to an increase in attacks against Muslims and liberal and secular principles come under attack. It can be stated, however, that anti-feminist, science-critical, anti-Muslim or homophobic statements in recent years - as alarming as they are - were seldom attributed to members of the conservative government, but rather to individual MPs or members of the Hindu extremist organization affiliated with the BJP RSS. The corrupt political discourse is to be viewed critically: the lively Indian democracy is suffering from the fact that criticism of the government has recently been increasingly equated with anti-patriotic propaganda or “fake news”.
With Modi, India maintains stable leadership. In view of the lack of order in the opposition, he does not see himself facing any serious opponent. As the first prime minister since Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi could rule for more than two terms and help his party to a similar dominance as it once had the Congress party until the 1980s.
Effects on the region and Germany
In times when more and more countries are led by narcissistic, populist or despotic heads of government, the - by all means dominant - modes appear moderate and prudent. For the next five years, Europe and Germany can expect to have a reliable partner in India who makes pragmatic politics, even if extremist voices can also be heard from his party. Nevertheless, the world should pay more attention to the tones towards neighboring Pakistan and keep an eye on the development of the discourse on religious and cultural issues within the country.
It is not to be expected that a strengthened government of India will assert additional claims in world politics. The government will continue to demand a seat on the UN Security Council and attempt to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. A strategy of multilateral geopolitics is not emerging.
A government that can count on stable support from the people will help rather than harm the region - many countries in South and Southeast Asia depend on a reliable India. Nevertheless, it is still not to be expected that India will come on par with its eternal competitor China in the next five years. There are still too many domestic political hurdles in the way of the Indian government and its re-elected Prime Minister.
Author: Volker Plän, HSS, India
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