How will BJP win

Background current

India's Hindu-nationalist ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was able to further expand its majority in the parliamentary elections. “Background News” spoke to Christian Wagner, Southeast Asia expert from the Science and Politics Foundation (SWP), about the consequences of the Modi victory for the political system of the world's largest democracy, religious tensions and the still great poverty in the country.

Supporters of Narendra Modi's BJP celebrate the first results of the vote count on May 23, 2019 in New Delhi (& copy picture-alliance, picture alliance / AA)

Current background: BJP boss Modi led a strongly nationalist election campaign, partly at the expense of the Muslim minority. Are the massive religious tensions in the country now threatening to intensify after the Hindu party's renewed electoral victory?
Christian Wagner: I assume that the polarization that we have observed over the past few years will continue. For example, the BJP wants to introduce uniform civil law. However, this could lead to certain privileges of religious minorities possibly being abolished. Religious minorities have so far enjoyed certain privileges in India. For example, Sikhs and Muslims have their own educational institutions and in some cases they have their own family law. The BJP, on the other hand, wants to introduce uniform civil law for everyone. "

Current background: The Pakistan conflict had recently come to a head after an Islamist attack in Kashmir. How real is the danger that the dispute between the two nuclear powers will worsen further.
Wagner: I do not assume that there will be any further tightening - at least as long as there are no more attacks. It is unclear whether there will be joint talks between the two countries again. I'm rather skeptical about that, at least as far as the coming months are concerned. The Modi government says it only wants to negotiate if there are no further attacks. If there are no further acts of violence, things could of course look different in a few months. An approach is not completely ruled out.

Current background: India's economy is growing at a rapid pace. But many people, especially in rural areas, still live in abject poverty, and many are unemployed. How did the BJP still win the election?
Wagner: Issues such as unemployment do not seem to have played the role, as many experts had anticipated beforehand. The BJP has expanded the infrastructure in the countryside. It has connected many villages to the road or electricity network. Toilets were also built. Unemployment is still high, but for many people that was not the most important aspect in their voting decision. Modi was seen by many as a great leader, someone who brought the country back to the international level.

In order to make India more attractive as a business location, Modi had also implemented individual unpopular reforms such as sales tax. But experts are calling for further efforts, for example in the fight against corruption or in expanding the infrastructure. Where will Modi's focus be?
Wagner: His focus will probably also be on further improving the infrastructure in the future. There is still a lot to do with the electricity network and also with the transport network. From the point of view of western companies, buying land, which is difficult for foreigners, is also a problem. Many foreign investors find this cumbersome. The labor legislation is also considered too employee-friendly. For many years India has been ruled primarily by coalition governments. Does the second absolute majority of the BJP change the political culture of the country? Wagner: Yes, the political culture will change. Modi leads a coalition, but does not need the votes of his partner parties. The BJP has finally established itself as the strongest national party. She will now draft more far-reaching bills, be it on civil law or on land acquisition.

The opposition Congress Party has apparently continued to lose seats. Does the party still have a future, and if so, should it proceed without the Gandhis?
Wagner: The Congress Party has suffered a crushing defeat. A discussion will now begin as to whether the party should not fundamentally reform itself. In general, you have to see whether the bond with a family is still sustainable. Modi was able to score massively by addressing the fact that there is a single family dynasty here.

How big is the danger for India's democracy if there is no longer a large opposition party?
Wagner: The Indian opposition is very fragmented. That's always a problem. The opposition will probably shift more to the House of Lords in the future. The Supreme Court will also have a stronger role. You can still defeat the BJP at the state level, of course. It has been shown several times - also recently - that this is possible. But a large opposition party that can replace the previous role of the Congress Party as opposition leader is not yet in sight.

NOTE: The interview was conducted on May 24, 2019 and on May 25, 2019. authorized.

Further information about the parliamentary elections in India can be found in the background news "Democracy XXL: parliamentary elections in India".