Modi won again
24 May, 2019
Modi scored a dramatic election victory on Thursday, putting his Hindu nationalist party on course to increase its majority on a mandate of business-friendly policies and a tough stand on national security. His re-election reinforces a global trend of right-wing populists sweeping to victory, from the United States to Brazil and Italy, often after adopting harsh positions on protectionism, immigration and defense.
Official data from the Election Commission showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead in 300 of the 542 seats up for grabs, up from the 282 it won in 2014 and more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament. That would give his party the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984.
“Together we will build a strong and inclusive India,” Modi said on Twitter. “India wins yet again!”
Modi has slashed red tape in the world’s fifth-largest economy, though some overseas firms, including Amazon, Walmart and Mastercard, have complained about policies they say are designed to benefit domestic rivals.
He will face demands to provide jobs for the tens of millions of young people coming on to the market in the next few years and to boost depressed farm incomes. “The immediate challenges are to address employment, the issue of agricultural income and revive the banking sector,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care Ratings in Mumbai.
But making good on his promise of unity will be difficult as the BJP campaign was often divisive, and India’s Muslims have expressed fears that policies aimed at pleasing the Hindu majority can imperil their livelihoods.
Besides a harder line on national security, BJP members will look to Modi for progress on a project to building a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindu zealots in the northern holy town of Ayodhya in 1992.
Cheering supporters set off firecrackers and showered the mastermind of the campaign, BJP President Amit Shah, with petals as he arrived at party headquarters in New Delhi. Amit Shah tweeted that the election results, which are yet to be finalised, are a victory ‘for all of India’. “This result is India’s verdict against the propaganda, lies, personal attacks and baseless politics of the opposition,” he said. “Today’s mandate also shows that people of India have entirely uprooted casteism, nepotism and appeasement to choose nationalism and development,” he added.
“It’s a stamp of approval by voters on the honest and decisive leadership of Prime Minister Modi,” said Nalin S Kohli, a BJP spokesman.
The NDA’s predicted margin of victory, at 348 seats versus 85 for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, according to broadcaster NDTV, far exceeds survey forecasts in the run-up to the vote.
Most polls indicated a victory for Modi’s alliance but expected it to fall short of an overall majority.
Modi was under pressure when he began campaigning, losing three state elections in December amid rising anger over farm prices and unemployment. However, campaigning shifted towards India’s relationship with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan after a suicide car bomb killed 40 Indian police in the occupied Kashmir region in February, to the benefit of the right-wing BJP, analysts said. “National security became the discussion,” said Harsh Pant, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi. “It allowed the BJP to shirk some issues where it was weak.”