The biggest news this past week was the outcome of the Indian Elections (of course, Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi get to dominate the useless news emanating from Washington D.C., for the most part). The coverage by the Western media was mostly indifferent, ranging from an objective matter-of-fact coverage by Associated Press to a hugely opinionated piece published by The New York Times. Such a wide range is to be expected, but I was taken aback by some of the vitriolic media coverage against the outcome, which is that the ruling BJP Party won a very comfortable majority on its own.
While many world leaders sync with Mr Modi (like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Shinzo Abe) on right-wing political philosophy and a strong-man macho image, it is rather strange that the Western media continues to cast aspersions on the Indian democratic process, as though the Western nations are all above board. I do not have a specific agenda or orientation when it comes to Indian politics and the choice of parties in the elections per se, but I have one thing in common with most people around the world: the trust in the fact that India continues to be the single largest democracy in the world with over 900M voters out of who some 600M people actually voted in the recent Parliament elections, in a mostly transparent process. No other country can match this democratic electoral feat – not China, not the U.S. It takes couple of months to complete the elections in India, but one single day of counting to publish the official results. Elections happening in Asia are no less sacrosanct or less trustworthy when compared to those happening in the U.S. or elsewhere. As we all know, the Presidential Elections of 2016 in which Donald Trump won is suspect due to Russian meddling in the U.S. elections (we do not firmly know that Russia meddled, we have to trust Robert Mueller!). So the moral high ground from which the U.S. can lecture the so-called Third World nations is questionable. It is not that the U.S. government is doing the lecturing, but the arm-chair opinion makers do so with not much involvement on ground realities, and they are mostly left-wing, liberal analysts.
Well, now let us come to the results of the Indian elections. It was a totally surprising result – very few psephologists projected an absolute majority for the BJP, though it was clear for the past few months that the party will form a government with close to 50% of the seats in the Parliament. The elitist, liberal view was that the BJP would have to pay for rising youth unemployment, agricultural farmer problems, the demonetisation fiasco, rising levels of hate crimes, and so on and so forth. The right-wing view was also very clear: the BJP will win handsomely, and form a government on its own (even without its allies).
We now know that the latter view prevailed. India overwhelmingly voted for the BJP, totally obliterating the Indian National Congress and the Nehru / Indira Gandhi / Rajiv Gandhi / Sonia Gandhi / Rahul Gandhi dynasty once and for all. It will not be possible for the Congress to resurrect itself, unless it kicks out Rahul Gandhi and conducts professional party elections, both of which will not happen. The Congress is disorganized and demoralized. The regional parties are equally shattered, except in South India.
So, Mr Modi is entering his second term as India’s Prime Minister, which may be a good thing from the perspective of continuity and continued execution of some of his better policies. He has to focus on generating youth employment, improving the infrastructure for manufacturing, attending to the huge issue of the agricultural economy and farmers’ problems, and in general, focusing heavily on the economy. The GDP growth rate has to accelerate well beyond 7.5% to generate big benefits to the Indian population. The BJP should not get cocky about its dominance and start making strategic mistakes like what the Congress did for over 5 decades of their inconsistent governance. History does teach lessons when it comes to politics and government!
Mr Modi also needs to reassure all Indian citizens that they are equal in his eyes and in the eyes of his party and government. He is the Prime Minister for all of India and not just for the Hindus. He cannot condone hate crimes and atrocities against the minorities. His past silence in the face of such crimes and atrocities has been construed as his acquiescence towards his Hindutva philosophy and the RSS ideology. He should come out firmly and embrace all people of India, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. This is an absolute must for the continued social peace and integration of India, and this fact would surely be not lost on Mr Modi.
There are many WhatsApp messages coming in from various connected groups on the pros and cons, and analyzing the media coverage of the Indian elections. In my opinion, most of these are meaningless. The elections have been fought democratically and won democratically. Period. The matter ends there. The Indian electorate should now look forward to a vastly improved governance, an enhanced GDP growth rate, more job creation, increased manufacturing (leveraging the problems faced by China in its trade war with the U.S.), and peace.
I would like to wish Mr Modi all success in building a resurgent, dynamic India for all its people.
25th May 2019