Friday, May 16, 2014

India is "Modified"

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won a record breaking landslide victory in the 2014 Indian General Election. The results show that the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has swept the polls with over 330 seats out of 545 in the Lok Sabha (LS). The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress Party has received a crushing defeat and will end up with less than 60 seats.

Meanwhile, the BJP alone has control of more than 273 seats. Therefore, the party is in a position to control the Lok Sabha on its own.
Narendra Modi (Pic by Mayur Bhatt, Ahmedabad)
The election has been described as a personal victory for the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. He has served as the Chief Minister of Gujarat for nearly 13 years. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group, Modi was criticized for the events surrounding the 2002 Gujarat Riots, where some of his aides were implicated. On the other hand, he is known as a doer, who has transformed Gujarat into an economic power within India. He is known as an uncorrupt, workaholic individual.

The BJP has ridden the “Modi wave” which has helped the party record its best performance in its 30 year history. Furthermore, this is the first time when a party other than the Congress has won a majority in the LS.

The Congress led UPA was in power for 10 years from 2004. Its administration was being attacked for rampant corruption and dynastic rule. The emergence of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) an anti-corruption party is one result of this. With his anti-corruption tag, Modi was the best BJP leader to challenge the AAP.

The BJP has overwhelmingly neutralized the AAP even in its strongholds. In Delhi, where the AAP won a recent Assembly Election, BJP won all seven LS seats. Meanwhile, Narendra Modi has won the Varanasi seat, where AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal also contested. The significance of this victory is increased by the fact that Varanasi has a large Muslim minority. Indian Muslims have been traditionally pro-Congress but this election seems to have shown a change in this trend.

Meanwhile the election result is also a personal loss to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty which has dominated the Indian Congress Party politics for decades. Congress Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi accepted responsibility to the party’s dismal performance.

The election has also proved to have been a setback to the third parties except in Tamil Nadu and Odisha. In Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has swept the election and the Biju Janata Dal has done it in Odisha. However, the overwhelming performance by the BJP has denied these regional parties any possibility in the role of kingmakers.

The BJP has swept the election in several states which had been their main strong points, including Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Meanwhile, it has soundly routed the Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajawadi Party and the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Only 2 years ago, the BJP had won only 47 out of 403 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly Elections. But the general election has seen the BJP winning over 70 of the 80 LS seats in the state. This shows a clear mandate to the BJP in a state which was not one of its strongholds. Almost all commentators can agree on the fact that this has been made possible by the Modi factor.

Narendra Modi will have several challenges to face in the future. Although the West had had a friendly relationship with the outgoing Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, it has shunned incoming Modi, especially for his role in Gujarat riots. However, with this election victory, the West will have to change its stance. Modi had largely avoided debate on his past and had focused more on the economical performance. Modi believes that economic development will reduce many problems in the country. In the election just concluded, a majority of Indian voters have shown faith in his ability by giving him and his party a large mandate.

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