Essay On Indian Politics 2014 Gmc

On By In 1

The verdict in India’s 2014 general election was a political earthquake. Its tremors have upset old calculations, arcane caste arithmetic, and paternalistic assumptions about the Indian electorate. The emphatic victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi, is without a doubt a seminal moment in the country’s history. 

Some have called the results "revolutionary," while others see a "rightward swing." It might be too soon to impose definitive labels on the verdict, but certain trends are worth noting. Modi’s massive mandate takes India into new political terrain, a place where the markers are different and unfamiliar. 

Modi has shredded the overarching narrative of post-independence India, one of subsidized existence cocooned by a fuzzy but heart-warming leftism. Clearly, his harsh critique of the existing order hit home with millions of first-time voters who came of age under a dysfunctional, distracted, and diffident Congress party-led government. Modi promised them an India that works and works hard. His message of "development first" was a dream they eagerly bought into.

Not since 1984 have Indian voters given a single party a majority in the parliament. The BJP’s 282 seats in the 543-member lower house have technically freed Modi from the often-debilitating compulsions of coalition politics. Counting the partners, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has a total of 336 seats, a more-than-comfortable place from which to begin putting India back on track. With these figures, Modi won’t have to create a "common minimum program" — the unfortunate and unambitious title of the agreement the Congress party reached with its coalition partners in 2004 to lead the government. In fact, part of Modi’s appeal was his maximalist agenda. He projected it with a firm confidence that added to the voter’s confidence, shaken horribly by three straight years of bad economic news. 

Modi’s personal rags-to-riches story also resonated with the electorate more than the Indian elite could have imagined. While the Delhi drawing rooms cringed at the thought of having a former tea seller as prime minister, the lesser mortals saw how his story could become theirs. The people nodded when he called Rahul Gandhi, his rival for the prime minister’s job, a "shehzada," or prince. 

The voters’ wholehearted rejection of India’s premier political party since independence — the Congress — sends an important message to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has shaped and controlled the party for four generations. Unless is the party seriously introspects and reorganizes, it seems unlikely to resurrect itself for an increasingly aspirational electorate. The Indian youth’s anger and impatience with the Congress Party was a huge factor in creating the "Modi wave," though Congress addressed it with only with the most banal of promises. 

The Congress relied on the stock tactics of identity politics, appealing to Muslim voters and other underprivileged groups. The shocker was that, this time, even they abandoned the grand old party in droves. The perception that the mother-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi was aloof and disconnected from ordinary Indians became a reality. The faint smell of corruption around the family, particularly around Sonia’s son-in-law, Robert Vadra, added to the disgust. 

The center-left space vacated by the Congress will likely be filled by the new kid on block — the Aam Aadmi, or "Common Man’s," party. Although it won only four seats, its leader Arvind Kejriwal challenged Modi as the main opponent in Varanasi, attracting an impressive group of leftist liberals and ordinary Hindus and Muslims. If the AAP does not die a slow death but continues to grow and evolve, it could be a force to contend with in the future, a house for the vehemently secular and liberal vote in India.

But for those who see this vote as India turning right wing, a few words of caution. If the vote was for Modi, it was also equally against the Congress party. Above all, it was a vote for getting India’s house in order, for finally breaking out of the tiresome web of corruption, inflation, and excuses. After all, the Congress had 10 years at the helm, but its second term was mired in corruption scandals and policy paralysis. By contrast, Modi showcased a good governance record in Gujarat, a state he has ruled for three terms as chief minister.

Indians hope that Modi’s economic model can work on a national scale. But their mandate should not be seen as an endorsement of a wholesale remaking of India into a Hindu state. Modi has stayed carefully away from giving that impression (although some of his party members have periodically gone off message). Besides, Indian institutions and opposition parties will keep a healthy pressure on the BJP to find the center — the only way to govern a country as complex, vast, and diverse as India. 

That said, there are many, many Indians who remain conflicted about Modi because of his past and the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat that happened on his watch. He has worked hard to wash the taint away, but Muslims, understandably, remain worried. The question is whether Modi can control the BJP’s lower functionaries, who may now feel empowered t
o swagger and provoke.

On the positive side, early analysis of the results shows that a significant percentage of Muslims voted for the BJP this time. Modi’s attempt to address Muslims as Indians first and foremost seems to have worked. If Modi delivers on his promises, the lifting of the Muslim community into the Indian mainstream would be the best apology he could offer for the carnage of 2002.  

The burden of the mandate is no doubt heavy. Modi has to revive the Indian economy, create 15 million new jobs a year to feed the youth bulge, overhaul creaking infrastructure, build more schools and colleges, and keep Indians safe from terrorism. In short, he has to reconstruct the India story. He captured India’s imagination, but now he must capture the reality. 

Seema Sirohi is a senior journalist specializing in foreign policy at the Gateway House Indian Council on Global Relations. Follow her on Twitter at @seemasirohi.

 

Tags: AfPak, AfPak Channel, Democracy, Elections, India, South Asia

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola

India’s upcoming general election will be the largest democratic event in history, with more than 814 million people entitled to vote to decide the country’s 16th government. This, however, is not the only record that will be broken when the world’s largest democracy goes to the polls. According to the Centre for Media Studies, Indian politicians will spend as much as $4.9 billion during the electoral contest, which will end in May. The estimate makes this year’s general election the second most expensive of all time, behind only the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign in which, according to the U.S. presidential commission, $7 billion was spent.

India’s electoral rules only allow candidates to spend $114,000 to contest parliamentary seats. With 543 seats available in India’s lower house, the total spent should amount to just below $62 million. But the actual costs of fighting an election are much higher, and a combination of fundraising (online and from the Indian diaspora), advertising costs and bribery contribute to the $4.9 billion estimate.

If the estimate is accurate, the 2014 general election will cost three times as much as India’s previous national vote in 2009. The increase can partly be accounted for by a rise in the costs of running an election. Mostly, however, the tripling in costs reflects the high stakes of this year’s election. After a decade in office, many are predicting an emphatic defeat for the incumbent Congress-led coalition. With the government likely to change hands, Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for the opposition BJP, began his campaign last year and has since blazed a trail across the country.  The funds required to finance Modi’s long campaign have been amassed by a dedicated seven-member team. This small group, which includes Deepak Kanth a former London-based investment banker, have cast their net as far as Hong Kong and Singapore in the effort to source donations.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The sheer scale of the electoral exercise is unprecedented. Almost two thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people are eligible to vote – 100 million more than in 2009 – and 96% of these have already been equipped with electoral ID cards. In nine polling days spread across five weeks, the world’s largest electorate will visit 930,000 polling booths to cast their votes using 1.7 million electronic voting machines. 11 million personnel, including members of the army, will be deployed to assist with the elections, whilst a further 5.5 million civilians will be employed to manage the voting process.

The 2014 vote marks several major firsts for India. Thanks to a change newly available during the Delhi state elections last December, voters at the national level will now have the option of selecting “none of the above”, allowing them to reject parliamentary candidates for the first time. Observers will also be studying the impact of the youth vote and technology. 24 million voters aged 18 to 19 will be polling for the first time in an election in which social media and internet-based campaigning faces its first electoral test.

The enormous costs involved have given rise to many concerns. V.S. Sampath, India’s Chief Election Commissioner, told Reuters he was concerned about the growing influence of “money power” in the elections. Though India’s elections have a reputation for being free and fair, fundraising and spending is often opaque. According to the same Reuters report, in the last three years alone election authorities have seized a total of $32.65 million from politicians in the form of cash concealed in milk trucks, helicopters and even funeral vans. This year, officials will be determined to clamp down on these notorious money-in-envelopes practices.

Nonetheless, the 2014 general election will be one of the greatest milestones in India’s democratic history. Polling begins on April 7 and ends on May 12, with the final votes counted – and India’s next government decided – by May 16.

0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *