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Wednesday May 22, 2024

Elections in India

Since its ascent to power in 2014, the BJP, under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

By Editorial Board
April 20, 2024
Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks after revealing the Bharatiya Janata Partys (BJP) manifesto ahead of the countrys upcoming general elections, at the party headquarters in New Delhi on April 14, 2024. — AFP
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks after revealing the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) manifesto ahead of the country's upcoming general elections, at the party headquarters in New Delhi on April 14, 2024. — AFP

The closely watched, seven-phase Indian elections started yesterday (April 19) and will run till June 1. At this point, the question of which party will be victorious is meaningless. The way the BJP has taken over India’s political landscape indicates that it is not going anywhere. Even if it loses, its capture of India will remain strong, reflected in the dealings of ordinary Indians. Since its ascent to power in 2014, the BJP, under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has tried to transform India from a secular state to a Hindu state. The RSS, a right-wing paramilitary organization, keeps extending its support to the government, allowing it to skilfully suppress minority communities. Indian media became the next target for the party. Previously, there used to be some pushback from journalists who would ask hard questions from the ruling junta. Modi put an end to this. Press conferences became rare, and interviews were given to media outlets that would toe the official line.

Towards the end of last year, the Modi government launched a severe crackdown on a digital outlet, arresting progressive journalists and terrorizing those who dared to question the regime. The Modi government also permeated India’s cultural zeitgeist, turning all A-list Bollywood actors into mouthpieces for the government. As a result, political commentary slowly disappeared from TV shows and movies. As Indians shifted to digital outlets and turned to standup comedy, comedians and digital outlets who were critical of Modi were slapped with FIRs. After carefully turning India into a majoritarian state, Modi is all set for his third term in office. And, as the country’s political environment suggests, this may not be his wishful thinking. India has fallen from its status as an impressive democracy to a bloodthirsty authoritarian rule. Its intolerance of dissent is not limited to its borders. It has carried out attacks in foreign states, disrespecting their sovereignty. Its proxies in Pakistan continue to wreak havoc. Last year, Canada tried holding India accountable when a Canadian Sikh leader’s murder was found to be linked with the Indian government. This should have isolated India globally, but for now the West sees India as a strategic ally to stop China’s growing influence in the world.

India has also polished itself to be a prime market for the developed world. But the bubble of growth that fuels the ruling party’s ego and arrogance stands on weak ground. Unemployment and inflation are still a big concern. While the rise of tech and the monetization of social media platforms have allowed people to generate income, this way of living is not sustainable in the long term. India also has to see whether the West sees it as an indispensable partner or as a cheap labour market. As India organizes an important exercise, the ruling party needs to reflect on the mistakes made. It must reconcile with dissenters and take criticism positively. Indian elections are important for Pakistan as well, as we closely see how interested the next government across the border will be in holding talks and making efforts to mend the relations between the two countries. Leaders of the two countries have to come up with a strategy to resolve the longstanding Kashmir issue and agree on not using proxies for terror activities. In the next couple of months, we will see which direction India is likely to take.