Results from India’s general elections held from April 11 to May 19 were released a few days ago providing a triumphant victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and his right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This marks one of the largest re-elections India has experienced in several years. The country — home to over 1.3 billion people — makes up the world’s largest democracy, with approximately 900 million eligible voters. Elections occurred across seven federally administered territories and 29 states.
An exceptional speaker, Modi has dominated the country since he secured his first victory in 2014. Liked by many Indians for his attempts to eradicate corruption and bring about development to the poorer regions of the country, Modi has a keen focus on empowering India’s Hindu population. As a result, there has been a rise in mob lynching, and right-wing Hindu extremist agendas have been fortified. Such events have increased fears within the Muslim minority of the nation.
The two main national parties in this election were the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC). In order to win the election, a party needs 272 seats to secure a majority in parliament. BJP and leader Narendra Modi regained power, from their victory in 2014 when they won 282 seats, by winning 303 seats in the Lok Sabha — the lower house of India’s parliament. This result was thought to be unattainable by polling experts, and it has given power to Hindu nationalists in India.
Hindu nationalism has been a steady and long lived presence in India’s political landscape, a movement birthed before the country gained independence from Britain in 1947; however, this election has given more power to the Hindu nationalists than ever before.
Janamejay Sharma is an international student from India studying computer science at the University of Denver. This is his second year at the university — he has been living in the United States for 14 months. He is very upset about the outcome of the elections.
“It’s like when Trump was elected,” says Sharma. “A certified jackass in office. Perfect!”
Sharma believes that secularism went out the window under Modi’s governance. For example, Modi’s bill in May 2017 that put a ban on the slaughtering of cows and the selling and consumption of beef in Maharashtra — which sentenced disobedient people with imprisonment for up to five years — caused many killings based on suspicions of beef handling. Modi advertised this beef ban as a way of protecting cows, which many people consider sacred in India; however, some people, including Sharma, believe that it was a way of marginalizing and targeting the sizeable Muslim minority. Almost 15% of India’s population is Muslim — making up the world’s second-largest Muslim population, following Indonesia — and the numbers are rising.
Just a few months before the election, Modi ordered a widely publicized airstrike against ‘terrorist training facilities’ in Pakistan — a neighboring Muslim country. Exact details on the quality of military intelligence, target locations and casualties were not released because they were deemed irrelevant to the people.
“All in all, it was just a desperate, last minute attempt to prove that he in fact had done something useful during his tenure,” says Sharma. “And it worked! People lapped it right up, and just like that, his years of being a useless prick were forgotten.”
Sharma says Modi made big promises about economic improvement back in 2016, but he never delivered.
“One of his ‘selling points’ was his promise to deal with the widespread corruption, both within the government and in the public, in India,” explains Sharma. “He didn’t do anything about it, which just makes politicians known for being extremely corrupt in positions of power.”
Despite strong viewpoints and monumental numbers, this election was not rigged. The majority of the voting was conducted electronically, which made for a very orderly and fairly peaceful process. However, the BJP spent millions of Rupees on promoting themselves; this raises concerns that the party essentially stole the elections through money.
Modi’s re-election has affected Indian people throughout the world and is very likely to reshape politics in India.