• Thursday, July 25, 2024

INDIA

Why analysts feel Modi’s third term should be celebrated

But BJP denied landslide majority as opposition alliance makes gains

POLLS PRIDE: Narendra Modi greets party supporters in New Delhi on Tuesday (4)(Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

By: SARWAR ALAM

INDIAN prime minister Narendra Modi’s historic third term in power should be celebrated, analysts told Eastern Eye on Tuesday (4) as the results from the country’s mammoth general election showed his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the largest party, but was denied an outright majority.

For the first time in a decade, the BJP failed to secure an overall majority of its own, meaning it will have to rely on its alliance partners after opposition parties surpassed expectations of huge losses.

In a speech on Tuesday, Modi described the coalition success as a “historical feat”.

“From my heart, I am very, very happy today,” the 73-year-old said. “Today’s victory is the biggest in the world. This is the biggest democracy in the world, and this is the victory of this democracy. This is a victory for the Indians.”

Modi described India’s democracy as an example of “credibility” and “efficiency”.

“Every Indian feels proud because of it,” he said. “I will say to every voter of the country on this moment of victory, I want to bow down and salute them.”

With nearly 99 per cent of votes counted on Tuesday (4) as Eastern Eye went to press, the BJP’s vote share at 36.7 per cent was marginally lower than it was in the last polls in 2019.

Modi was re-elected to his constituency representing the Hindu holy city of Varanasi by a margin of 152,300 votes – compared to nearly half a million votes five years ago.

India’s election commission figures showed the BJP and its allies on track to win at least 291 seats out of a total of 543, enough for a parliamentary majority.

The main opposition Rahul Gandhi led Congress party was set to nearly double its parliamentary seats, with 99 seats, significantly higher than the 52 it managed in 2019.

The results were a rare setback for Modi who had never failed to secure a majority in state or national elections over a 23-year political career.

“The prime minister (Modi) is going to start a third consecutive term and that is something that has not happened for the last 60 years since Jawaharlal Nehru,” Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, senior fellow for south and central Asian defence, strategy and diplomacy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Eastern Eye.

Why analysts feel Modi's third term should be celebrated
Dr Rahul Roy-Choudhury

“This is a big victory for him that he has been able to overcome the ten years of possibly greater anti-incumbency.

“Having said that, the BJP as a party has suffered greatly. I don’t think anyone expected that the BJP as a party would not get a simple majority. However, we see that the number of seats it has is fewer than it had in the past two elections – that is a big setback for the BJP.

“But as an alliance, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will have as simple majority which essentially mean that the BJP’s alliance partners will have a greater role in the decision-making process in government.”

Southampton University professor Sabu Padmadas said Modi and the BJP used the wrong tactics in attempting to invigorate their hard-line base by attacking opposition rivals and minority communities.

Modi was criticised for making made several strident comments about Muslims on the campaign trail, referring to them as “infiltrators” who have “more children”, linking the comment to what he called an election plan of the main opposition Congress party to redistribute the wealth of Hindus among Muslims.

 

Why analysts feel Modi's third term should be celebrated
Dr Sabu Padmadas

 

“Some of the strategies that the BJP thought would work, they didn’t work, mainly because it was actually projected to ordinary people,” Padmadas, a professor of demography and global health, told Eastern Eye. “Religion was brought in quite aggressively and that probably backfired. Although it was in their mandate, but in a secular democracy, you don’t really force these things on people.”

The BJP manifesto for Modi’s third term was built on the back of his 10-year record, which includes strong economic growth, infrastructure projects and welfare handouts.

The BJP promised to create jobs, boost infrastructure and manufacturing and expand welfare programs such as low-ticket subsidised loans to small businesses in its election manifesto.

Roy-Chaudhury believes that without a majority government, the BJP will now have to “curb their ambitions”.

“They will have to pull back, especially on the domestic front,” he said.

“There were concerns that if the BJP were able to get 400-plus seats, then it may move India towards a more Hindu-centric country.

“I think that is over now because their allies will not have the same Hinduvta perspective as the BJP.

“The economic aspects of India seeking to become the third largest economy in the world during Modi’s third term is something a coalition government would be very keen to keep on moving forward with in terms economic reform.

“But to what extent this will take place because of the alliance partners, we will have to wait and see.

“The realisation will be there for the BJP that it cannot run the country by itself. It needs to have the support of other parties. And with this, a stronger opposition that is buoyed by the election results and the stronger regional parties are going to want to make life difficult for the ruling NDA government.”

Under Modi, India, which is home to 1.4 billion people, has witnessed robust economic growth. The fastest growing economy in the world saw its GDP expand by 8.2 per cent in fiscal year 2024.

Dr Ruth Kattumuri, co-chair of the India Observatory at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told Eastern Eye that India’s young population is key to its future growth.

Why analysts feel Modi's third term should be celebrated
Dr Ruth Kattumuri

More more than 50 per cent of India’s population is below the age of 25 and more than 65 per cent below the age of 35.

“India is the most important country in the world today in terms of its young population and its global influence,” said Kattumuri. “The young Indian population will become the human resource for the rest of the world.

“In a changing scenario of demographics around the world, where you need the young people as engines of growth and people need young people to work in their economy, the Indian population is internationally connected, it has the language, it has the skill set in order to embed itself into the global economy.

“To drive the improvement of the lives of young people, there need to be policies that give them opportunities and the systems and mechanisms to be able to achieve their ambitions.”

Lord Karan Bilimoria told Eastern Eye Modi’s “charisma and leadership skills” will continue to see India become a major player on the world stage.

Bilimoria reflected on the widespread acclaim Modi and received when India hosted the G20 Summit last September.

“The G20 Summit was on a scale bigger, more impactful, brining in the African Union for example, than any other country had done in the history of the G20 – India’s showed global leadership on the world stage,” said Bilimoria.

“Prime minister Narendra Modi is seen as one of the most powerful leaders on the planet anywhere around the world. He’s made a huge effort to travel around the world and put India on the map, I don’t think that is going to change.”

Bilimoria credited Modi for bringing stability to India, comparing it to the “mess” seen in the UK with five prime ministers since Modi came into power in 2010.

He added that the improvement in results by Modi’s opposition, led by the Congress Party, will actually make Modi a stronger leader.

“The fact that the opposition has gained more seats, for any democracy, having a healthy opposition, challenging government is a good thing,” he said.

“A good government will stand up to the challenges of a good opposition – that’s good for the government and good for the country.

“I see it in the House of Lords every day. No government, at least in recent memory, has had a majority in the House of Lords which means you have to convince on the on the issue and win the argument.”

Focus on new era of robust India-UK trade ties, says Bilimoria

LORD KARAN BILIMORIA urged the next UK prime minister, whether it be Sir Keir Starmer or Rishi Sunak, to strengthen ties with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, and called for completion of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

“The FTA has been negotiated intensely, with over 14 rounds of negotiation, and that is very close to being concluded. But, of course, the Indian elections meant it has not been able to and now we’ve got the elections over here in the UK in exactly a month’s time.

“But once those elections are over, hopefully that free trade agreement will be concluded,” said Bilimoria.

“An FTA will be good news for UK-India trade which has been increasing in a very healthy manner and is now almost £40 billion a year.

“[It is] doing well, but should be much higher than that – more than double that figure.

“India’s special relationship with the UK means we have a lot to look forward to in increasing bilateral trade, business and investment both ways.”

On the economic front, the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) also welcomed the sense of stability and continuity India’s general election results have delivered for the business and industry.

“Businesses like the continuity, they like stability, but they are not looking for things to remain static in India. They want and they expect change.

And Mr Modi talks about ‘reform, perform and transform’ and businesses are looking forward to that transformation as India continues its journey towards being a developed nation by 2047,” said UKIBC managing director Kevin McCole.

“On trade, specifically, there is a stated objective to conclude the UK-India FTA negotiations within those first 100 days.

Now, the fact that the UK government will re-form early in July means the first 30 days of that might not be accessible, but certainly within that period – July, August, September – hopefully UK and India negotiators could get back around the table and be able to accelerate and complete those FTA negotiations, maybe by Diwali this year,” he said, alluding to the missed Diwali 2022 deadline set by the Boris Johnson led government.

Siddharth Shankar, UK-based CEO of consumer brands company Tails Group Plc which works within the India-UK corridor, described the Indian general election results as a “significant milestone” that heralds a new era of robust economic growth and dynamic international relations.

“For Indian industry, Modi’s victory ensures continuity in the implementation of policies like Make in India, Digital India, and Startup India, which are pivotal in fostering innovation, enhancing productivity, and attracting foreign investment.

“His government’s focus on ease of doing business, coupled with significant tax reforms, is poised to create a conducive environment for both established companies and emerging enterprises, driving sustainable economic growth and job creation,” Shankar said. “Furthermore, Modi’s re-election is a positive development for UK-India relations. With a renewed mandate, there is potential for deepening trade ties, expanding investment opportunities, and strengthening bilateral cooperation in key sectors such as technology, education, and healthcare.”

‘Biggest victor in democratic poll process is India itself’

POLITICAL commentators were unanimous in their praise for India’s democratic process which saw 640 million votes cast over a period of six weeks, writes Sarwar Alam.

“The biggest victory in these elections is not any political party but India the country itself,” said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, senior fellow for south and central Asian defence, strategy and diplomacy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

He said the unexpectedly strong showing by oppsotion parties to the BJP government put to bed any claims of vote-rigging.

“There was always some scepticism and cynicism about the validity or the credibility of the electoral process. The results made it very clear that the electoral democratic process is flourishing and thriving,” he said. “That is important because India talks about itself being a democratic country, and a fair electoral process, a free electoral process – so the biggest victory really is for India, the country.”

Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, was in India during part of the election in his capacity as chancellor of the University of Birmingham.

“What we saw was largest elections in the history of this planet, where over 600 million people voted. Just step back and think of that – it’s huge,” said Bilimoria.

“India has shown that in a country of 1.4 billion people, which is the equivalent of the whole continent of Africa, the most diverse country in the world by far, to hold elections that everyone in every corner of the country has access and the ability to vote, spread out over six weeks is an amazing feat.

“We have seen an Indian democracy that will speak out which is the most reassuring thing for anyone looking to invest in India, that you have this democracy that is so robust.”

Dr Ruth Kattumuri, co-chair of the India Observatory at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said Indians had shown the country has a “mature” democracy.

“Indians showed they are very dynamic, they engage, and they take their democracy seriously and want to be involved in what they get as a country and as a government,” she said. “People came and voted despite the heat in some states and rain in other which saw people counting votes despite the rooms getting flooded.

“The fact that there’s been at least 63 per cent turnout is a good thing. People expressed their concerns and now they government need to listen and address these challenges.”

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