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‘Modi-fied’ India: Implications of BJP’s landslide win

Rajeev Sharma is a New Delhi-based journalist, author and strategic analyst. He tweets @Kishkindha and can be reached at bhootnath004@yahoo.com.

Published time: May 16, 2014 20:01
Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters in large numbers attend a rally by Chief Minister of western Gujarat state and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad on May 16, 2014 (AFP Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stormed into power on Friday riding on the crest of a Narendra Modi tsunami which gave a clear majority to a single party for the first time in India for 30 years and swept the ruling Congress into oblivion.

It has become the worst-ever electoral performance by the Grand Old Party. With Modi emerging as the undisputed strong man of India, this will have its own implications for the world.

Here is my take on the specific countries and regions that are crucial for India.

South Asia/India’s Neighborhood: Modi’s emergence as the undisputed strongman in India and the sole decision-maker should make India’s smaller neighbors more cautious. Nepal and the Maldives have repeatedly cocked a snook at India during their tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government headed by Manmohan Singh. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh bugged India with their own pinpricks. They could afford to do so as the UPA government was bogged down in coalition politics. This mindset should see a sea change.

Pakistan: The country’s entire leadership, particularly military, is prone to India-bashing, something that would get a fitting verbal lashing from the Modi government if such statements were to emanate from Pakistan. However, the most interesting thing to see in India-Pakistan relations will be whether Pakistani firing from across the Line of Control (LoC), which has picked up momentum in the past couple of weeks, will continue this trend. Incidentally, for the first time in its history, the BJP has won three out of six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir, the state which is at the core of the India-Pakistan dispute, and also the venue of the Kargil War in 1999. This in itself should be seen as a huge statement from the people of India to Pakistan.

China: Modi will be more careful when dealing with China. However, it will have to be seen whether China makes a Depsang Valley-like 16-km-deep incursion in Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) under a Modi-led government.

A Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) worker wears a mask of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as they celebrate outside the party office in Guwahati on May 16, 2014 (AFP Photo / Biju Boro)

Russia, Japan: These two countries will be the most important in the entire world from the perspective of the Modi government. The Modi administration will deepen ties with both: Russia to counterbalance the United States and Japan to counterbalance China. The Modi-led India should also see a huge fillip in trade and economic ties with these two countries.

United States: Modi will go slow with the US and wait for the Americans’ overtures before taking the first step. The US has pursued a policy of denying a visa to Modi over his alleged but unproven involvement in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, and has foolishly stuck to this policy when the entire West has changed its stance toward Modi.

Domestic implications

The Indian election results have also come up with three trail-blazing new trends, each one auguring well for the nation of 1.2 billion people.

One: The coalition era that descended on India a quarter century ago is over, as the BJP has crossed the magic number of 272 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha on its own and does not need any allies – pre-poll or post-poll – to run the government. However, it is another question whether Modi, after he takes over as prime minister of India in a few days, will be able to rope in the BJP’s regional allies in his government. The flip side of this is that it does not mean that it is sunset time for regional parties because parties like AIADMK (Tamil Nadu), Trinamool Congress (West Bengal) and Biju Janata Dal (Orissa) have done very well without the support of any party, national or regional.

Two: For the first time, factors like caste, creed, religion and region that have been the bane of Indian politics have been thrown by the wayside. The BJP has posted unprecedented electoral victories in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar which are notorious for their caste and religion-based politics. Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state in terms of population and number of MPs in the Lok Sabha, is a classic example. BJP nearly swept the state winning 71 out of 80 seats (as against just ten in the last election). The Samajwadi Party (SP) plummeted to just five seats from its previous tally of 23 seats, while the worst fate befell the Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP (previous tally: 20) which drew a blank despite having the third largest vote share. Both the SP and BSP have, for decades, thrived on parochial political considerations, such as caste and appeasement of Muslims.

Chief Minister of western Gujarat state and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addresses a public rally after his victory in Vadodara on May 16, 2014 (AFP Photo)

Three: In Modi, India has seen for the first time the emergence of a single individual, born in the post-independence era, who is today the most powerful man in India despite humble origins. He has single-handedly outstripped the record of the previously best leader the BJP ever produced – former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is the only prime ministerial candidate in the history of India to have won by a margin of over 570,000 votes. Ironically, Modi, who contested his first Lok Sabha election from two constituencies, posted this feat from Vadodara in his native state of Gujarat, where the BJP won all 26 Lok Sabha seats, but he is likely to resign from this seat and retain the fiercely-contested Varanasi seat, which he won by a margin of just fifty thousand votes.

For the first time in decades, perhaps since the time of the Congress stalwart and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the world will be dealing with a strong leader who has a mind of his own. It will have to be seen whether Modi displays Shinzo Abe’s Abenomics or pursues hard economic decisions like Margaret Thatcher, or shows the gall to take tough strategic decisions like Vladimir Putin.

The writer is a New Delhi-based independent journalist and strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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