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The Rise of Modi
Modi Favorite Among Youth, Rural Voters

India’s favored candidate for Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has solidified his lead as his BJP party secures support from two unlikely demographics: rural voters and young people. A Pew Research Center poll found that 64 percent of rural Indians want the BJP to lead the next government, and about 60 percent of 18–29 year olds favor the party across a range of issues. 

That rural voters prefer the BJP is surprising. The embattled Congress party has made its rural employment schemes and subsidies the cornerstone of its election campaign. While Modi has explicitly catered to the interests of businessmen and industrialists, Congress’s campaign pledge has been to work with the poor and alleviate the conditions of India’s bottom 300 million.

The “youth vote” is a relatively new force in Indian politics. Today 65 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people are under 35, and a good number will head to the polls this year to voice dissatisfaction with the status quo. Young voters appear to prefer Modi, a former tea seller, over Rahul Gandhi, heir to the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty that has ruled India for most of its young history.

Modi’s popularity has grown despite the fact that he has done little to distance himself from accusations of sectarianism or to assuage concerns about his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Economist voiced reservations this week, despite his business-friendly acumen and reputation for efficiency:

If Mr Modi were to explain his role in the violence and show genuine remorse, we would consider backing him, but he never has; it would be wrong for a man who has thrived on division to become prime minister of a country as fissile as India. […]

We would wish him well, and we would be delighted for him to prove us wrong by governing India in a modern, honest and fair way. But for now he should be judged on his record—which is that of a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred. There is nothing modern, honest or fair about that. India deserves better.

Yet, as the Economist concedes and every poll suggests, it’s very unlikely that Modi’s controversial role in the riots will damage his chances when Indians go to the ballots this month.

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  • Rajdeep Sardesai

    If the economist has reservations about modi being the prime minister of india, then he certainly is the right man for india.

  • Jaldhar Vyas

    It is only surprising to those who have no clue about the realities of life in India today. My family have been urban since the 1920s and increasingly international today but whenever we return to India we make a pilgrimage to our ancestral village in Gujarat where the shrine of our patron Goddess is located. Previously this required taking a taxi to a desolate spot on the highway and then walking down a dirt track through the fields that vehicles cannot negotiate to actually reach the place. But the last time I was there, there was a paved road. The mayor who we visited after completing our rituals said there is now also twice daily bus service to the nearest town. He also proudly showed us the pipes that carry water to this perennially drought stricken place from the Narmada dam project (another bugbear of gentry liberals.) The mayor who is Congress attributed all of these improvements to Modi. In fact he said there isn’t one person in the whole village who wouldn’t vote BJP as long as Modi is its leader. And this is a place that has been solidly for Congress since 1947.

    From reading the MSM one might think he single-handedly invented political demagoguery but in fact all the factions in Indian politics have blood on their hands. The difference is that they have all kinds of schemes and lofty talk of uplift but only Modi has actually delivered. And this is why he is going to win no matter how uncool the Economist thinks he is.

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