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An Indian Election Roundup
Modi Wins in a Landslide

The results from India’s election—the largest ever in history—are rolling in, and the country’s main opposition party has done better than anyone predicted. Early predictions put the BJP’s coalition at around 324 (of 543) seats in parliament, though later projections show even higher numbers. The BJP alone is projected to take home about 275 seats, enough for them to rule without coalition partners. It is the first time since 1984 that a single party has achieved such a remarkable success.

As results and reactions continue to pour in, the American Interest will round up the best of the lot.

For a live tally of the vote results, see the map at Zee News. For general background information and ongoing commentary and analysis, see the Economist.

This election is remarkable for numerous reasons. Congress—the party of Gandhi and Nehru which has led India’s government for 49 of the 67 years since independence—is headed for its biggest ever defeat, a stunning collapse. The party is “in tatters,” the Economist reports. It might end up with fewer than 10 percent of the seats in parliament, which would mean “it has no automatic right to lead the official opposition.” Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh already called incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi in order to concede defeat and offer congratulations. Congress’s defeat reflects the ambivalence many Indians feel toward Rahul Gandhi, the leader and scion of the party, who skipped a farewell dinner for Singh, much to his family’s displeasure and the chagrin of most of the country. Already there are resounding calls for the party to drop Rahul in favor of his sister.

Regional parties, a few of which are ordinarily mighty in certain states, were also soundly defeated, beyond even the BJP’s wildest dreams. Here’s the Economist again:

The BJP is now leading in 71 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh. Even BJP partisans were professing to expect 60. This is again down to the work of Amit Shah, not only for bringing up the vote share, but also distributing it to the right seats to beat out the powerful third parties. Mayawati, the leader of the caste-based BSP party which represents first the Dalits, seems to have won only a single seat this election. Yet from 2007 to 2012 she and the BSP ran the state! In West Bengal the Communist Party (Marxist) has won nearly a quarter of the state’s votes, but seems like it will manage to win no seats at all. Meanwhile the BJP is taking three, with less than a fifth of the vote.

Many outside observers expected the upstart AAP (Common Man Party), which ran on an anti-corruption platform, to do well. But AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal voiced disappointment in his party’s performance. Despite fielding 443 candidates around the country the AAP only took home four seats in Punjab province. “It is a shock to us. We did not get results as expected. The fact remains that we could not win one of the seven seats in Delhi and it has upset us,” he said.

While the disappointment is crushing for the AAP, Congress, and regional parties, the stock market and many international observers—not to mention Modi and the BJP—are over the moon. Reuters reports:

Responding to the news, Indian markets got off to a roaring start, with the rupee breaking below 59 to the U.S. dollar, an 11-month high, and the benchmark stock index jumping 6 percent to a record high before paring its gains.

Betting on a Modi win, foreign investors have poured more than $16 billion into Indian stocks and bonds in the past six months and now hold over 22 percent of Mumbai-listed equities – a stake estimated by Morgan Stanley at almost $280 billion.

And so who is this man who will now lead the world’s largest democracy with a stronger mandate than any administration in decades? Many people call him a Hindu nationalist. He is, as Pankaj Mishra writes in the Guardian,

a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation inspired by the fascist movements of Europe, whose founder’s belief that Nazi Germany had manifested “race pride at its highest” by purging the Jews is by no means unexceptional among the votaries of Hindutva, or “Hinduness”. In 1948, a former member of the RSS murdered Gandhi for being too soft on Muslims. The outfit, traditionally dominated by upper-caste Hindus, has led many vicious assaults on minorities. A notorious executioner of dozens of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 crowed that he had slashed open with his sword the womb of a heavily pregnant woman and extracted her foetus. Modi himself described the relief camps housing tens of thousands of displaced Muslims as “child-breeding centres”.

An exceptionally detailed story about the RSS is available here, from the Caravan, and here is the Caravan‘s 2012 profile of Modi himself.

Notes the Economist: “So lopsided is the outcome that enormous expectations will now rest on the BJP and Mr Modi to start delivering changes quickly. The vote share claimed by the BJP, some 35% nationally, is enormous by Indian standards. Combined with an historically high turnout, at 64%, it gives Mr Modi a huge mandate for his rule.”

But let’s give the last word to a young Indian voter quoted in yesterday’s New York Times: “This is in the people’s hands. If [Modi] does not deliver, he will be kicked out after five years.”

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  • Andrew Allison

    What BJP coalition? As the next sentence makes clear, BJP has won a clear majority of seats and, for the first time indecades, India will not be governed by a coalition. Let’s instead give the last word to the Congress party spokesman who said that Congress will be out of office for at least ten years.

  • ljgude

    It may stretch the term a bit too far, but this looks to me like the end of the Blue Model in India.

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