Possible Post-Election Scenario in India

11.04.2019

Estimated 900 million voters of world’s largest democracy will exercise their constitutional right to select their next parliament by balloting in approximately three months hereafter. With the rise of far-right political parties in the world in the last decade, a wave of Hindu nationalism and Hindutva revival has also been augmented since the arrival of Modi’s Sarkar in 2014. Economic reformation, infrastructure development, employment for youth bulge and cultural issues were underlined as the cornerstone of Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto and political campaigns.

Certainly, it was a cakewalk for Modi to win an election in 2014, but this year BJP will secure the mandate of the people on account of their accomplishments in their last 5-year’s turn and contentment of voters about promises made by PM Modi in his previous election campaign. Majority of political analysts and elections pundits are of the view that BJP will again clean sweep Indian National Congress due to popular support of Narendra Modi’s persona. However at the same time, the recent by-elections held in the last few months are rendering a contrasting view because of INC’s leading position.

Thus far, BJP has not declared their candidate for Prime Minister which is predicted to be Narendra Modi due to popular choice of people, whereas INC confirmed Rahul Gandhi to be a candidate for premiership. It is envisaged that National Democratic Alliance will form government at center due to numerous reasons, such as due to the strong position of allied parties in majority states even where BJP lacked popular support, the absence of a resilient opposition and an internal rift in INC and their United Progressive Alliance.

The outcome of general elections 2019 will hinge on the performance of the ruling party in the last 5 years in terms of economic stability, domestic reformation and undertakings and prolific foreign relations.

Economy

Economic reformation was the leading agenda of Modi’s political campaign in 2014 that is why financial appraisal of last 5 years is essential to predict the aftermaths of upcoming elections. While Modi was Chief Minister of Gujrat, he guaranteed economic prosperity of the province through engagement with multiple foreign companies and public-private partnership, and his policies remained unbeaten in the sphere. He attempted to replicate the same model at the national level as well in order to support the long term vision of India to be a globally recognized economic power.

 An upsurge in country’s GDP was also observed after BJP’s five-year term, as in 2014 it was 2.03 trillion USD which improved to 2.59 trillion USD in next three years[1] and republic was ranked as world’s seventh largest economy. Country’s progressive economy also have potential to reach up to 3 trillion in the next couple of years, enabling India to be the fifth leading country in the global economy[2]. In terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), GDP of the Republic of India accounts for 7 percent of global GDP and leapfrogs to be the third-largest economy of the world followed by China and USA[3].

Net exports of the country increased to 5.2 percent, projecting threefold growth in Modi’s term[4]. Nevertheless, this ratio is expected to reach 7.4 percent in the year 2018-19 by IMF[5].

Other economic indicators highlight the fact that the government of India has long-term plans for the transformation of agriculture, health, and education sector. PM Modi announced to double the wages of farmers by 2022, allocated budgetary and non-budgetary resources, promoted electronic national agriculture markets and ensured the provision of loans to make respective sector as a source of income and pride[6].

A flagship National Health Protection Scheme was also launched by BJP government in the year 2018 to assure medical treatment of 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. The project was eulogized as the world’s largest government-funded healthcare program providing 5lac rupees per family for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization[7].

To boost employment generation in the country, several measures are taken such as an increase in Employee’s provident fund (EPF), incentivize women by reducing their input in EPF and enabling higher take-home wages. Ease of doing business in India moved up to 77th out of 190 this year, whereas country was listed at 100th position in 2017 and at 142nd place in 2014.

In today’s world, good governance is analogous to good economics and there had been substantial progress in country’s wealth which is an indicator that Modi fulfilled most of the promises he made while electioneering in 2014.

Domestic Policies

BJP and Modi faced brash criticism over the demonetization of currency, in order to curb the disease of corruption in the country. Anti-corruption drive faced major blowback due to inefficacy and futility of BJP’s course of action.

In addition, Goods and Services Tax also called ‘GST’ was also introduced in Modi’s tenure which was intended to levy indirect taxes and replacing all other form of indirect taxation with one multi-tiered comprehensive taxation system. Under the umbrella of this multi-stage destination-based taxation system, small and medium scale traders will suffer from huge losses whereas BJP themselves opposed the bill when it was presented in the previous government. The structural economic reformation was lauded by politicians and pundits as game-changer but masses showed mixed reactions to this new tax regimes, as protests and celebrations emerged across India.

BJP regime also initiated a mega education project named as Revitalization of Infrastructure and Systems of Education (RISE) by the year 2022 with a total investment of Rs1 lac crore in the next four years.

Agriculture sector contributes 18 percent to GDP of India and more than half of the total workforce of India is employed in the respective field[8]. Prior to the advent of BJP in power in 2014, the living standard of Indian farmers was miserable and many of them were either protesting, committing suicides or migrating to urban centers. Current ruling party was trounced in the agriculture hub ‘Bihar’ and didn’t focus agro-reforms in their 2014 campaign, but soon after taking the charge of central government Modi and his counterparts commenced restructuring of agriculture sector by providing loans to farmers to clear their arrears, modernizing the machination of farming, formulating the National Commission on Farmers to address grievances of cultivators.

Foreign Policy

Although the foreign policy does not have a direct impact on the electorates but it usually acts as a dual-edged sword in the contest for the ruling party. In case of India, country had stained relations marked by tensions and military standoffs with its two neighboring nuclear-armed powers, China and Pakistan since inception of country. Since Modi joined the office a policy shift towards China has been observed to generate an inward investment, business, and technology for domestic growth and development.

Conversely, redoubling of belligerence and hostilities are observed in relation to Pakistan. Set of circumstances like creating a water dilemma and conducting hoax surgical strikes were praised to the skies by the ruling party in order to gather popularity of voters at home and persuading judgement of international observers about this dispute alongside. Indian government is promoting the perception of Pakistan as a common and implacable enemy of their nation and this narrative is supplementing to the nationalist discourse of country. However Indian military’s shopping spree and adventurism is advocated by BJP as need of the hour, but in actual it is giving birth to security dilemma in region.

Contemporary foreign policy of India is an increased emphasis on regional and extra-regional partnerships like Indo-Pacific Quart, SCO, G-20 summit and Indian initiated International Solar and technology Alliance (INSTA) is complementing the ruling party’s extremist and populist acumen. Premier of India had more than 50 overseas trips and remained part of several new bilateral and multilateral agreements for ease of trade, visa policies, and overseas employment, although numerous agreements were centered as defensive and financial.

Modi’s policies like ‘Neighborhood first’, ‘Act East Strategy’, receptiveness about relations with USA, Israel, and Palestine, International North-South Transport Corridor are an indicator of proactive approach of the country in order to shape the narrative and take leverage of their soft power diplomacy in times of turmoil.

Mr. Modi also embarked on a journey of religious diplomacy to promote the soft image of country thru interaction with global civil societies. Modi’s visit to religious sanctuaries like temples, mosques and Buddhist sites in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Canada, UAE, China, Vietnam, Japan, and other countries were driven to build their soft power and to regain their Hindu pride which also complemented the discourse of Hindutva revival.

Hence a smidgeon of politicization of foreign policy and an attempt to gain strategic autonomy is apparent in India’s strategy. Overseas engagements depict the degree of continuity and diversification to bring back a sense of optimism about India and to shape the regional and global paradigms by Modi while facing less criticism and condemnation at home.

BJP versus INC in 2019 elections

According to Google trend records and recent online polls, Rahul Gandhi emerged as most searched politician due to his fervent patronage in different regions of India such as Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana[9]. Furthermore, Rahul was known as a tech-savvy leader as he recommended all part leaders to have an online presence at Twitter and Facebook. This move will allow INC to take leverage of online social media platforms to manage perceptions about their party and its leadership such as Rafael deal case and Modi’s entanglement in international affairs.

The popularity of BJP’s leadership like Narendra Modi as premier, Amit Shah as a most feared strategist and Arun Jaitley as the Point man and negotiator and along this they also have a huge number of legislative members of the party will have a momentous impact on upcoming elections. Beside this, morale and resources of BJP vis a vis INC shows that BJP has a colossal amount of funds at party’s disposal in comparison to INC, where BJP secured 155 million USD and INC get hands on just one-fourth of BJP. Shiv Sena announced their detachment from BJP that will result in persuading secular and liberal voters to BJP as well.

Even though Modi is popular in India but alternatives are also there, as BJP is losing in bi-elections and there are chances of a political collation among distinct Indian polities.

Conclusion

Mantras like America First, Brexit, Defend Europe and ‘Brazil before everything’ are a definite indicator that far-right political parties are on the rise across the world. Last elections in India were held in 2014 and quixotic far-right party ‘BJP’ came into power by securing mandate of five times more voters than their political rival INC.

An upswing in the Hindu-nationalist party ‘BJP’ was founded on the principles of identity politics and notions of development. Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians were ignored relatively and their political parties became insignificant in last decade and in addition, BJP doesn’t have a single Muslim leader in their party which implies that party is playing on religious and sectarian lines. In the wake of Hindu religious violence against Muslims and Sikhs such as cow vigilantes, mob lynching, and killings will keep on spurring till religion is used as a coercive political instrument, and it is expected to keep growing due to rise of a single far-right political party in India.

Momentarily, Rahul Gandhi has a sparse chance of winning upcoming elections due to the concentration of his party in the center and lack of consensus over leadership of the party. However, Rahul Gandhi was identified as a most searched politician by Google, which is similar to the case of Donald Trump.

In short, as long as democracy is prevailing it doesn’t matter who wins the election.


[1] "India." Country Overview. 2017. Accessed January 07, 2019. https://data.worldbank.org/country/india.

[2] World Development Indicators database, “CountryProfile | World Development Indicators.”

[3] Lester Gunnion, “Comparing Economies: How Is Economic Size Measured? | Deloitte Insights.”

[4] “Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Growth) | Data.”

[5] “Union Budget of India (2018-19): Key Highlights of India’s Budget | IBEF.”

[6] MS Swaminathan, “The Agriculture Mission: How the Modi Government Is Shaping the Future of Farming and Farmers.”

[7] “Ayushman Bharat.”

[8] Sushruth Sunder, “India Economic Survey 2018: Farmers Gain as Agriculture Mechanisation Speeds up, but More R&D Needed - The Financial Express.”

[9] Surbhi Gloria Singh, “Rahul or Modi, Who Is More Searched in India? Here’s What Google Data Show | Business Standard News.”