India’s Modi Expected To Deliver ‘Quick Turn-Around’

Source: Getty
Op-Ed Deutsche Welle
Summary
This election is the first time since 1984 that a single party has succeeded in winning a clear majority and the first time a non-Congress party has been able to achieve this feat on its own.
Related Topics
Related Media and Tools
 

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, won an absolute majority in India's parliamentary polls, according to early vote counts by the Election Commission. If confirmed, this would be the first parliamentary majority by a single party in 30 years.

The poll which was staggered over five weeks, showed the BJP on track to win the 272 seats needed for a parliamentary majority, while the left-leaning Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Gandhi dynasty, was headed for its worst-ever defeat.

In a DW interview, Milan Vaishnav, political analyst and associate in the South Asia Program at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that while the BJP victory is truly historic, its ability to govern will face several constraints which may pose a threat to its legislative agenda.

DW: What does the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) landslide victory represent for India?

Milan Vaishnav: The BJP victory is truly historic. The fact that the BJP managed to secure an outright majority in parliament is totally unprecedented. It is the first time since 1984 that a single party has succeeded in winning a clear majority in parliament. Furthermore, it is the first time since post-independence India that a non-Congress party has been able to achieve this feat on its own.

What expectations have Indians set on a Modi-led government?

Expectations are set very high for an incoming Modi-led BJP government. Modi has relentlessly criss-crossed the country promising, if elected, to revive India's economy, create millions of new jobs and tame persistently high inflation. Now that he is set to take office with an overwhelming majority and a clear mandate, he will be expected to deliver a quick economic turn-around.

What are the main challenges for Modi's new government?

On the economic front, Modi faces several constraints. The first one is that the BJP only controls the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, but lacks a majority in the upper house, known as the Rajya Sabha. The absence of a majority in the upper house poses a threat to the BJP's legislative agenda. But there is a second constraint, which is that India is increasingly governed through its states rather than by the central government in New Delhi. This means that as prime minister, Modi will have less leverage than some of his predecessors in setting the agenda for economy policy reform.

On the social and political fronts, Modi will have to send a clear signal that he is in fact the prime minister of all of India, not just of its Hindu majority. Many minorities will view him with great skepticism because of his association with the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, not to mention the 2002 riots which took place in Gujarat on his watch. Furthermore, only one-third of voters who turned out actually voted for the BJP, with the remainder of votes going to the Congress and a host of smaller regional parties. He will have to win over these non-BJP voters as well.

What were the main issues in these elections?

The main animating issues of this election were primarily economic in nature. Election surveys, both conducted in advance of the polls as well as after the voting concluded, suggest that voters were most influenced by the sagging state of the economy. Voters identified the lack of development, jobs, corruption, and high inflation as their top concerns virtually across the board. Issues related to law and order, communal harmony or identity issues were less salient, although hardly negligible either.

What were the key factors that contributed to the BJP's success?

The BJP's path to victory was built around three factors. First, the party presented Modi early on as its PM candidate, which allowed it to project an aura of leadership and credibility. This was in contrast to the Congress, which did not name Rahul Gandhi (the party vice president and heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty) as its candidate.

Second, the BJP message, at least in the national theater of politics, focused on governance and development. At the local level, we did see mobilization on caste or communal lines - in the north and northeast in particular. However, the overarching narrative around development aligned well with voters' concerns.

Third, Modi took great care to tailor the party message to India's youth and its growing urban population. These were demographics which the Congress had ignored and, to the extent they paid them heed, emphasized social welfare and entitlements rather than growth, jobs, and social mobility.

What led to the Congress party's worst-ever defeat?

The roots of the Congress party's defeat are myriad. The party was fighting an uphill battle against its own decade-long incumbency. There was an overwhelming mood for change in India. Furthermore, the souring economy - particularly over the past two years - badly hurt the prospects of the Congress.

The party was not able to construct a coherent, forward-looking narrative during the course of the campaign to convince voters it had solutions to what ailed India's economy. Then, of course, there was the leadership question. Rahul Gandhi refused to put himself forward for the Prime Minister's job. In a context where the BJP backed a leader and quite early on, the Congress was unable to effectively push back.
Modi, who until now has been chief minister of Gujarat, has been praised for the economic success of the state. But can the Gujarat model really be implemented throughout India?

It will be extremely challenging, if not impossible, for Modi to implement the Gujarat model on an all-India scale. Because of New Delhi's limited levers of power over the states, the sprawling central bureaucracy and the need to forge coalitions, Modi will have to make compromises he simply did not have to bother with when he ran Gujarat for the past twelve years.

What impact will Modi's expected appointment as prime minister have on neighboring countries such as Pakistan and China?

Modi's mandate is fundamentally a domestic one. I think on foreign policy, at least in the short run, we can expect more continuity than change. Modi recognizes that hostility with China or Pakistan would be bad for markets, which would undermine his own domestic agenda. Rhetorically, he has struck a more hawkish tone on both countries but, when in the Prime Minister's chair, I suspect his posture will be more measured.

The BJP is, unlike previous governments, set to rule without the support of sometimes unruly partners. How could this impact the implementation of much needed reforms?

The BJP will still have coalition partners who are part of its National Democratic Alliance (NDA). However, Modi will be in a much stronger position to dictate cabinet appointments and policy priorities. However, I would not be surprised if the BJP sought to expand its alliance, either by taking on new partners or accepting "outside support," in order to facilitate the BJP's agenda in the Rajya Sabha, not to mention in the states.

 

This interview was originally published by Deutsche Welle.

End of document

About the South Asia Program

The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region’s security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program’s renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia’s most critical challenges.

 

Comments (3)

 
 
  • MBI Munshi
    What about Bangladesh? When ever India is discussed only China and Pakistan factor in but relations between New Delhi and Dhaka are as important. Bangladesh as a population of 160 million with the vast majority being Muslim. Any political changes in New Delhi will affect Bangladesh and could easily create instability. A major bone of contention between Washington and New Delhi had been how the Congress Party had overtly supported the Awami League to power in Bangladesh in fraudulent and one-sided elections held on January 5, 2014. Will Modi rock the boat by pressing on the illegal immigrant issue or allow the AL to continue unimpeded and hassle free? How the BJP implements its Hindutva inspired policies could also create tensions with Bangladesh as well as Pakistan. For more on Indo-Bangladesh relations read my book The India Doctrine (1947-2007).
     
     
    Reply to this post

     
    Close Panel
  • MaithiliB
    How did BJP win a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha with only one-third of total votes? To my knowledge India has a PR system for elections to the Lok Sabha, so unlike first-past-the-post, a political party can't win a majority of sits with less than 50% of votes, right? I may be mistaken. Please can you explain the link between votes and winning seats in the lower house of parliament in India.
     
     
    Reply to this post

     
    Close Panel
    • Milan Vaishnav replies...
      In fact, India has a first-past-the-post electoral system, hence the ability of the BJP to win a majority of seats with only one-third of the all-India vote.
       
       
Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/05/16/india-s-modi-expected-to-deliver-quick-turn-around/hay5

India Decides 2014

In Fact

 

45%

of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.

30%

of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.

140

charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.

2.5–5

thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.

92%

of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.

$2.34

trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.

37%

of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.

72%

of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.

90%

of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.

13%

of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.

17

U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.

40%

of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.

120

million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.

60–70%

of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.

58%

of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.

67%

of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.

50%

of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.

18%

of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.

81%

of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.

32

million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3

Syrians

now needs urgent assistance.

370

political parties

contested India’s last national elections.

70%

of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.

70%

of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.

20%

of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.

58%

of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.

$536

billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.

$100

billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.

4700%

increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.

$11

billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.

2%

of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.

78

journalists

were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address in the field below to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
 
 
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
 
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.

请注意...

你将离开清华—卡内基中心网站,进入卡内基其他全球中心的网站。