Modi’s influence wanes in India despite win

Jun 14, 2024 | International News, News

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has started a rare third consecutive term in office, but the 2024 electoral win for his Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is a tougher victory than his last 10 years in office.

For the first time, the BJP couldn’t secure a majority in elections to form a government on its own. It formed a coalition government with other regional parties in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The NDA is a bloc of right-wing political parties with the BJP at its head.

President Droupadi Murmu swore in 73-year-old Modi and his cabinet of ministers at India’s presidential palace on Sunday.

Shivansh Nehra, an Indian citizen and a Canadian permanent resident said the election results have saved democracy despite BJP’s authoritarian style of governance.

“Even though it’s the BJP at the Centre, it’s still a win for Indian democracy because the opposition has become relevant and strong after a decade,” Nehra said.

The elections marked a shift from Modi’s Hindu-nationalist-BJP’s previous sweeps in 2014 and 2019.

Despite winning 240 seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha, India’s lower house, the BJP failed to secure the 272 seats it needed to govern with a majority, and fell short of its campaign slogan of “Ab ki baar 400 paar” or “This time, we’ll get over 400 seats.”

The INDIA alliance led by the Congress Party doubled its seats from the previous elections to 232.

Nehra said these elections are a turning point for India.

“Unchecked power is not good for any country. A strong opposition will make India better,” he said.

This election is the first electoral push against Modi, who has been the Prime Minister for 10 years. In the 2019 elections, Modi’s BJP won a clear majority with 303 seats.

The election caused a discernible loss for the BJP as it lost seats in important states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

According to a report by India’s finance ministry, India’s GDP will see a seven per cent growth under Modi. This makes India one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Further, more than 500 million Indians have opened bank accounts under Modi as a significant portion of the population previously excluded from formal financial services has now gained access.

There has been larger financial inclusion and a rise in the national economic health, however, the party’s decline stems from various issues, such as unemployment, increasing costs, and escalating disparity.

In 2023, Oxfam India’s study, Survival of the Richest, showed that more than 40 per cent of India’s wealth was owned by one per cent of the population.

An old rickshaw puller in his rickshaw. Rickshaw is three wheeler with traditionally two person-seating. It is rode like a cycle by the rickshaw puller. It is a common means of public transport.

An old rickshaw puller in his rickshaw. Rickshaw is three wheeler with traditionally two person-seating. It is rode like a cycle by the rickshaw puller. It is a common means of public transport. Photo credit: pixabay/ govaayu

The 2022 World Inequality Report revealed the wealthiest 10 per cent of the country held more than 57 per cent of India’s national income.

The BJP drew widespread protest and outcry because of its controversial policies, including the Farmers Act which it withdrew after a massive backlash, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The Farmers Act aimed at deregulating farmers’ markets, allowing them to sell directly to companies instead of going through government markets.

People criticized it for its potential to enable increased corporate exploitation of the farmers, inadequate protection from market fluctuations and price volatility, and weakening of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system, which guaranteed a minimum price for crops.

The government repealed the Farmers Act in December 2021 after widespread protests.

Before the Farmers Act, the BJP government passed the CAA and the NRC. The CAA was enacted in December 2019 to provide citizenship to persecuted religious minorities except Muslims, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

People have criticized it for violating India’s secular constitution and for its discriminatory nature against Muslims.

The government quashed the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill and subsequently passed the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The goal is to identify legitimate citizens and deport illegal immigrants from the country. It has been particularly controversial in the state of Assam, where 1.9 million people were left off the final list in 2019. The process of implementation of the registration has been controversial.

It runs the potential of impacting marginalized communities and the risk of disenfranchising genuine citizens.

Modi’s party faced its biggest defeat in Uttar Pradesh, a north-central state larger than the United Kingdom and with three times the population.

A resident of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Rehan Alam said people tried to change the rhetoric of religious divisiveness being propagated by BJP sympathizers.

“My team (friends) and I have been trying to dissipate the hate-mongering towards Muslims. We feel disconnected from the party,” he said.

The election results revealed Modi’s popularity has dulled and that he can lose at the whim of the voters.

Previously, Modi’s win was fuelled by social welfare initiatives and strong Hindu nationalist beliefs, which united Hindutva supporters of his party.

During the election campaign, Modi tried to further his messianic image among the Hindu nationalists by attributing divinity to himself.

“Upon reflecting on all my experiences after my mother’s death, I was convinced that I am sent by God,” he said in a TV interview during the campaign.

Throughout the campaign, Modi labelled Muslims as “infiltrators” and implied they were growing their population to surpass Hindus.

A muslim boy with a skull cap. Narendra Modi called Muslims "infiltrators" in his campaign speech.

A Muslim boy with a skull cap. Narendra Modi called Muslims "infiltrators" in his campaign speech. Photo credit: Pixabay/ha11ok

Modi is often characterized as having an authoritarian leadership style, faced with allegations of controlling political adversaries, restricting independent media, and suppressing dissent.

India ranks 159th out of 180 countries in the 2024 Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index. This is a 28-point drop since 2012 and two points lower than its 2023 score of 161.

Despite the ongoing tensions between Canada and India, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Modi on his electoral win.

“Congratulations to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his electoral victory. Canada stands ready to work with his government to advance the relationship between our nations’ peoples—anchored to human rights, diversity, and the rule of law,” Trudeau said on X (formerly Twitter).

Modi thanked Trudeau in a reply on X (formerly Twitter).

“India looks forward to working with Canada based on mutual understanding and respect for each other’s concerns,” Modi said.

In September 2023, Trudeau claimed the Indian government was involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Khalistan supporter and a Canadian citizen in Surrey, B.C. A U.S. indictment following an investigation into a planned hit of a Sikh activist in New York also alleged India’s involvement in the Nijjar’s assassination.

India has denied the allegations and diplomatic relations between the two countries have been strained since Canada’s accusations.