The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the single largest party with comfortable majority in the lower house of the parliament in the recent elections with 303 (compared to 272 seats in 2014) out of 543 seats. With coalition partners, it has now 353 seats, winning in most states except in deep south. The other largest party, the Congress, and its coalition partners won 58 seats, with no success in 19 out of 29 states in India. For the first time, the BJP has become a pan-Indian party with mass/cadre base. It has also been able to be at the centre of attention on most issues. Indeed, unlike any other leader in India today, who are seen as vacillating or reluctant to take bold measures, Modi articulated his views and policies effectively before the public.
In this round of elections, Modi government’s performance, social welfare benefits, no corruption scandals, disunity among opposition parties, appealing beyond caste or communal constituencies, lack of credible alternative in ideology or policies, channelizing rising aspirations, economic successes in becoming the “fastest growing large economy”, ease of doing business, largest FDI destination country, effective counter-terrorism strategy - have all contributed to the success of Modi’s party.
Recent conflict with Pakistan did not affect the popularity of the Prime Minister
The conflict between India and Pakistan dates back to the partition of the country under the British rule. In the recent times, after the Pulwama attacks on para-military forces by terrorists claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed operating from Pakistan, Indian Air Force conducted surgical strikes on Balakot terrorist camp deep inside Pakistan. This has indeed raised the popularity of PM Modi who mentioned obliquely the surgical strikes in election campaign. Indeed, this factor can be counted as a major contributing factor – especially in North India - for the recent electoral success of the BJP. Unlike other leaders before who are seen as dithering in the face of national challenges, PM Modi provided an effective alternative. Nevertheless, on Pakistan policy, Modi had made overtures before by visiting Lahore and in the new stint now he is likely to suggest a fresh approach for South Asian integration policies.
Modi’s victory and the Muslim minority
It has been observed by critiques that the ruling BJP is anti-Muslim. However, in the previous 2014 national elections or this time, the BJP’s slogan of “vikas” (development) and pro-poor agenda has incorporated all communities, including minorities. The BJP’s vote share of 45 percent of the nearly 600 million voted out of 900 million eligible voters could not have come without the support of the minorities across the country. It is said that the BJP’s support to agitation against “triple Talaq” (divorce) had earned Muslim women voters support. Also, in his victory speech, Modi on May 25 stated that all new elected members of Parliament should not discriminate against any minorities and that they should seek “vishwas” (trust) from the minorities. This needs to be seen in the next five years of governance but it appears that Modi is crafting a new pan-Indian strategy to focus mainly on poverty alleviation programs that affect all communities.
Future of the Russia-India relations
Russia and India enjoy stable strategic partnership for decades. This was reiterated recently when President Putin and PM Modi met at Sochi last year for an informal summit meeting. President Putin was one of the first leaders to congratulate PM-elect Modi as well. Both countries enjoy robust consensus domestically to take forward the bilateral relations to a new level. PM Modi will be meeting President Putin next month both at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting as well as at the G-20 meeting.