Towards Strategic Autonomy of India: Narendra Modi Continues His Economic and Social Reforms

The national elections in India have brought victory to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The NDA has won a stable majority in the lower house of parliament. This means that the right-wing coalition will remain in power for at least another five years, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be able to continue his economic and social reforms, as well as be able to operate with a free hand in the international arena.

Before the elections, most experts predicted a slim victory for the NDA. Such a scenario would follow the usual logic of the Indian electoral cycles of the last few decades: the party first enters office with a landslide victory, partially loses support as a result of mistakes in governance during the first term but nevertheless wins in the second election, but is defeated in the third one. Of course, there have been exceptions to this set-up - in the mid-1990s, due to a political crisis, the country had a series of three prime ministers in two years, but the general scheme where the party, after a victory, gradually loses the confidence of voters has remained stable.

Narendra Modi and His Soaring Popularity
Samir Saran
Although BJP is the winner in this election, Modi is the victor: it is his soaring popularity, reminiscent of the popularity of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, that unleashed a massive wave of support. The BJP rode that wave to retain power. It was a single issue election. That issue was Modi. Nothing else mattered.

If this scenario had been the case in India, it would mean that the party and its allies would have to form a coalition in order to provide a guaranteed majority. However, after a carefully thought-out and successfully conducted election campaign, BJP has managed to avoid this.

BJP was able to hold power for several reasons. First of all, due to the high popularity of Narendra Modi, who managed to create an image of the "prime minister of the majority". Modi positions himself as an ascetic who thinks only about the prosperity of India, does not hide his adherence to Hinduism, and appeals to the needs of the "common man" in his speeches. He is an excellent speaker who knows how to find the key to his  audience, and with the help of an extensive network of local party organisations, can react in time to signals from the regions. As a result, Modi and his party have managed not only to mitigate the effect of the monetary reform that hit the pockets of the main BJP electorate - small farmers in the northern and central regions of India - but also to increase its popularity. In addition, the emerging success of socio-economic initiatives has helped to counter the reproaches of the opposition. In general, we can say, that following the results of the elections, Modi was able to explain to his electorate the inevitability of temporary difficulties, instil optimism and faith in the fulfilment of the promises made by the authorities and gain much-needed credibility.

The recent conflict with Pakistan has also positively influenced the popularity of the prime minister and the ruling party. Despite the fact that from the point of view of the world community, Pakistan was ahead of India in terms of ‘points’ (dubious results of attacks on militant camps, inability to repel Pakistani raids, loss of MiG-21 aircraft and capture of the pilot), for the majority of the Indian public, which gets information mainly from the regional media (which expresses official and ultra-patriotic points of view) India emerged as an undisputed winner. According to voters in India, the Pakistani militant camps were defeated, the heroic pilot Abhinandan managed to destroy a modern Pakistani F-16 using an outdated MiG, and Islamabad submitted to Modi’s demand and returned the downed Indian pilot to his homeland. In this case, the incident itself, coupled with the recent terrorist attacks on Sri Lanka, contributed to the fact that the challenges to the security of the state became one of the key issues during the election campaign. BJP successfully used that, indicating that thanks to the measures taken by the government, it was possible to limit terrorist activities within the state of Jammu and Kashmir and to achieve significant success in the fight against terrorists. All failures were due to the inadequate preparations made by the previous government, which formed by the largest opposition party - the Indian National Congress (INC).

Indo-Pakistani Confrontation and Possible Consequences
Alexei Kupriyanov
The sources of the current Indo-Pakistani crisis are purely internal. Neither New Delhi nor Islamabad has appealed to other countries for mediation. In this situation, the only thing left for Russia, the United States, the People's Republic of China and other external players to do is to call for restraint and the de-escalation of the conflict, and try not to aggravate the situation with thoughtless interventions.

It is significant, that among those who voted for Modi there were many Muslims - at least 10% of those who came to the polling stations. This is explained by the optimistic attitude of the Muslim population towards the future of India and Modi’s plans for a large-scale restructuring of the economy. Of course, the Muslims are disturbed by the growth of Hindu nationalism in the country, but, in the opinion of many of them, especially young people, the benefits of the economic breakthrough under the leadership of Modi are much more important than relatively rare incidents. A distinctive feature of the last election was also the support the prime minister received from many Muslim women after the government was finally able to eliminate the “triple talak” - a divorce without formal rules at the request of husband.

In general, the victory of Modi will benefit Russia. It means preserving the format of a dialogue of strong leaders, which is comfortable for both countries, with a more strongly pronounced policy of India towards strategic autonomy. Moreover, Narendra Modi, at least in the early years of his leadership, seems to be focusing on confidence building with China. It is hardly worth expecting a full-fledged RIC format (Russia-India-China), but even small steps in this direction will have a beneficial effect on the situation in Eurasia.
Narendra Modi: A ‘Muscular Champion’ of New India
Vijay Sakhuja
A recurring theme in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches in the run up to the elections was nationalism that is free of caste, religion and gender. Although some in India believe that Prime Minister Modi represents the ‘Hindu juggernaut’, there is no doubt that he is a ‘muscular champion’ of ‘New India’ who advocates a strong sense of nationalism.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.