The Skinny on the Indian Election
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because India stands on the brink of change. This is what you need to know about its potential new party and leader.
Early on, OZY pegged it, and told the story of the diminutive 63-year-old who toppled a three-generation dynasty and prevailed in the largest democratic undertaking the world has ever seen. Meet Narendra Modi, as told by OZY writer Pooja Bhatia. Modi is the apotheosis of far-right Hindu nationalism. In February, India’s main opposition party, the BJP, named him its prime minister candidate. Elections are due by May, and Modi stands a good chance of winning. His transformation is among the most astonishing political makeovers of the new millennium: In the space of a decade, Modi has gone from poster boy for deadly intolerance to “development man.” The man with the campaign mantra “Toilets first, temples later” has become India’s most popular politician.
Before: The Origins of the BJP
The man now running the world’s largest democracy comes from a bubbling cauldron of religious tensions and soap-operatic history. Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, is a right-leaning, Hindu nationalist party. Three decades ago, the BJP could barely win two seats in parliament. Now, it’s ended the rival Congress Party’s nearly half-century of dominance over the national parliament — the key decision-making body in India. A historical look: how’d that come to be?
During: Modi the Peacemaker?
Narendra Modi’s economy-first stance — agenda item No. 1 is returning India to the high-flying economic growth it enjoyed a decade ago, while attacking the corruption that’s contributed to current stagnation — will also require a large dose of pragmatism … and peace. In the wake of India’s elections this spring, new openings on trade and investment could help promote peace with neighboring Pakistan — an outcome good not just for South Asia, but also for the entire globe.
Modi’s the winner, but the real winner? Facebook. The sheer size of India’s electorate, with its 814 million eligible voters, and the interest in this year’s race — a record 66% turned out — meant lots and lots of people turning to Facebook and Twitter to talk politics. The Indian press is hailing it as the country’s first ”social media election.” And the stats back it up. In the 24 hours following the announcement of this year’s elections, mentions of the word “election” increased by 561%, and mentions of the Lok Sabha — the name of India’s parliament — rose 150% among people on Facebook in India, according to information the company provided to OZY.
With the election of the controversial Narendra Modi, Indians are confident that economic growth is returning to the country. Here’s why: there’s about to be an infrastructure boom, manufacturing renaissance, clearer regulatory and biz guidelines, better environmental protection, and more — says OZY contributor Prashant Agrawal.
Samanth Subramanian writes for The Guardian, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times and The New Yorker . A veteran of long-form journalism, he talked to OZY about his take on the Indian election, despite the fact that he hides from the talking heads by not owning a television. His take? With a shorter election, Indian media could probably do a better job.