Politics of Passion returns BJP with bigger majority in India

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After the world’s largest ever democratic exercise, Narendra Modi has been re-elected as Prime Minister of India for another five-year term.

His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured an even bigger majority than in 2014.

In this, the final part of our India Tomorrow series from The Anthill podcast, we analyse the results with a panel of academics to find out what such a large majority – of more than 300 seats – means for India.

Mujibur Rehman, Assistant Professor of the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi, said that the size of the victory has taken many analysts in the media by surprise.

The question is not about winning 300 seats, but the huge margin through which the BJP candidates defeated their nearest rivals … that is a huge, huge surprise.

Person-centric Politics

Nikita Sud, Associate Professor of Development Studies at the University of Oxford, said that the fact that Modi ran an almost Presidential campaign, harks back to the slogans of the 1970s when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ran on the slogan, “Indira is India and India is Indira.”

“It is to be commended on the part of the BJP that we are back to this very, person-centric politics where (in) every constituency people are talking about Modi … In 2014, people were testing him, but now that he is a known entity, I think this personality-centricity can go both ways … because everything now centres even more on him, especially after this thumping victory,” she said.

The opposition Congress Party, suffered a crushing defeat at the polls, winning fewer than 50 seats and its leader Rahul Gandhi even lost his own parliamentary seat in Amethi, a traditional stronghold of India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and the Congress in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

A massive defeat for Congress

Rehman said the defeat was “massive” for Gandhi and the Congress Party:

“It signals that they are almost a non-entity today in the Northern India politics, the heartland of Indian politics. Because he has a huge victory in (the Southern State of) Kerala, but in the North, they are almost a non-entity now.”

Indrajit Roy, Co-Host of ‘The Anthill’s India Tomorrow’ series and Lecturer in Politics at the University of York, said that while Modi’s victory is an example of populism, it also a victory for what he calls a ‘Politics of Passion.’

“I think if you look at the results, you just look at the huge majorities that the BJP has won, not only at the country level but in the constituencies that they’ve won … that’s not possible unless you’ve touched people’s hearts.”

He stressed how different Modi’s journey to power is from that of US President Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected President of Brazil, though he said that there are similarities with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey.

“Like Erdoğan, Modi very much belongs to the political system. He’s not an outsider. He was the  Chief Minister of a State; he is a fully-fledged Member of the Party. He was groomed by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), which is the ideological mentor of the BJP. So, he is very much a part and parcel of the political system. I do think that these elections were of course about Modi, but it was also about the ideas that Modi holds and that the ideas that he expressed, which is something which his party and the RSS have been working on for nearly 90 years – the ideas of India being a Hindu nation.”

Annabel Bligh is Business and Economy Editor, Gemma Ware is Society Editor at The Conversation (UK), Indrajit Roy is Lecturer in Global Development Politics at the University of York, Mujibur Rehman is Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Jamia Millia Islamia Nikita Sud and is Associate Professor of Development Studies at the University of Oxford.

-Published under Creative Commons Licence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President Ram Nath Kovind on May 25, 2019, following his electoral victory (PMO Picture)


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