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Elections in India - Polysemous Implications; Multitudinal Effect!

Simon Mohsin

Simon Mohsin

Tue, 4 Jun 24

2024 is the busiest election year for the world. We have seen elections taking place in a number of geopolitically important states across the continents. But one of the most significant ones, and definitely the most significant one for us after our own elections is the one happening in India. Although the elections are at the concluding phase, its impacts have a polysemous effect on multitudinal contexts.

The election of the world's largest democracy is important in many ways. India, a country of 1.4 billion population, has about 97 crore voters. The seven-phase election of mammoth proportiona began on April 19 and concluded on June 1. Exit polls indicated that Modi would return to power; while writing this piece, there were strong indications of that becoming a reality but with a caveat that BJP would not get the 272 sole majority. A coalition government seems likely as Congress and its allies make gains in the election results.

The results resonate different implications for India, its political evolution, its relational impact with its neighbours, and India’s position globally.

One key issue of this election was not about only winning or losing, but about electoral integrity; whether the election was conducted in a fair and free manner. Given the numerous questions and debates about the way the Election Commission is formed, changed, and influenced right before the polls campaigning, it was evident that the fight between religion and good governance has become the goal of the election.

Another central discussion of this election is not electoral and national issues, but who is playing the role of the main character of this election, it is important.Narendra Modi, 73, who came to power in India in 2014 promising economic development and fighting corruption. However, since coming to power, he has combined religion and politics. This approach has increased his popularity day by day among the Hindu nationalists but has failed to fully implement the promised economic development in the country. While India's influence on the global stage is growing under Modi's leadership, unemployment has risen tandem at home. As incidents of communal violence, particularly Hindutva attacks and persecution of Muslims, have increased, freedom of the media, freedom of speech and expression of dissent have gradually declined. Questions regarding equality, fairness of state apparatuses and more have been at the centre of Indian politics as PM Modi continues to allow his RSS, BJP, and Oligarchy members to enjoy significantly undue benefits and privileges.

According to reports, there is no shortage of efforts by government influenced central investigative agencies to investigate and prove corruption allegations against members of the opposition Congress and members of parties other than the BJP in power. The aim was clear - to make the 2024 elections as non-competitive as possible for Modi and the BJP. The BJP in power for last two terms has made this weakening of governance and state institutions a symbolic identity of the party and PM Modi, it is likely to continue in the coming days in the name of religion, the key and arguably only agenda on which BJP and Modi are rode on this election campaign.

The Modi regime has some good points too. India has now become a significant superpower in the world. The size of the country's economy has almost doubled. The country's stock market has tripled in size. But the advantages and benefits of these are enjoyed by the upper class and well-to-do non-resident Indians living abroad, most of whom again hold dual citizenship. Still, about 90 percent of people in India have an annual income of less than 3,500 US dollars. Many social welfare government programs have been introduced under the Modi government, which has made life in remote rural areas more bearable. But it is also putting pressure on the government's exchequer and is ineffective in employment development. This benefits to friends and patrons, declining human and civil rights, stressed economy for the masses, persecution on minorities, and international criticism for several of the aforementioned situations has already made Modi and the BJP jittery of their winning prospects. Thus the Hindutva based nationalist and populist narrative became their trump card. They have seemingly banked well on it given the margin that had kept them ahead in the competition. However it is unlikely to allow them a majority, let alone a brute majority.

This may be bad news for Modi and Co as they will be faced with challenges in implementing policy changes that will be crucial to their Hindu nationalist agenda, demanded by the BJP patronising oligarchy, and also needed for continude economic growth causing trust of the world in India to dwindle. This at large may hav a few positive effects on the sociopolitical situation of India, bear good news for the minority, but will not be good for trust on Indian economy that investors are having until now.

There is also the impact this election is having on region. South Asia has mostly become a ring of bouts and competition for India and China. I would underscore that the situation in Bangladesh is not as dire in this context as it is in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, and even Bhutan. Chinese influence dominated by its economic support and financial infusion continues to stress out India. Political narratives have been openly advocating for China while there are prominent instances i
.e. Maldives where anti-India chants reverbate. An echo of such is also being heard in Bangladesh through slogans of boycott India and Indian goods. But, it has not translated to any effective initiative yet. I will speak to the impact on Bangladesh incurred through the Indian elections more in the following paragraphs. In regards to overall South Asia, PM Modi has apparently caused India to become a neighbour that South Asian states view as the unwanted relative who is appreciated from afar; he is better averted when possible but cannot be shunned completely because of the size, geopolitics, geolocation, and sociopolitical and economic influence it has over the region. While Modi’s return to power will not improve situation, the weakening of his government in the new regime will likely allow more space to China helping Beijing consolidate its position in the neighborhood.

For Bangladesh, Modi Government has been a boon, at least at the state level. At the mass level, I must say that anti-India sentiment has somewhat been transitioning to India hating sentiments; underscoring the vehemence that people feel towards our closest and most integrated neighbour. Anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh had been burgeoning for decades, and had reached its peak in the recent years. At the same time, interactions, integration, and economic participation between the two countries has also increased considerably. This paradox is understood through the lens of religion mostly, as Modi’s anti Muslim stance and actions have truly been hurtful to the Muslim majority Bangladesh, for whom religion is also a way of life and society. There are also instances where Bangladesh has seen some incidents of Hindu extremism in action; while such sentiments reportedly have grown exponentially in the social media. This is not only due to Modi’s Hindu empowerment through Hindutva populist nationalism but also for a historic grude the Hindu community has felt for the persecutions they have collectively faced in the hands of Muslim fanatics. Thus, it is unlikely that India-Bangladesh relations will be adversely affected no matter what the results in the Indian elections. But, a weaker Modi would certainly appease stresses among the religious groups who perceive the Indian influence on Bangladesh politics as a threat to their religious identity too.

Finally, it must be said that Modi returning to power would be helpful to India's global status, and its changing extreme Hindu identity. But India’s true reverence has always lied in its pluralism, its diversity, and its tolerance. Modi not winning the brute majority strongly indicates that his domestic policies are not as appreciated as before, his charisma is waning, and a conservative nationalist India is not reaping benefits for all of India, rather a chosen few. This idea of a chosen few goes against the very fabric of what India stands for. The results are just underscoring it for all, again.

Author: Political and International Affairs Analyst.

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