The controversial Hindu nationalist ideology led by current Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power in 2014, yet face a stern challenge in the upcoming general Indian election when voting begins on April 11th. There will a month of a process called ‘phased balloting’ before the nationwide result is announced on May 23rd.
Prime Minister Modi’s past, the current conflict with Pakistan, and the economic plight in India could all hamper his chances at re-election.
Modi’s Authoritarian Streak
Modi leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing party with strong economic and social conservative ties along with being stern supporters of Hindu nationalism. Despite BJP being considered an off-shoot of the nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteer organization, they are closely associated with self-identified ‘progressive’ Tulsi Gabbard who is running for the Democratic nomination for President.
Soumya Shankar of the Intercept details the relationship. “That anti-Muslim sentiment has been a major driving force of Modi’s political career in the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. In 2002, when Modi was chief minister of the state of Gujarat, he oversaw an outbreak of violence by Hindu nationalists against the minority Muslim population that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people [Known as the Gujarat riots]. Local and international fact-finding groups accused Modi of complicity in the killings, charging that he did not do enough to contain the violence,” Soumya Shankar of The Intercept begins. “Indian courts eventually exonerated him for a lack of evidence, but his image was pilloried. The United Kingdom and some European countries refused to deal with him and in 2005, the United States barred him from entering the country. Modi’s ascent has normalized nationalist rhetoric, the silencing of dissent, and violence against religious minorities in India — and it’s also had global implications.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) published the following in 2012 regarding the aforementioned 2002 Gujarat riots.
Authorities in India’s Gujarat state are subverting justice, protecting perpetrators, and intimidating those promoting accountability 10 years after the anti-Muslim riots that killed nearly 2,000 people, Human Rights Watch said today. The state government has resisted Supreme Court orders to prosecute those responsible for the carnage and has failed to provide most survivors with compensation. The violence in Gujarat started on February 27, 2002, when a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was attacked by a Muslim mob and caught fire, killing 59 people. In a retaliatory spree by Hindu mobs, hundreds of Muslims were slaughtered, tens of thousands were displaced, and countless Muslim homes were destroyed.
“In the United States, Modi’s reputation has been helped by a group of Hindu-American supporters with links to the RSS and other Hindu nationalist organizations, who’ve been working in tandem with a peculiar congressional ally: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, the first Hindu in Congress,” Shankar details the ideologies relationship with Rep. Gabbard. “Gabbard was embraced early on by pro-Modi elements of the Hindu-American diaspora in the U.S., who have donated generously to her campaigns.”
Modi’s Opposition And Current Conflict With Pakistan
The Indian National Congress Party is the second of the two major parties in India, analysts closely monitoring Indian politics say the party is stronger than it was in 2014. Prime Minister Modi has adjusted to the nationalistic and saber rattling wing of his base by using the current conflict with Pakistan to stoke his willingness to fight. As reported by ValueWalk, “Even if a full-scale war is not the result, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi is gaining in popularity as Indian elections approach in the next several months. It could be politically expedient for the Prime Minister to use the rising nationalism in India after the Pulwama attacks to help him gain electoral victory while distracting from the economic angst of India’s working-class population.”Modi would employ this strategy earlier in March when speaking from New Delhi. “(During the previous governments), no matter how many people or soldiers died (in terror attacks), no actions would be taken, but now nobody can stare us in the eye. This government is committed to make decisions. This new India is fearless, bold and decisive.”
Sugam Poharel of CNN does not believe such harsh rhetoric will move many voters to support Modi when they are dealing with crippling economic insecurity. However, opposition National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was quick to hit Modi over China [major player within the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] blocking a fourth attempt by the United Nations Security Council to designate Jasih-e-Mohammed (JEM) chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist. Gandhi was quick to label the incident as a failure for Prime Minister Modi.
Weak Modi is scared of Xi. Not a word comes out of his mouth when China acts against India.
NoMo’s China Diplomacy:
1. Swing with Xi in Gujarat
2. Hug Xi in Delhi
3. Bow to Xi in China https://t.co/7QBjY4e0z3
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 14, 2019
The tweet was in reference to a 2014 visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping when he and Modi enjoyed a swing together.
Heard from ‘reliable sources’ that BJP website will be up soon, after they are done deleting pictures that embarass the PM and expose his failed hugplomacy. Sharing a few: pic.twitter.com/4Q87wYk8eL
— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) March 14, 2019
Modi’s Jobs Problem
According to a leaked government jobs report in India, published by Business Standard, Modi’s biggest weakness is the state of the jobs market for the middle and working class of India. “The country’s unemployment rate stood at a 45-year-high of 6.1 percent in 2017-18, according to the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) periodic labour force survey (PLFS),” the outlet reported.
“On its own, an unemployment rate of 6.1% may not sound too dire, until you consider that in 2011-12, it was just 2.2%. And it’s particularly high among people between 15 and 29 years – in urban India, 18.7% of men and 27.2% of women in this age group are looking for jobs, while in rural India, its 17.4% and 13.6% respectively,” stated BBC in a report, analyzing the importance of the rising unemployment during Modi’s term as Prime Minister.With unemployment so high among India’s youth Modi could face major electoral issues, especially since job creation was a key platform piece of his 2013 campaign for high office.
The rising electorate is compiled of young voters if they decide to back the National Congress Party or one of the other approximately 460 parties throughout the country, Modi and BJP could be defeated during the upcoming Indian election. The National Congress is mostly comprised of a Social Democratic ideology, which is popular among youth around the globe. In the United States Democratic Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders platform mirrors what is considered a Social Democratic agenda. Jeremy Corbyn Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom, also closely mirrors a Social Democratic platform by academic measures.
Modi’s administrations attempt to hide the negative jobs report could end up hurting him more than his strong rhetoric during the ongoing India-Pakistan conflict, especially if young voters attach themselves to the leftist policies of National Congress.