MODI SCORES DRAMATIC ELECTION VICTORY
By Andrew Richards
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi scored a dramatic election victory, putting his Hindu nationalist party on course to increase its majority on a mandate of business-friendly policies and a tough stand on national security. His re-election reinforces a global trend of right-wing populists sweeping to victory, from the United States to Brazil and Italy, often after adopting harsh positions on protectionism, immigration and defence. (Reuters)
A surprise re-election
Mr Modi’s re-election campaign was no cakewalk – the last time an incumbent party won re-election in India was in 1971. According to Vice News, the first five years of the Modi-led government saw some controversial developments. While his first campaign was run almost explicitly on a development platform, once the party came to power, the government pursued some disastrous policies, including the banning over 80 percent of cash in public circulation and the introduction of an expensive, convoluted ‘Goods and Services Tax’. These policies were widely reported to have failed to benefit the masses. More than anything else, Mr Modi’s first term has been criticised for alienating the country’s largest minority – Muslims. Groups of ‘gaurakshaks’, or ‘cow protectors’, went on a rampage in northern India, killing and beating scores of Muslims on the mere suspicion of transporting and consuming beef.
Most analysts suggested that even if Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the election, it would be by a narrow margin. Mr Modi’s failed election promises of 2014, such as economic growth and the narrowing of the poverty gap between the various castes, set the stage for yet another replacement of the incumbent government by another who is able to rouse the people with new hopes based on the exact same promises made by the previous government.
Instead, the BJP (which won 282 parliamentary seats in the 2014 general election), surged to 353 seats (out of 545) in one of India’s most dramatic elections in decades. Mr Modi, however, will have a hard time pleasing his voters over the next five years, with unemployment at a 45-year high, a continued decline in manufacturing, and on the international front, the BJP’s non-committal stance regarding climate change.
Before election results confirmed a second term for Mr Modi, opposition parties cried foul when exit polls suggested that the BJP would win. They argued possible election fraud (such as videos allegedly showing electronic voting machines or EVMs being tampered with) and the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, said it would challenge the election results. However, Mr Modi told opposition parties to “accept defeat with grace” after final election results confirmed a majority win for the BJP.
FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
The persecution of religious and minority groups in India is not a new phenomenon, but one that has in many ways come to define the country, especially when it comes to segregation within its Hindu caste system. Attacks by Hindu nationalists, who seek a Hindu-only nation, have been widespread since the election of Narendra Modi in 2014, with Hindu nationalism reaching new heights with his ‘Hindu-first’ slogans.
According to Open Doors, since the first election of Mr Modi, persecution against Christians in India has seen a dramatic increase, from physical violence and harassment to the imprisonment of pastors. On the World Watch List of countries where Christians are persecuted the most for their faith, India climbed 18 places to number 10. In 2018, there were 775 recorded incidents of violence against Christians, affecting 50,819 people. This number could, however, be much higher since many acts of persecution go unreported.
One Christian pastor interviewed by Open Doors commented that elections in India are more than just choosing a new leader for a country: “The elections are directly connected to our freedom.” He said of the BJP: “[They have] done nothing for Christians and other minorities. All the decisions they make are against minorities. I fear for the future of my country and my family, especially my children.”
INcontext asked Christian contacts in India how they saw the future under Mr Modi’s second term. One pastor said: “The first two years of [Mr] Modi as president saw a noticeable increase in the persecution of Christians, but after that he backed down a bit because the outcry from Christians was reaching the international community, hurting Mr Modi’s image as a man of peace. Persecution levels during the following two years did not increase but stayed the same as the previous because Mr Modi was losing international support.” Christians in India expect the same to happen again during Mr Modi’s second term.
INcontext also asked a foreign national who had previously served in India as a missionary what he thought about Mr Modi’s re-election. He responded with the following: “After being elected, the Modi government started to tighten visa requirements, making it harder for foreigners to get visas and work in the country. Many foreigners were either denied new visas or granted limited ones that severely impacted their work inside the country. This changed, however, over time with restrictions on visas, especially for tourists, being relaxed because it was hurting the economy.”
During Mr Modi’s first election campaign, he promised economic reform. He ran his recent re-election campaign on the same promise, which could see a further relaxation of visa requirements, in the hope that it will draw tourists and investment. In this regard, INcontext’s contact expressed a hope that “fewer restrictions on visas could open the door for missionaries to enter the country again.”
- For the Lord to use Mr Modi as part of His plans for India
- For influential Indian leaders to encounter the truth of the Gospel
- For the Indian Church to grow in strength, depth and boldness