Modi and BJP sweep to victory in India

Staff Writer | May 29, 2019
Governing party in India increases its majority – but at what cost?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has easily retained power in the most recent Indian election, the largest exercise in electoral democracy on the planet.

The BJP won 303 of the 535 seats in the lower house of the Indian Parliament – the Lok Sabha. This is up from the 282 it won in the last election in 2014. The BJP also forms an electoral alliance, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), with a number of smaller parties. Altogether, this grouping won 353 seats, a gain of 17.

The BJP’s closest rival was the Indian Congress Party, which won 52 seats, a gain of eight seats. Congress’s electoral alliance – the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – gained 31 seats, giving it a total of 91 seats in the Lok Sabha. Congress, which dominated Indian politics for much of the post-independence period, will again have to ready itself for a spell on the opposition benches.

The vagaries of India’s first-past-the-post electoral system means that the BJP has won a comfortable parliamentary majority, despite winning less than 40% of the vote (although the NDA’s share of the vote was 45%).

The win by Prime Minister Modi is, however, concerning. India has not been immune from the rise of populism and strong-man politics in the rest of the world, and Modi and his BJP are the Indian incarnation of this. 

Peter Fabricius, writing in the Daily Maverick also argues that this second consecutive win by the Hindu nationalist BJP could mean Indian secularism is under threat, with potentially dire consequences for the 200 million Indians who follow Islam. The Economist also notes that the BJP’s victory came down to three factors – Modi himself rather than the party, an appeal to Hindu nationalism by the BJP, and a disorganised opposition. It is not hard to see some parallels with South Africa in India’s recent election.

The victory of an increasingly jingoistic BJP will be watched with interest by many. India is an increasingly influential country on the global stage, and it remains to be seen what it does next, both at home and abroad. It is also an important partner for South Africa, and many in our government will be watching the latest developments in Delhi with interest.


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