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India: Modi 3.0
  • Narendra Modi
    Narendra Modi
Once again India won. That India where democracy is by no means dead, as fine Western analysts have been chanting for so long, but is alive and well and deciding for itself every time, whether the rest of the world likes the verdict or not. Narendra Modi becomes for the third consecutive time premier of the world's largest democracy. Before him, only Jahawarlal Nehru, one of the founding fathers of modern India, had succeeded. Nehru, the great-grandfather of current opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, had ruled the country continuously for sixteen years: upon his death, power had passed into the hands of his daughter Indira Gandhi (Rahul's grandmother) who also ruled for eleven years albeit not continuously. Indira, in addition to being the only woman premier of India, is also the only one to have ever suspended civil liberties in the country by declaring a state of emergency for two years. Upon her death, the country's government had then passed to her son Rajiv, Rahul's father. Curiously, however, at the time no one had ever questioned the state and health of India's democratic institutions by fearing the uninterrupted rule of a single political party: but that is another story. The story of these days records yet another victory for Modi perceived, however, as a defeat because, for the first time, the premier's party, the Barathia Janata Party (BJP), does not obtain the absolute majority of 272 seats needed to govern: while in fact confirming itself as the country's leading party, as it gets 240 seats alone against the 234 obtained by the coalition of more than twenty opposition parties, it will need to govern the parties forming the coalition with which the BJP went to the polls, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The opposition, led by Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party, achieved results that exceeded expectations given also that the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (with the hostile name whose initials, however, make up the word India) included as already pointed out more than twenty parties with nothing in common but the will to defeat the ruling party. A total of 642 million Indian citizens out of more than 950 million eligible voters went to the polls, despite the fact that in recent election rounds temperatures in some areas were close to 50 degrees. 312 million women voted, 43 percent of the electorate. Proving once again that India is the world's largest democracy in spite of everything. Despite the fact that the opposition had threatened riots if the results of the polls coincided with exit-poll results that once again gave Modi the outright winner, despite the various funerals to democracy celebrated abroad and at home by opponents of the government. In fact, weighing on the outcome were not ideological issues but purely practical ones: first, statistically and at any latitude, it is difficult to triumphantly win a third term of government unless democracy is purely formal. It is also difficult because, as has happened in India, at that point it is easy to rest on one's laurels and lose touch with the famous 'base' constituted in this case by the middle class that is historically the hard core of Modi's electorate. The lack of jobs for thousands of young people belonging to the small and middle class weighed on the vote, and by a lot. So did the opposition's campaign in which it ventilated the possibility of the government changing the quotas reserved for castes and the disenfranchised classes: in a nutshell, for the government to abolish the privileges historically reserved for ethnic or religious minorities and low castes or outcastes in terms of access to jobs in the civil service, universities and so on. It is worth mentioning, for the sake of completeness, that ethnicity, religion or caste have no relation to either an individual's social class or even income earned. The election campaign conducted by the government also proved to be self-defeating in more than one instance: and the people of the Islamic religion, who had often voted for Modi in the past, voted compactly for the opposition because of some at least incautious remarks made by the prime minister. Holding the reins of a coalition government, and having to haggle over every measure, will certainly be more difficult. It remains to be seen whether the coalition leaders will follow the government's lines on, for example, foreign policy or the economy. And whether Modi will succeed, for example, in addressing the knot of the so-called Uniform Civil Code, that is, promulgating a single code that would subject all citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity to uniform rules on family law and inheritance matters. Meanwhile, the government is getting ready to get down to work for the third time, and the opposition is not giving up by wooing NDA members to change their house. All that remains is to watch.
Francesca Marino