October 13, 2019

How Modi Became Synonymous with India

““The silent majority has spoken,” said the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rajyavardhan Rathore on India Today TV as it became clear on Thursday that the ruling BJP would once again win more than half of the seats in India’s parliament. “We love our prime minister, Narendra Modi.”

Between 1984 and 2014, no single political party could win enough seats to form a national government on its own. There were simply too many, it seemed, and new ones kept emerging. In 2014, 464 political parties competed in the national elections—up from 215 in 2004—with most representing narrow regional, religious, or ideological constituencies. The system gave meaning to the famous catchphrase: “Indians don’t cast their vote; they vote their caste.”

But in 2014, Modi was able to emerge from the crowd and dominate. His Hindu nationalist BJP won an outright majority of seats in parliament by especially appealing to voters in the Hindi-speaking parts of central and northern India. That’s a feat his party has now repeated—and outdone—in 2019, returning to power for another five years.

The prime minister’s victory may feel like deja vu, but the election season that got India here has been different in important ways, and those changes could shape not only the next five years of Modi’s term but also the very nature of Indian politics.

Modi’s 2014 campaign was built on a message of change and hope. He swept to power as a relatively fresh face on the national stage and called for a new mindset in New Delhi. He made grand promises of economic reform, job creation, and infrastructure projects but also offered more tangible gifts: a toilet in every home, a smartphone in every hand, and a bank account to every name. Together, these pledges overshadowed, for a while at least, concerns about the BJP’s brand of right-wing Hindu nationalism.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Kurds have been staunch allies in America's struggle against ISIS. Without them, America would have paid a far steeper price in blood and treasure to defeat the brutal outfit. That's why President Trump's move to pull U.S. troops out of..."

"For the first time since President Richard Nixon refused to turn over the White House tapes, the United States is facing a genuine constitutional crisis. To be sure, Donald Trump had already created a crisis in the presidency by abusing the..."

"Every October for the past five years, Fat Bear Week has showcased some of the healthiest, hungriest, and chonkiest bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve, a four-million-acre expanse of wilderness in southern Alaska..."

"I sat on my childhood bed, surrounded by 52-year-old stuffed animals, with a smartphone lodged between my ear and shoulder. My father had died unexpectedly the day before, and I was jotting down notes as my rabbi back in Ohio described various..."

"In August, it was SoulCycle and Equinox. The month prior, Home Depot. Back in 2017, L.L.Bean. These are only a few of the companies to ignite the collective ire of progressive consumers over corporate ties to Trump. In the case of the boutique..."

"Movies like Gemini Man are usually ideal airplane viewing. Take a formulaic plot about spies and cloning, then add dialogue so predictable that getting interrupted by pilots’ announcements and turbulence and your seatmate’s need to get up and..."

"It’s still unclear whether Israel’s next election will be in four years or four months. But either way, if the center-right wants a better outcome, it needs to learn the lessons of September’s election. So here are two: First, while center-right..."

"Smart homes, bountiful oceans and casual sexism: the future as envisaged from 1967 ‘Yes, life will be richer, easier, healthier as space-age dreams come true.’ In 1967, the Ford Motor Company (then known as Philco-Ford) released the short film..."