Controversial. Divisive. Sectarian. These were some of the mildest of epithets thrown at Narendra Modi, the man who rewrote India’s parliamentary history yesterday. The more acerbic ones dubbed him dangerous, blood-thirsty, fascist and even Hitlerish. That such a person and the party he represents – the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – vanquished the incumbent Congress in the parliament elections, whose results were announced yesterday, has stunned both India and the world. Among those gasping in surprise are BJP supporters, who didn’t expect their victory to be so spectacular.
Here is what Modi achieved: by winning 283 seats out of 543, his party the BJP, without the help of its coalition partners, has acquired the majority to form the government at the Centre. This is historic because India has not had a single-party rule for 25 long years since 1989. The defeat of the ruling Congress has been the most humiliating since its formation, with the party getting less than fifty seats. The Indian media was trumpeting a Modi wave during the campaigning, about which many were skeptical, but the results showed that it wasn’t just a wave, but a tsunami.
Modi’s victory will have huge repercussions. First of all, he represents the extremist fringe of the BJP, which has roots in the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. As the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, he was accused of allowing, or even encouraging, communal riots in 2002 in which more than 1,000 Muslims were killed. For the same reason, Modi is a scary figure for the country’s Muslims and other minorities. Indian and the world media immediately highlighted the concerns of minorities after the landslide win.
More than the success of Modi, the results are a measure of the failure of the Congress party. Corruption in the government of the scale which independent India hasn’t seen, poor economic performance, an ineffectual prime minister whose refusal to open his mouth in public made him the butt of ridicule, and the dynastic rule of Gandhis are the most important reasons which caused Congress to wipe out itself. The sweep of BJP’s victory shows that even minorities have voted for him. The party has won even in constituencies where Muslims have a decisive presence.
Modi’s victory is likely to be viewed with concern by Indians in the Gulf. The BJP is one party with which a majority of Indian organizations in the Gulf have no links. The Non-Resident Indians have always been angry with their governments in Delhi for decades for turning a blind eye to their woes, and that too despite the fact that several ministers at the Centre were sympathetic to their cause. But the BJP has expressed no sympathy to NRIs’ problems. When a Congress government in Delhi treated them as ‘second-class citizens’, how a Modi government would treat them is a source of worry.